Claude's excellent diary Lakoff nails it motivated me to write a comment but there is much more to be said. The posts and page on facebook, BeingLiberal are doing a great job of putting some of Lakoff's ideas into practice. I have been very reluctant to use the label "Liberal" for a long, long time, but find myself sharing the posts from this source more and more. As Lakoff has pointed out successful framing has real clout in reaching the public. In the article that motivated Claude's diary, A Framing Memo for Occupy Wall Street Lakoff reminds us:
Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you - the media, your enemies, your competitors, your well-meaning friends. I have so far hesitated to offer suggestions. But the movement appears to maturing and entering a critical time when small framing errors could have large negative consequences. So I thought it might be helpful to accept the invitation and start a discussion of how the movement might think about framing itself.I have been writing diaries about using Lakoffs for a number of years now and see too little understanding of the importance of what he has to say. Read on and we can delve into this a little further.
About framing: It's normal. Everybody engages in it all the time. Frames are just structures of thought that we use every day. All words in all languages are defined in terms of frame-circuits in the brain. But, ultimately, framing is about ideas, about how we see the world, which determines how we act.
In politics, frames are part of competing moral systems that are used in political discourse and in charting political action. In short, framing is a moral enterprise: it says what the character of a movement is. All politics is moral. Political figures and movements always make policy recommendations claiming they are the right things to do. No political figure ever says, do what I say because it's wrong! Or because it doesn't matter! Some moral principles or other lie behind every political policy agenda.
First of all, Lakoff is probably a victim of the very framing he has described so well for he is and academic and writes about very deep stuff. His many books start with a new philosophy, the notion of the embodied mind, and goes on to Morality in politics and framing. As we have been taught to do in our culture ideas like his are put into various "boxes" and this does them harm. He is a "cognitive linguist" and uses modern brain neuroscience to back up his thoughts very well. In case you are wondering, I also am a neuroscientist and my own interests overlap his quite a lot.
When you strip away the fancy words what Lakoff is telling us is the answer to the question asked over and over again" Why do so many of the 99% vote against their own interests and support the 1%? Why do they resist so many good chances to improve everyone's lot and do the bidding of the masters? WhY? Because they have been led to adopt a moral world view that says it it wrong to do otherwise! Helping others is bad because it weakens them and destroys their ability to help themselves. It makes them dependent on others and weak. If you are down and out and needy you brought this on yourself. The billionaires got there by hard work which you failed to accomplish. In Lakoff's words:
Conservatives have figured out their moral basis and you see it on Wall Street: It includes: The primacy of self-interest. Individual responsibility, but not social responsibility. Hierarchical authority based on wealth or other forms of power. A moral hierarchy of who is "deserving," defined by success. And the highest principle is the primacy of this moral system itself, which goes beyond Wall Street and the economy to other arenas: family life, social life, religion, foreign policy, and especially government. Conservative "democracy" is seen as a system of governance and elections that fits this model.There is no point in trying to give you a "magic bullet" route to Lakoff's thinking. He has many books and they are full of ideas and they develop this analysis very clearly.
I do think the link above to BeingLiberal can be a very big step towards implementing the ideas Lakoff teaches. We have a long way to go to catch up for the morality described above is widespread and effective. The reframing of the word "Liberal" itself is an enormous job. I'll give one example about how the moral argument can begin to be exposed for what it really is: a scam, at best. Today I shared this post from Being Liberal:This is Alice Walton This turns the frame, "job provider", into a new frame that implies selfishness and the desire to get the American Taxpayer to do what you are morally obligated to do. It really does not go far enough for it fails to mention that the providing of jobs here depends on the Taxpayers in so many other ways, including the infrastructure that makes this wealth accumulation possible at all.
We have a big job to do. I say "we" for OWS ios all of us if we understand what is happening. The big job is to reframe the issues so that all of the 99% understand the difference between real morality and the scam being used to dupe the conservatives.