Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Redefining the debate

Oh, this is exciting. George Lakoff has a book coming out that stretches beyond his previous, descriptive work and has some prescriptions on how progressives can take the advantage in arguments by framing the debate. His work has been a huge influence on me.

I think a lot of liberals don't like wasting time by correcting bad conservative framing language. To boot, it sometimes comes off as rude to refuse to use conservatives' favored terms. God knows I've gotten chewed on, particularly for times I've gone back to using "anti-abortion rights" instead of "pro-life". Well, I shouldn't cave. The former is not only better for my cause than the latter, it's a far more descriptive term. "Pro-life" is a vague, feel-good word that has an ugly, wormy underbelly in that the assumption is that anyone who opposes their beliefs is by definition "anti-life". Which of course, is simply not true. For one thing, we're pro-women's lives.

Anyway, I can't wait to read it. I'm sure he has lots of great suggestions as to how to reframe the debate to reflect progressive value systems and maybe even strategies in holding your ground once you do so.

55 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've avoided Lakoff's book because it seems that he's bought into the framing that he exposes. In my opinion, liberals have been *framed* as valuing a more nurturing government, being more idealistic, being the "Mommy Party," having a good opinion of human nature, valuing mercy over justice, blah blah blah, and conservatives have been *framed* as the tough hardliners, but one could easily frame it the other way. (The conservatives are very soft and nurturing towards big corporations and zygotes!) And yet Lakoff seems to treat this as reality, not framing. I don't think it's reality. I'm a liberal mainly because I'm a cynic, not because I'm warm and fuzzy.

This is the impression of him that I've gotten from reading reviews. Am I wrong about it?

9/08/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

It can come off that way, particularly through a conservative-slanted filter. But he's not talking about *actual* beliefs that the government is a parent. He is specifically referring to the language-as-a-metaphor. The predominant metaphor of is The Nation is a Family, making Government a Parent. He doesn't want to shove that on people at all, I don't think. It's just a fact that it's the predominant metaphor and we need to start exerting control with it.
The whole "Mommy" thing that conservatives paint liberals with does strike me as female-loathing, since they adapt the "Daddy" stance with pride.

9/08/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, like decrying the "nanny state" while spending more government money on defense.

9/08/2004

 
Blogger christine c. said...

Great to see Lakoff mentioned. I haven't read that much by him yet, but I was hooked on his arguments after reading an interview he did with BuzzFlash earlier this year: http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/04/01/int04003.html

9/09/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

Yeah, once you really read some of his work, it becomes very easy to see the metaphors that people are using to frame a debate. Of course, that makes it incredibly frustrating to watch the conservative machine do it and watch how the press and then the audience picks up on it.

9/09/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should be entitled to use the term "pro-life" if:

-you oppose abortion
-you oppose the death penalty
-you oppose those wars which kill more people than they save (most wars: maybe not Kosovo (though maybe that too: my data isn't certain), probably Somalia's okay).
-you favor increases in aid for things like anti-milarial efforts in Africa.

Those seem like the basic, obvious ones that should be appended to the current definition of pro-life associated with abortion. One might also add other things (favoring universal health care? opposing eating meat? opposing non-abortificant birth control (that means more life, even if it doesn't reduce death)?) to the list. Anyway, I think that the Catholic Church might be able to use the label "pro-life," though I don't know.

Just to throw in a bit of fair 'n' balanced, for pro-choice maybe we should we expand that to include opposition to laws prohibiting narcotics and opposition to government regulations like safety standards?

Perhaps the most rhetorically accurate terms are the old standbies: abortion opponents and abortion-rights advocates.

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