What Do I Know?

Framing Tips and Tricks Many progressives accept that we need to follow George Lakoff's advice and "reframe" issues to our advantage, as Republicans

Framing Tips and Tricks

Many progressives accept that we need to follow George Lakoff's advice and "reframe" issues to our advantage, as Republicans have actively been doing for years now (i.e. tax "relief", "war on terror", tort "reform"). Linguistically inept Democrats repeated their new terminology without a clue as to its long term consequence (i.e., losing elections). Taking back our language, though, isn't as easy as it sounds—just ask any parent who's tried to rid her teenager's vocabulary of, like, "LOL" or "word" or "your mom". It's, like, hard!

Where to start? Communications expert Parker Blackman, writing for TomPaine.com, has a few ideas:

We all know that the current leaders of the Republican party—be it President Bush, Tom Delay or Bill Frist – represent the extreme right wing of their party. But most of America doesn’t see them that way, because nobody has successfully framed them as such. It's time we start calling them what they are—irresponsible, reckless, extreme and radical. These are four adjectives that most accurately describe their agenda. More important still, these adjectives imply un-American values and speak to a flaw in their collective character.

This group of leaders is endangering our country's safety, our children’s future, our health and other things we hold close to our hearts. Most Americans are moderate in their views; extremism on either side of the political spectrum makes them uncomfortable. Reckless behavior makes them very uncomfortable. Americans would rather that their leaders be conservative in the true sense of the word. The majority of Americans don’t want Social Security dismantled. They don’t want us to fight an endless war in Iraq with more of their sons and daughters maimed or killed. They don’t want their air polluted and their water poisoned, and they don’t want their public school system destroyed.

Reframing is about more than learning new words; it's also about NOT

Where to start? Communications expert Parker Blackman, writing for TomPaine.com, has a few ideas:

We all know that the current leaders of the Republican party—be it President Bush, Tom Delay or Bill Frist – represent the extreme right wing of their party. But most of America doesn’t see them that way, because nobody has successfully framed them as such. It's time we start calling them what they are—irresponsible, reckless, extreme and radical. These are four adjectives that most accurately describe their agenda. More important still, these adjectives imply un-American values and speak to a flaw in their collective character.


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This group of leaders is endangering our country's safety, our children’s future, our health and other things we hold close to our hearts. Most Americans are moderate in their views; extremism on either side of the political spectrum makes them uncomfortable. Reckless behavior makes them very uncomfortable. Americans would rather that their leaders be conservative in the true sense of the word. The majority of Americans don’t want Social Security dismantled. They don’t want us to fight an endless war in Iraq with more of their sons and daughters maimed or killed. They don’t want their air polluted and their water poisoned, and they don’t want their public school system destroyed.

Reframing is about more than learning new words; it's also about NOT using other words, Blackman says. Like "conservative", a positive word that most Americans associate with making good decisions, showing good judgment, being cautious. And "neo-conservative" is no better:

“Neoconservative” doesn’t mean a damn thing to anyone living outside of the Beltway or not heavily involved in politics."

He suggests, instead, we say “the reckless right wing of the Republican Party."

This works for me. As an extra bonus, it's alliterative.

Here's a practice phrase: "Word: Tom DeLay is, like, a reckless right wing Republican."

Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat...

Torture Oh, That's Rich

Pressed on the subject of the Bush Administration’s private “torture” jet earlier this week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez insisted that the American is assured the human treatment of detainees turned over to foreign governments for interrogation, but was forced to concede that the US has no safeguard to ensure that prisoners are not tortured upon their transfer to these nations notoriously hostile to human rights. This brilliantly evasive position leaves the Bush Administration virtually blameless in the systematic network of torture they have funded around the world, which has facilitated the transfer of over 100 detainees to several nations where they are allegedly tortured. Furthermore, this policy stands as the latest in a series of tell-tale indications that the Bush Administration has no intention of allowing international human rights standards to interfere with intelligence gathering in its “War on Terror”. As the Bush Administration’s support for torture remains increasingly unchallenged in America, a dangerous precedent is being set on for future standards of international human rights, based on the American prioritization of individual life over international human standards of conduct, which has been largely unquestioned in the public discourse... using other words, Blackman says. Like "conservative", a positive word that most Americans associate with making good decisions, showing good judgment, being cautious. And "neo-conservative" is no better:

“Neoconservative” doesn’t mean a damn thing to anyone living outside of the Beltway or not heavily involved in politics."

He suggests, instead, we say “the reckless right wing of the Republican Party."

This works for me. As an extra bonus, it's alliterative.

Here's a practice phrase: "Word: Tom DeLay is, like, a reckless right wing Republican."

Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat...

About John Amato

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