Sunday, August 4, 2013

Language, Liberty, and Lakoff: Coercive Rhetoric vs. Transparent Rhetoric

I reviewed "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff at 
Lakoff uses the idea of conceptual frames. Conceptual frames work at a preconscious level to assist thought. Lakoff's favorite example is the frame used by many republicans, the strict father frame. Lakoff thinks this is a master metaphor which drives the success of much of the republican idea agenda. Government is the strict father, who must punish the bad children. Good citizens are obedient and disciplined. Foreign policy is a game of tit-for-tat and winners need a big military and big police force to enforce discipline and punish the disobedient like a big tough daddy.
Lakoff wants democrats to fight back with a nurturing parent frame. Kids should share their toys, pay their taxes, support big social programs and international cooperation.
In my review I point out the limitations and inappropriateness of these as metaphors for government.
But is Lakoff correct in thinking these frames work in convincing people? If we believe that, what does that imply about the existing political process? Nothing good.
I want to know about frames for reasons of intellectual self-defense. What will political discourse look like if people begin to bring their conceptual frames to consciousness and debate those directly?
I feel like there are many other ideas that follow from this, but I am too distracted to distill them from the fermented mush this book made of my brain. If you have any ideas, please comment.

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