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When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?

It's not what you say, it's how you frame it. Goebbels understood this. So did Orwell. And so does BushCo.

Excerpt from an Interview with linguist George Lakoff [via Net Politik]:

A lot of liberals believe that the facts will set you free. It's in our inheritance from the enlightenment. Where, in the enlightenment that everybody is a rational person, all you have to do is just tell them the facts, they'll reason to the right conclusion. It's false.

And the Republicans have learned that it's false. They've set up a frame, they set up a narrative, and they set it up in terms of their values. And they get it as part of normal, everyday language and normal everyday thought.

Once they've done that, the facts are irrelevant unless the Democrats can learn to re-frame the issues from their point of view, and then make the facts fit other frames.
Luntz [Frank Luntz, Republican pollster and opinion researcher] puts out a little workbook every year or so. And last year in his section on the environment, he said something very interesting.

He said that on global warming, the Democrats have the science on their side, but we can win with language. What we need to do is use words environmentalists like, like "healthy," "clean," and "safe."

Now what that does is each word like that evokes a frame. But what they do is they evoke frames that are the opposite of what they know they mean. These are sort of Orwellian frames. These are ways to manipulate the public.

So whenever you hear an Orwellian term like "Clear Skies Act" or "Compassionate Conservative," means they know they're weak on something. And what you have to do is rename it. Rename it to fit the truth.

It is the Dirty Air Act. It is the Forest Destruction Act.

Of course this is obvious to those of us who understand critical thinking. But what hope is there for a society when a citizenry is denied an education that allows such thinking (no less a social apparatus that seeks to hinder it in general)? Democracy is reduced to nothing more than a contest between forces that become increasingly adept at framing language to manipulate understanding, rather than using language as a vessel for clear and honest communication to foster understanding. It's the cognitive version of subtly coercive salesmanship; it's political dissembling and subterfuge scientifically honed for maximal social control on an easily duped populace. And that ain't democracy, in my humble opinion.