STOP Framing "us"

How a select few of "them" are Framing all of "us"

Archive for the tag “George Lakoff”

Why the GOP’s vision for America is a dangerous one! The true source behind Paul Ryan’s nightmare budget

The only way to adequately understand the motivation behind the modern day conservative and the George Orwell Party (GOP) is to become familiar with the vision of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy is largely guiding their actions.   Gary Weiss wrote an article recently about this very subject, entitled, “ The Horrors of an Ayn Rand World: Why We Must Fight for America’s Soul“, in which he discussed what the world would look like if we adopted an Ayn Rand vision for America.

As indicated by Gary Weiss, Ayn Rand’s vision includes a world with NO Social Security, NO Medicare, NO Medicaid, NO public schools, NO public hospitals, NO regulation of any activity that runs counter to one’s self-interest, basically, NO public anything Weiss says, “Just individuals, each looking out for himself, not asking for help or giving help to anyone.”  Thus, the motivation behind the GOP’s actions is based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand and involves a single focus of pursuing one’s immediate self-interest to the detriment of society, the environment, and anyone or anything that gets in the way!

The GOP’s vision is one that is strictly concerned with protecting and enriching members of the “privileged sector”, while the rest of us struggle with the consequences of their immoral actions.  Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have described in detail, the effects such consequences have on our society as a whole.   Briefly, they include more negative social outcomes for all of “us”, such as high rates of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, incarceration rates, decreased levels of trust and community involvement, and of course, dramatic increases in poverty.  This is in contrast to increases in positive social outcomes for a select few of “them”, such as more corporate welfare, increased bonuses, and additional wealth, power, and influence to perpetuate the status quo of income inequality based on the philosophy of pure selfishness above all else!

Those in the top 0.1%, who are born ‘privileged’ want to use tax payer money to benefit themselves and the corporations they run, while claiming “we’re broke” and can’t afford to pay for the sick, the poor and the elderly, or anything else for that matter that uniquely benefits the rest of us, including, but not limited to the following;

–        Hospitals to care for our families when they get sick

–        Schools to educate our children

–        Social safety net for our disabled, elderly and sick populations

–        Environmental and safety protections for (food, air, water)

–        Worker rights, safety standards, livable wages, unemployment insurance

However, since the items mentioned above do not further enrich members of the “privileged sector”, they are “framed” as “entitlement programs” that are contributing to a “welfare state”, or dependency on Government, in order to justify their plan to either completely eliminate, or provide a path to privatization, as can be seen in Paul Ryan’s “path to prosperity” for the top 1% plan.  The frame needed to convince the public to go along with this plan to continue providing welfare for the rich is none other than the standard talking point of Government is inefficient and can’t do anything right.  The logical conclusion of this “Government inefficiency” frame is that the so-called ‘free’ market can do a better job.  Therefore, we should profitize it, so the “privileged sector” can enjoy more wealth at our expense.  (Perhaps, we should start using the word profitize when referring to privatization efforts, since privatization amounts to more profiting at the expense of the people.)  George Lakoff suggests using the term profiteering to refer to the same concept.

It’s important to understand that the various frames being used are intended to misinform and scare the public into supporting radical right wing initiatives (ie, tax policies and budget proposals) like the Paul Ryan immoral budget plan that will devastate our social safety net (eliminate Medicare, ‘profitize’ Social Security), eliminate public education, and get rid of environmental regulations that currently protect the air we breathe in order to contaminate the water supply for millions of people, as well as pollute our lungs and the atmosphere with toxic chemicals (see keystone XL pipeline), all so a select few in the “privileged sector” can reap enormous profits at the expense of the health and well being of the people and the planet in what “they” would like to see as the Divided States of America.

The simple but ugly truth is that Paul Ryan’s budget plan is a realization of Ayn Rand’s vision, which is based on the immoral value of selfishness and greed at the expense of all else.  It should be noted that Paul Ryan was so impressed with the philosophy of Ayn Rand that he attributed his interest and eventual career in politics to her influence.  In fact, it has been reported that Paul Ryan actually instructs his staffers to read the philosophy of Ayn Rand prior to coming to work for him.  His way of litmus testing the help to ensure everyone is on the same unethical page. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, Paul Ryan is desperately trying to make the horrors of an Ayn Rand world into a reality.

George Lakoff on the Santorum Strategy: Why we’re all in trouble if this strategy is successful in 2012.

George Lakoff wrote an article recently in the Huffington Post describing what he calls the Santorum Strategy.  He began this article by stating, “The Santorum Strategy is not just about Santorum.  It is about pounding the most radical conservative ideas into the public mind by constant repetition during the Republican presidential campaign…It is about guaranteeing a radical conservative future for America.”

A perfect illustration of pounding radical conservative ideas in our heads can be seen by examining the speech Rick Santorum gave in Missouri after winning the Minnesota primary.  (Pay particular attention to the amount of times the words listening, he knows better, rights, and freedom were used)

Rick Santorum began his speech by thanking your average Fox news viewer and all of the “smart idiots” for helping to build the conservative party.  “Tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party, and building a voice for freedom in this land.”

This was immediately followed up by continuously repeating language to evoke the “frame” that President Obama “knows better” than you.   This is illustrated by the overwhelming number of references being made to President Obama not listening to the voice of the American people (14X’s), because he knows better than you (5X’s), and is using the Government to run your lives by taking away your rights (10X’s), and freedoms, (12X’s).

In addition to the linguistic framing mentioned above, Rick Santorum is also literally “framing” President Obama for his actions, since it is Rick Santorum who believes he knows better.  I would argue that this too, is part of the Santorum Strategy, since it represents another common tactic the George Orwell Party (GOP) uses against the American people to convince them of a radical conservative view of reality.

In order to fully appreciate the Orwellian nature of this literal frame, take a look at what happens when we make a couple of substitutions to this frame.

Rick Santorum is not listening to the voice of the American people because he knows better than you and is using his radical conservative evangelical religious beliefs to run your lives by taking away your rights and freedoms.

The problem, as pointed out by George Lakoff, is that continuous repetition of language expressing radical conservative values leads to more and more people accepting those values and becoming politically active, as alluded to by the opening lines in Rick Santorum’s speech.  The unfortunate reality according to Lakoff is that, “Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems.”  (For more on these individual moral systems, see the article)

In reference to how Conservatives were able to get a majority of Americans to vote against President Obama’s health care plan, for instance, George Lakoff points to the Conservative effort to re-frame this issue by claiming that this plan will lead to a “Government takeover” and will include “Death panels.”

As indicated by George Lakoff, President Obama’s health care plan had strong public support.  This is primarily due to fact that it helped solve the major problems people experience when dealing with health insurance companies, such as their refusal to cover pre-existing conditions, and denying coverage in order to reap enormous profits at the expense of people’s health.

George Lakoff notes that conservatives never argued against any of the realities associated with the provisions designed to help the American people, “Instead, they re-framed; they made a moral case against “Obamacare.” Their moral principles were freedom and life, and they had language to go with them. Freedom: “government takeover.” Life: “death panels.”Republicans at all levels repeated them over and over, and convinced millions of people who were for the policy provisions of the Obama plan to be against the plan as a whole. They changed the public discourse, changed the brains of the electorate — especially the “independents” — and won in 2010.

Bottom line: If the Santorum strategy is successful in 2012, we’re all in trouble, since our rights & freedoms will be taken away by the very conservatives who mistakenly “frame” us to believe we should blame Liberal Democrats, (who are actually trying to prevent such actions from occurring).  The only way to ensure that freedom and liberty are protected is to advocate for a progressive vision for all Americans, not a radical conservative future advocated by the modern day GOP, where only the “privileged sector” prevails

The commonality of being black and gay in America: Same old story different “framing.” The question today is, do you support “gay marriage” or the “freedom to marry?”

Jonathan Capehart wrote an article in the Washington post on the commonality between blacks and gays in America.  When asked by MSNBC’s host Joe Scarborough, “would you compare the civil rights struggles of African Americans over 300 years in America to marriage equity?”, he immediately responded, yes!

“It’s an issue of civil rights… It’s an issue of equality. It’s an issue of equal treatment under the law,”… “No one is asking for special rights. No one is asking for any kind of special favors. We’re just looking for the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and also the protections that are provided under marriage. In that regard overall we’re talking about a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”

In addition, he mentioned the fact that both African Americans and gays have been the target of physical attacks due to being who they are, as well as other forms of discrimination suffered under the law.

“What links the two struggles is the quest for equality, dignity and equal protection under the law. In short, gay rights are civil rights. It’s that simple.”

The simple, but ugly truth is that the radical right wing in this country is adamantly opposed to gay people getting married, which is precisely why they frame the issue as “gay marriage.” They use this frame to garner support for their position so they can later point to polls that show people are against “gay marriage.”

According to George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics at UC Berkeley, “Surveys have been done that say Americans are overwhelmingly against gay marriage. Well, the same surveys show that they also overwhelmingly object to discrimination against gays. These seem to be opposite facts, but they’re not. “Marriage” is about sex. When you say “gay marriage,” it becomes about gay sex, and approving of gay marriage becomes implicitly about approving of gay sex. And while a lot of Americans don’t approve of gay sex, that doesn’t mean they want to discriminate against gay people. Perfectly rational position. Framed in that way, the issue of gay marriage will get a lot of negative reaction. But what if you make the issue “freedom to marry,” or even better, “the right to marry”? That’s a whole different story. Very few people would say they did not support the right to marry who you choose. But the polls don’t ask that question, because the right wing has framed that issue.”

In the end, the hatred felt for both blacks and gays in this country not only stems from the way in which a question is “framed”, (in terms of how it is worded)  but more importantly, the destructive emotions and negative beliefs derived from this and other “frames” used by the radical right wing, reflect a world-view of intolerance, obedience to (their) authority, and fear of change.

The question we must ask ourselves is are we in favor of equality for all, which includes the freedom, or right to marry who we choose, or should we accept the radical right wing “frames” that tell us who we should love, who we should hate, who we should fear, and who we should obey?

 

Obama’s been framed! His speech contained many common frames used by those at the top to convince us of a framed version of reality.

 Although the President should be applauded for his efforts in discussing a means of putting Americans back to work, he unknowingly reinforced a set of common “frames” used repeatedly by the radical right-wing and other advocates of the top .1% to convince us of a framed version of reality that supports the status quo of income inequality.  It’s quite possible that President Obama’s advisors were not aware of the relevance of framing in shaping our understanding of the world around us when offering assistance in crafting his speech.  More specifically, how the use of such frames trigger a specific mind-set in the observer, such that only the framing elements make sense, and all other relevant facts to the contrary are miraculously, and quite conveniently ignored. 

The consequence of activating the radical right-wing frames is that more and more people are being “informed” of a world view that is causing the very destruction of our economy, our well-being, and the overall health of our nation.  Let’s take a look at how Obama has been framed!

                President Obama acknowledged the following frames.  There is wasteful spending in Government.  Regulations are putting an unnecessary burden on businesses.  The corporate tax rate is the highest in the world.  Businesses need certainty in order to hire again.  We need to help the job creators.  We need to get our fiscal house in order.  We need to cut taxes, and Free-trade agreements will help us create jobs and save our economy. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the frames he activated, and discuss how they are contributing to the status quo of income inequality, and what this means for all of us.    

1.   First and foremost is the issue of cutting taxes.  The common frame with respect to taxes is that we need to provide businesses (big businesses) and people (really rich people) “tax relief”.  As George Lakoff pointed out, when these words are used in conjunction, tax relief assumes there is an affliction that requires some sort of relief.  Take hurricane or disaster relief for instance.  Obviously, an area hit by a hurricane would require some sort of disaster relief, as in aid to the victims, relief from suffering, etc.  So, the words “tax relief” creates the frame of taxes are bad, and anyone who provides relief from taxes is the savior and deserves praise.  Likewise, anyone who attempts to raise taxes, which does not fit the frame, is viewed as inflicting pain, or responsible for causing the affliction.  

In reality, taxes are the responsibility of everyone in this country to ensure the safety, protection and empowerment of us all.   High tax rates on the top .01% are what helped build our nation through times of war and uncertainty, and helped sustain what are known as the commons that we all have come to love and depend on in daily life, such as roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, fire and police protection, and of course, the internet.  The commons are what make us unique.  The knowledge that we can send our kids to school to receive a descent education, that we can receive care when we get sick, and most importantly the thought of knowing that we all pitch in to ensure everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is comforting to us.  As the President rightly pointed out in his speech, “No single American built this country on their own”.

2.  Regulations basically fit the same profile as mentioned above with taxes.   According to this frame, regulations are bad, and anyone who implements them is preventing businesses from creating jobs.  This ties into another classic frame of “Let’s get Government out of the way” so we can help the private sector solve our problems.      

In reality, regulations offer all of “us” protections from the exploitative practices “they” engage in through the corporations they own; including ignoring safety standards (BP oil disaster), polluting our air, water, and land via toxic chemicals released into the atmosphere (Co2 emissions, not to mention the more devastating Nitrous Oxide and methane greenhouse gases) fracking for dirty energy, and other means of ignoring regulations that were put in place to prevent “them” from poisoning our communities.

3.   “Wasteful spending in Government” and “Getting our fiscal house in order” frames inform us that Government is inefficient and spends money frivolously, and that we have a “Spending problem in Washington” (a related frame soon to be discussed in a separate post)   

Together, these frames assume that the Government is literally incapable of doing anything right.  This frame has become so prevalent that the common tendency when discussing anything related to the Government is regarding how slow or inefficient it is, how easy the jobs are, or how brainless the people are who work in any Government capacity.  This is a result of a concerted long-term strategic effort to “frame” Government as inefficient and wasteful in order to convince us that the private sector is the answer.  The advocates of the top .1% even go as far as hiring people who are diametrically opposed to the Government agencies they are tasked with running.  Thomas Frank wrote about this in his book, The wrecking crew.  

In reality, the waste in Government is in programs that are or have become partially privatized.  Our healthcare system is a prime example.  We are the ONLY industrialized nation on earth that has a for profit, privatized healthcare system that benefits the top .1% at our expense, literally!!  All other industrialized nations have realized that healthcare is a right not a privilege for those who can afford it.  In fact, it is illegal in these other countries to profit from someone else’s pain and suffering.  After all, the only way to profit is if coverage and care is denied.  One more useful fun fact is that 33% or “waste” in our healthcare system goes straight to the top .1% in the form of executive compensation, big fancy offices, private jets, and bonuses, of course. 

The bottom line:  In the framed version of reality, the Government is the problem and is preventing businesses and the private sector from helping all of us achieve the American dream.  If only we can get Government out of the way and reduce the burden on businesses by eliminating agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and other obstructive Governmental over-reaching regulations, and implement Free-trade policies to create jobs and to enhance economic growth.  Government should lower the personal and corporate tax rate on the job-creators, and since Government is inefficient and wasteful, privatizing everything is the way to get our economy moving in the right direction, and to ensure prosperity for all.  

So, you see, all of these frames tie together and paint a picture or a specific mind-set (framed version of reality) that supports the radical right-wing ideology and further leads to the implementation of policies that favor the rich at our expense.  The goal of this framing effort is to convince us to assist them in eliminating any and all social protections and regulations that currently prevent “them” from exploiting “us”, to permanently lower taxes on the super-rich, to maintain lasting and deep cuts to our social safety net, to continue outsourcing our jobs to those who are most easily exploitable, to reduce and eventually phase out pension plans completely, and to implement many other rigid policies and programs that support the status quo of income inequality.    

Bottom line: By acknowledging and repeating the language of the common frames used against us, we are essentially advocating for this world-view ourselves.  A world-view that ensures we all feel pain, so they can enjoy social and economic gain.

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