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ngant17 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 08:18 AM
Original message
Some notes on Lakoff's framing
Some notes on Lakoff's framing, from Florida.

As I recently stated on a forum in the Dem. Underground, there are now 2 influential linguists-cum-political activists on the US left: George Lakoff of UCLA/Berkely (more or less the DNC's official advisor) and Noam Chomsky (the well-known anarcho-syndicalist and writer who is a professor of linguistics at MIT in Cambridge, MA).

In that context, Jeffery Feldman in his notes on Lakoff's framing, he writes that a linguist is a strategic thinker primarily concerned with words.

Comment from the Jan. DFA meetup in Orlando: "Just as many of us folks that live in the "reality-based" community, you've fallen into the trap that the vast majority of Americans, when presented with the facts about something, will "see the light" and vote with us."

My responses:

1. Granted my problem as a WASP is perhaps one of intelligence and the inability to condescend to lower levels of my fellow WASPs, to speak in the language of their lower "thought-frequencies". I coin the word, "lower thought-frequency", to describe the thinking of a vast group of white people in the US who can not think critically or independently for themselves. They need guidance or political leaders to develop their thinking process. They flock to the Republicans, apparently, because nature abhors the vacuum in their minds. The Rethugs supply them with the air to fill their heads and make it complete. That's the Bush approach and that's how I am understanding Lakoff's "framing".

Therefore, my impression is that Lakoff's framing is about this ability to condescend to the groups of WASPs with the 'lower thought-frequencies'. To supply the "head" with some "air". I wouldn't want to use ignorant or stupid to describe their thinking, for example, a dog has less processing-power in its brain but it isn't really stupid on a biological level, it is quite intelligent, it has natural instincts and qualities which are superior to humans who have a bigger brain. So I think we need not call someone a 'stupid Republican' even though it almost seems self-evident at times. However, when I first heard of Lakoff's "framing", I immediately thought of Pavlov's dogs. Manipulation. Indoctrination. Something out of Orwell's book, "1984".

2. Again, as I stated in the first DFA meetup post, there was a super-intelligent African-American lady (I regret not speaking to her after the meet-up, I left in a hurry, unfortunately), what she said was of paramount importance, that black people can not be addressed from the perspective of Lakoff's framing, they have several centuries of collective oppression and racism that has already 'framed' their thought-processes sufficiently to make them immune from the condescending process this is implied in "framing".

I believe most African-Americans can inherently understand the class-struggle, even if they have not read 4 or 5 volumes of Das Kapital or even Marx's Communist Manifesto, the latter of which does a marvelous job of "framing" the class-struggle for the masses.

In this respect, African-Americans have a superior instinct and qualities even if they do not necessarily have any bigger brains than the average WASP.

A case in point. Dem. Senator Barck Obama's recent Chicago victory. An African-American, he won in the biggest landslide in Illinois history. 70% of the vote, squashing the ultra-right black commentator, a darling of the Republican elite, Mr. Alan Keyes, a man who was rushed in from Maryland in a frantic bid to challenge Obama's campaign. That was the best they could offer.

Obama won the white vote, even in Repug suburbs like DuPage County.

He had substantial support from the Latino communities, labor, peace groups, basically every progressive group in Chicago.

Obama had denounced the Iraq war in stronger words than Dean. I would guess that everything he said in the campaign had little to do with framing. Obama in fact had very little support from the local Dem machine in Chicago. It was grass-roots, real democracy at work. The way it's supposed to work in theory.

Did framing work here? I would like someone to explain how it worked in Chicago with Obama, if that's true. MORAL: Framing is not needed when there is a clear momentum of support. The Republican strategies in places like Chicago melt as quickly as a snowball in hell.

3. To conclude, I would think that framing is not the only variable at work in the elections. In one aspect, computers are controlling the vote-machines, and the software is the soul of the computer. Whoever controls the 'soul' controls the rest of the body. I suspect that Chicago was one of the few places where the Repugs could not control the votes, it's pretty much a Democratic machine that controls the election board, the Repugs couldn't cheat there and it must have been a contributing factor in why they lost bigtime.

Until we can be sure the voting process is relatively accurate and honest, I won't be convinced that framing is effective as it is in theory. Framing is a kind of manipulation of people's minds, the minds of WASPs, I should say, just as computers are being used to manipulate the counting of votes. I can play with the framing concept for my intellectual amusement, but I don't care the be manipulated like I'm a passive consumer watching an endless stream of commercials on TV.

The results of Chicago and Sen. Obama's victory tends to suggest that real progress can be made not just by "framing" ourselves, but by applying ourselves, as WASPS, poor and rich alike, to work within the African-American and Latino communities to defeat the Rethugs permanently.

From a linguistic standpoint, shouldn't the victory by Sen. Barack Obama tell us that we need to be rapping with our "frames"? Or perhaps "framing" with our rapping? And since I live in Florida, where you are hearing Spanish more and more, should I start "framing" in colloquial Spanish, with Mexican immigrants, Puerto Ricans, Cuban-Americans and within the Haitian Creole language? That's another universe or two that needs to be exploited. Why should we limit "framing" to the English language in Florida? Let's don't let the Rethugs get the jump on us next time. I won't be happy until they've been stomped and flattened like a cockroach.
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tk2kewl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 08:37 AM
Response to Original message
1. I think Obama does frame, and does it masterfully.
That is why he can capture the imnagination, and votes, of WASPs as well as African-Americans. His speach at DNC was "Framing 101" IMO.
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Mist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 09:59 AM
Response to Original message
2. I'm not sure that framing is patronizing
Framing is a way to see an issue from another perspective, the progressive perspective, and inject another viewpoint into a discussion. The Rethugs use certain phrases to push a certain program; framing prevents them from "owning the debate." Framing can help us to shed light on other details of a given program or discussion.
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loyalsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 11:10 AM
Response to Original message
3. hmmmmmmm
The idea of fra goes back to the need for a common symbolic "referent."
Language is most successful when we have concrete understandings of what is being said. Obama used visual imagry in his speech. That is one reason why he was so successful.
The idea is that our frames can be more successful if we change them into symbols people relate to better. Emotions, for example.
Republicans have used words like "death" and "relief" when they have had to use the more abstract term "tax."
There are different kinds of taxes, there are uses for taxes, etc...
People will argue about the actual meaning of the word "tax," because it has so many different applications.
Once a more concrete word is combined with it, the entire concept changes. So, one person recommended that instead of using the now meaningless word "deficit," we discuss our children's baloon tax payments.
It's about making sure that we are all using words that have inarguable or the very least arguable common definitions.
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ngant17 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-12-05 07:30 PM
Response to Reply #3
8. framing, race and basic instincts
Edited on Wed Jan-12-05 07:32 PM by ngant17
The majority of people, white people I suppose, are probably reacting on an instinctive level that framing seems to addres. If that's the case, I feel that the target audience in framing is better served there. I'm not sure how this could be applied to, say an African-American or a Hispanic voter.

I believe that African-Americans have more robost instincts, is that the word? Perhaps there is little to be gained by addressing the latter from that (framing).

With the other case, of the Hispanic, that's also an important block in Florida as it is in other states and larger cities. More specifically, I think the Cuban-American voters did break away from the Republican mindset, at least moreso than previously, that was part of the age-factor, the 2nd or 3rd generation of immigrant families who weren't directly affected from the intense polarization of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Bush must have been (and still is) a real dodo-bird for them. Don't know how Lakoff's theory works here.

BTW I recall Kerry, during his 2004 campaign, he managed to say a few words in Haitian Creole during a speech when he visited west Orlando (actually it was at the local fairgrounds near the suburb of Pine Hills which has a large African-American and Afro-Carib presence there). There was a crowd here that liked it. Smart move.

Getting back to the point, I could narrow down framing to white, WASP groups. Lakoff the linguist never really addressed the ethno-centric aspect of framing. That would have been more helpful for me.

A poster at the local Meetup.com said this:

"Framing allows us to start a dialogue with people on that instinctive level. Starting the dialog is the most important thing. Battering people with facts doesn't always work so we need to find a way to get people to open up the minds a bit... framing allows us to do that."

I think he described the function (or idea) of "framing" as well as Lakoff could have done it.

It just occured to me, that is what all the rap singers are doing, some kind of framing? Isn't that how they are addressing their target audience, Generation X, young African-Americans, even a lot of young whites are listening to the rappers. Are we ready for the next Pres. candidate upgrading the the 30-second sound-byte into a 30-second or 15-second "rap-byte" for '08? Sort of like an applied-framing technique, targetting a specific voter-block? Wouldn't surprise me too much, you had singers like the Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, Springsteen, Ani DiFranco, Utah Phillips, et. al. making some kind of anti-Bush political statements in their pop/folk songs. I couldn't list them all offhand, a whole of bunch of them for sure.

I guess I coming back to the power of the oral tradition. Perhaps that is where Obama has the superior quality. You mentioned the visual imagery of his speech(es). It might even be true that an African-American Democrat getting 70% of the voting block in Chicago may have gotten there without framing, and yes, his landslide might have been something of a freak of nature, he got this extremely weak opponent to run against, a silly ideologue Keyes, so the Obama win could have been a rare event like a tsunami or a Cat. 5 hurricane, but OTOH it could suggest to me that there might be other aspects which can be adapted to more effective "framing". For the undecided white voters, I mean to say. And those could be the aspects which I didn't seem to pick up on in the 'framing' DVD ("Don't Think of an Elephant") or in Lakoff's book of same.

I guess I'm trying to look for ways to do something better or smarter.
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Norquist Nemesis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
4. Maybe think of it not as 'framing'
Edited on Tue Jan-11-05 11:33 AM by Norquist Nemesis
but as marketing strategy for politics. The term 'framing', is in reality a verbal strategy of branding. We need to do a better job at branding us and them.

I understand your points, and agree on an intellectual level. However, in a practical sense, all you have to do is look around. We are bombarded with messages in every aspect of our lives in order to be sold on the a product. The CONS have used a strategy of selling the product while the Democrats have held on to debating with logic (and making sense about it, too!). 60 second sound bytes with themes repeated ad nauseum will eventually take hold. And these have been in play since the late 70's with Reagan, Limbaugh, and the transformation of Horowitz. Loony Left (Repeat) weak Liberals (Rewind) Tax and Spend Democrats (Replay) See what I mean?

So, I'm all for the 'framing'. There are always going to be segments of the population that can be targeted into subsegments. Reaching them is absolutely possible on a targeted level. Sometimes it's the message, sometimes it's the messenger. :)

edit for typos

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ngant17 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 07:13 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. framing, pt. 2
I knew I would get some good responses at DU, which is why I cross-posted here and at the local Meetup.com message board.

However, in a practical sense, all you have to do is look around. We are bombarded with messages in every aspect of our lives in order to be sold on the a product.

I guess Im different. I cant recall ever buying something because I saw it on TV or heard it on the radio. Newspaper ads, likewise. Internet is a completely different story. Ebay, amazon, yeah,
been there for a while, but Im searching for it, it's not really impulsive buying, no one tells me Hey you! Look at this! Buy it!. Its not anything like subliminal persuasion. I already know what I want and what I need. I have no larges amounts of disposable income to throw around.

bombarded? Surely an understatement. Bombard as in electronic warfare, or in military-industrial psy-ops working on the domestic front. Radio talk shows are mostly rightwing, machine-gun chatter by simpletons and morons who cant shoot very straight anyway, fast talkers who get paid by the word, their corporate sponsors are more specific: commercials are basically random target-shooting by mercenary sniper fire.

Maybe think of it not as 'framing' but as marketing strategy for politics. The term 'framing', is in reality a verbal strategy of branding. We need to do a better job at branding us and them.

Well, thats a good way to look at it. Although I cant see much of a line between the commercials and the programming. The rightwing branding. Its pretty seamless.

... 60 second sound bytes with themes repeated ad nauseum will eventually take hold. And these have been in play since the late 70's with Reagan, Limbaugh, and the transformation of Horowitz.
Loony Left (Repeat) weak Liberals (Rewind) Tax and Spend Democrats (Replay) See what I mean?

Thats easy for me to see. OTOH I knew one person at work who kept those stations locked in. He was a former drug-user, busted and going thru the half-way houses. I think he needed to listen to Rush Limbaugh as a substitute for the previous drug addictions. Framing would not have helped him. If you took him off Rush, he would be back to smoking crack the next day. For some reason, his mind just couldnt handle a different point of view. Maybe they screwed with his brain in jail or at the half-way house, who knows?

The other guys at the workplace were mostly Christians. Christian Republicans, I should say. Nice on the front but totally intolerant, even back-stabbing types. Dont see framing of any use here. They go Republican all the way because they know its all about money in their pockets and the Republicans are basically in control of distributing it. Maybe the Rethugs control the intaglio presses that print our money, who knows? Are there any Democrat bankers at the Federal Reserve? Would that make much difference?

Bombarded? Me? Not really, I only listen to the AM/FM car radio for a few short moments and it gets shut off. If I am lucky, a decent song will play for 3 or 4 minutes but thats only if I
am lucky and my random timing is right. I go thru the channels right and left and it almost like every one is programmed to play commercials at the same time. I rarely afford the expense of real
(no commercials) music (CDs or cassettes). Likewise for the TV, it has a literal film of dust on it from non-use. Its rightwing AM radio on high-frequency, video is as pointless and uninteresting
as the voices coming out of its speakers. No, I cant afford cable TV and I cant afford to get the peoples TV network or the progressive stuff on radio. Not much in my area to receive. Most
corporations dont sponsor progressive stations. Just look at how pathetic PBS has become. At best its an avenue to project a corporations PR, its so-called social responsibility in a 60-second sound byte.

I am left with the only other option, to absorb information from text and files on the Internet. Pop-up ads are minimal. There are countermeasures to the bombardment, like DU and the other
progressive internet sites. They cant hit me over here with their corporate bullets.

Okay, back to the framing issue. If I can apply framing to influence one single WASP (family, friends, complete strangers), then Im willing to try and learn some of it.

Language is most successful when we have concrete understandings of what is being said. Obama used visual imagry in his speech. That is one reason why he was so successful.

Ive never heard Obama speaking on audio. Are there any links to some RealAudio files with him? Perhaps we need to re-learn the oral tradition, which is more ancient than the written tradition. I dont recall that Lakoffs framing had any specific emphasis on speech, language skills, oratorical excellence. I would guess thats as important as the visual. Perhaps someone who can master framing, he/she will turn out to be a good speaker in public? Lakoff on the DVD made a good impression, you could have just listened to the audio and learned the same things. So I would say he is a good speaker.
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bloom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 08:31 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. here is one thing that could be framed differently:
"They go Republican all the way because they know its all about money in their pockets and the Republicans are basically in control of distributing it."

I don't think that is true at all. Republicans saw to it that money was redistributed to the wealthy - and I'm guessing that doesn't necessarily include your co-workers.

IOW - Republicans are probably not representing them or their financial interests.
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DaedelusNemo Donating Member (336 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-12-05 02:25 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. Framing is being used against you.
To counter it effectively, you need to understand it. It need not be about lying, it's about a compelling way to express yourself by being aware of all the hidden assumptions packed into what people say.

It's less important in influencing people who are driven and curious and try to find their way behind the words. But, face it, for whatever reason, that's not most voters.
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