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Williams writes: "Progressives have got it wrong - and if they don't start to get it right, the conservatives will maintain the upperhand."

Portrait, George Lakoff. (photo: Bart Nagel)
Portrait, George Lakoff. (photo: Bart Nagel)


George Lakoff on Communication: "Liberals Do Everything Wrong"

By Zoe Williams, Guardian UK

02 February 14

 

Progressives have got it wrong — and if they don't start to get it right, the conservatives will maintain the upperhand.

he progressive mindset is screwing up the world. The progressive mindset is guaranteeing no progress on global warming. The progressive mindset is saying, 'Yes, fracking is fine.' The progressive mindset is saying, 'Yes, genetically modified organisms are OK', when, in fact, they're horrible, and the progressive mindset doesn't know how to describe how horrible they are. There's a difference between progressive morality, which is great, and the progressive mindset, which is half OK and half awful."

George Lakoff, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley, has been working on moral frames for 50 years. In Communicating Our American Values and Vision, he gives this precis: "Framing is not primarily about politics or political messaging or communication. It is far more fundamental than that: frames are the mental structures that allow human beings to understand reality – and sometimes to create what we take to be reality. But frames do have an enormous bearing on politics … they structure our ideas and concepts, they shape the way we reason … For the most part, our use of frames is unconscious and automatic."

Lakoff is affable and generous. In public meetings he greets every question with: "That is an extremely good question." But he cannot keep the frustration out of his voice: the left, he argues, is losing the political argument – every year, it cedes more ground to the right, under the mistaken impression that this will bring everything closer to the centre. In fact, there is no centre: the more progressives capitulate, the more boldly the conservatives express their vision, and the further to the right the mainstream moves. The reason is that conservatives speak from an authentic moral position, and appeal to voters' values. Liberals try to argue against them using evidence; they are embarrassed by emotionality. They think that if you can just demonstrate to voters how their self-interest is served by a socially egalitarian position, that will work, and everyone will vote for them and the debate will be over. In fact, Lakoff asserts, voters don't vote for bald self-interest; self-interest fails to ignite, it inspires nothing – progressives, of all people, ought to understand this.

When he talks about the collapse of the left, he clearly doesn't mean that those parties have disintegrated: they could be in government, as the Democrats are in the US. But their vision of progressive politics is compromised and weak. So in the UK there have been racist "Go home" vans and there is an immigration bill going through parliament, unopposed, that mandates doctors, the DVLA, banks and landlords to interrogate the immigration status of us all; Hungary has vigilante groups attacking Roma, and its government recently tried to criminalise homelessness; the leaders of the Golden Dawn in Greece have only just been arrested, having been flirting with fascism since the collapse of the eurozone. We see, time and again, people in need being dehumanised, in a way that seems like a throwback to 60 or 70 years ago. Nobody could say the left was winning.

Lakoff predicted all this in Moral Politics, first published in 1996. In it, he warned that "if liberals do not concern themselves very seriously and very quickly with the unity of their own philosophy and with morality and the family, they will not merely continue to lose elections but will as well bear responsibility for the success of conservatives in turning back the clock of progress in America." Since then, the left has cleaved moderately well to established principles around the politics of the individual – women are equal, racism is wrong, homophobia is wrong. But everything else: a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, the essential dignity of all humans, even if they're foreign people or young people, education as a public good, the natural world as a treasure rather than an instrument of our convenience, the existence of motives besides profit, the pointlessness and poison of privatisation, the profundity, worth and purpose of pooling resources … this stuff is an embarrassment to centre-left parties, even when they're in government, let alone when they're in opposition. When unions reference these ideas, they are dismissed as dinosaurs.

Yet equivalent rightwing positions – that efficiency is all, that big government is inefficient and therefore inherently bad, that nothing must come between a business and its pursuit of profit, that poverty is a lifestyle choice of the weak, that social breakdown can be ascribed to single mothers and immigrants – have been subject to no abatement, no modification, no "modernising".

If we accept Lakoff's conclusion, what would it mean to accept his prescription? This is what he believes it would take to refashion the progressive mindset: the abandonment of argument by evidence in favour of argument by moral cause; the unswerving and unembarrassed articulation of what those morals are; the acceptance that there is no "middle" or third way, no such thing as a moderate (people can hold divergent views, conservative on some things, progressive on others – but they are not moderates, they are "biconceptual"); and the understanding that conservatives are not evil, unintelligent, cynical or grasping. Rather, they act according to the moral case as they see it. If they happen to get rich, and make their friends rich in the process, that is just the unbidden consequence of wealth being the natural reward of the righteous, in their moral universe. To accept, let alone undertake, any of this, one would first need to accept the veracity of frames.

Much of cognitive linguistics concerns itself with how we build the mental apparatus to understand everyday situations: a hospital, or a date, or a cash machine. Erving Goffman, commonly cited as the most influential sociologist of the 20th century, wrote Frame Analysis in 1974, defining and exploring exactly how this happens. Having built the frames to understand life, we no longer deliberately plug back into it. It is unconscious; what we think of as "common sense" is merely an act or notion that resonates with one of our deep frames.

Lakoff's work on the conceptual systems around morals and politics (and how they show up in language) has yielded two-dozen metaphors for morality, most of them universal across cultures. Of those, the two key frames informing political judgment involve the idea of government as a family: the strict-father model (conservative) versus the nurturant-parent model (progressive).

I talk to Lakoff when he is invited over to London by Counterpoint, a thinktank with an interest in how ideas can be used to quell the xenophobia and repression that has, of late, swept Europe. In the strict-father worldview, he explains, "The father is the ultimate authority, he knows right from wrong, his job is to protect the family and so he's the strongest person, and because he knows right from wrong, his authority is deserved. His children are born bad, because they just do what feels good, they don't do what's right. They have to be trained out of feelgood liberalism into doing what's right. You have to punish the kids painfully enough that they'll start doing what's right and they'll get discipline. If they're disciplined, they go out into the world, and they earn a living. If they're not earning a living, they're not disciplined, therefore they can't be moral and they deserve their poverty."

To liberals, a lot of conservative thinking seems like a failure of logic: why would a conservative be against equal rights for women and yet despise the poor, when to liberate women into the world of work would create more wealth, meaning less poverty? And yet we instinctively understand those as features of the conservative worldview, and rightly so.

The nurturant-family model is the progressive view: in it, the ideals are empathy, interdependence, co-operation, communication, authority that is legitimate and proves its legitimacy with its openness to interrogation. "The world that the nurturant parent seeks to create has exactly the opposite properties," Lakoff writes in Moral Politics. As progressives identify failures of logic in the conservative position, so it works the other way round (one of Lakoff's examples: "How can liberals support federal funding for Aids research and treatment, while promoting the spread of Aids by sanctioning sexual behaviour that leads to Aids?").

I am accustomed to seeing our current situation as a feature of the past 30 years; a post-ideological landscape, in which the great left-right clashes of the 80s gave way to Blair (and Clinton's) third way on one side, and the unemotional, rational free market on the other. In fact, Blair conceded ground on the left, but the right didn't concede any; as things are, free-market rules evaluate human importance based on wealth, and as such are plainly ideological, in a strict-father frame.

Whatever the calamities of the last three decades, however, these two value systems – strict father versus nurturant family – have been clashing for ever. Lakoff says: "After I published Don't Think of an Elephant! [probably his most celebrated book], a British historian read it and said, 'In studying the civil war in the 17th century, I see the same thing.' But this is more than centuries old. This goes back to the Bible. You have two views of God: you have the strict father God and the nurturing God. You have Christ the warrior and Christ the saviour."

If the two systems are poised in pure opposition, if they are each as moral, as metaphorical, as anciently rooted, as solidly grounded as the other, then why is one winning? "Progressives want to follow the polls … Conservatives don't follow the polls; they want to change them. Political ground is gained not when you successfully inhabit the middle ground, but when you successfully impose your framing as the 'common-sense' position."

If all political belief originates from one of two wellsprings, if the last thing you should do to propagate your belief is to water it down, if backing it up with facts just weakens it, what would a debate look like, in a world of perfectly understood frames? Say your opposer was Todd Akin, the Republican who notoriously opposed abortion even for rape victims, on the basis that proper victims didn't normally get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down". It is an extreme example, but justifiable, I think: to try to argue against that with a moral case, rather than basic biological realities, would be missing a trick. Lakoff shakes his head: I can see him thinking, "Forget tricks!" Instead, he says: "You have to go up a level, to the moral level. You have to say, this is somebody who's interested in male domination. That's what liberals are afraid to do."

A classic liberal pitfall is the idea that by repeating one of the opposition's ridiculous lines, you make it look even more absurd. "There was an election in Wisconsin," Lakoff says, "there was a horrible governor there, and the Democrats were so stupid that they put up billboards all over the state with a picture of him smiling. They had his name in large letters next to the picture, and it says, 'Why is this man smiling?' And then in smaller type, it has a list of his positions, all from his point of view? As if everybody will recognise that this is a horrible man. Instead, it is a billboard in his favour. It's about time progressives got out there and said what's true about themselves, as well as what's true of the other side. If you have a strong position, let's hear it."

One of Lakoff's engagements in London was at the TUC, where they proudly showed him a video they had made about welfare, and it fell into all these Wisconsin pitfalls – restating Cameron's case in order to dispute it, but in reality falling into the trap of trying to dispel welfare "myths", instead of talking about a social security system of which we should be proud. He took it apart at the seams.

You want to defend the right to have an abortion, you want to stop privatisation, you want to protect the natural world – as Lakoff has often written, these are not three separate arguments, they are all part of the same worldview. But that isn't to say that he considers them equally important, and the urgency of his speech ramps up as he talks about monetising nature. "What we get from nature is remarkable. And then you get the people who want to monetise that. If it's valuable, what's the value? What's it worth? Which is the wrong question to ask, because, first of all, much of its value has to do with what is visceral to you. What does it mean to you if you hear the birds singing, or the birds all die? Second, as soon as you monetise something in nature, a cost-benefit analysis will come in. Nature always loses, because nature goes on for ever."

It is, plainly, the longstanding failure to protect nature that powers Lakoff's exasperation with liberals. "They don't understand their own moral system or the other guy's, they don't know what's at stake, they don't know about framing, they don't know about metaphors, they don't understand the extent to which emotion is rational, they don't understand how vital emotion is, they try to hide their emotion. They do everything wrong because they're miseducated. And they're proud of that miseducation. Oxford philosophy reigns supreme, right? Oxford philosophy is killing the world."


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+37 # Billy Bob 2014-02-02 16:18
This pretty much says it all. We need politicians, on our side, to take their jobs more seriously. We haven't had that in decades. This is the crux of my argument against appealing to "moderates", when, in fact, there's no such thing as a moderate - only, what Lakoff calls, "biconceptual" thinkers. Being "biconceptual" is a far cry from being "moderate". If one truly thinks of themself as "moderate", they haven't paid much attention to the issues.

Politics is the art of WINNING and getting stuff. Politics is the art of PERSUASION. It isn't really the "art of compromise". Compromise is a loser's rebranding of defeat.

I'm getting tired of seeing the Democratic Party snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, by assuming the only thing we want is to see Democrats in power, rather than actually expecting them to follow through on why we put them there in the first place.
 
 
+1 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 08:03
And I challenge the notion that just bc someone is calling themselves a Democrat that they meet the criterion; any more than I believe that Arlen Specter suddenly developed non-market based compassion for working class people just bc he switched his party affiliations at the end or that he was any less a NeoCon flying false colors.

Billy Bob is spot on when he says "politics is the art of winning" and that means lie your face off and cut secret backroom deals to get campaign contributions and votes from We the People and then turn around and do any damn outrageous thing you want.

Currently, the Democratic Party is the DemoRat Party; the vast majority of the people in it have roots and ties to big box industries that are greasing their palms with campaign contributions and a revolving door between Congress and the big bonuses private sector.

Unfortunately most people don't know how to sort real Dems from the ringers which only serves to exacerbate our political process and creates opportunities for shills. (Shillary Clinton being one of them.)

(I suggest using PCCC/ActBlue; a Progressive vetting outfit to help get anyone who is overwhelmed, lost and confused by politics sorted out. This group keeps its word and no corporations or corporate shills allowed.)
 
 
+4 # Billy Bob 2014-02-03 16:15
I agree.

When I discussed "the art of winning", I was talking from a voter's viewpoint, but it applies to the politicians as well. There's nothing wrong with compromise, but we can all see that it's a two-way street, and the politicians we hire to represent us have shown that the only people making any compromises are liberal voters.

Besides, I don't call it "compromise" when Obama "caves" to republicans. He's a blue dog too and is just following his own masters.

The fact that we elected him, even though he's no liberal, only speaks to the fact that we haven't gotten involved enough (as a group) in challenging these people from within the party, before it's too late.

Yes, he IS better than McCain ("bomb bomb bomb Iran"), and Mitt the Twit would have been, but that's no excuse for the fact that NO ONE challenged him in the primary in 2012, and the party acted like we were pulling a bank heist to choose him over Corporate Shillary in 2008.

I agree with you. And, I think it falls on us (the liberal loudmouths) to be a real pain in the ass in public places, and shame our part-time liberal friends into taking this more seriously.
 
 
-59 # rmk948 2014-02-02 20:17
Sorry, but he lost me with his belief that the mind-boggling evils of fracking and GMOs are self-evident. Just another loud-mouthed social scientist shooting his mouth of about things he knows nothing about.
 
 
+33 # Billy Bob 2014-02-02 21:45
Do you actually have an argument to make, or just derision?
 
 
-1 # Texas Aggie 2014-02-03 14:21
Reverting to the evidence based arguments that Dr. Lakoff says don't work in the public sphere (and evidence seems to show that he is correct:)), it can be argued with lots of authority that fracking is basically a very bad idea because of the environmental damage that it does, plus the damage to individual's lives. Secondary to that is the behavior of the fracking companies whose business methods were learned at the Monsanto School of Business, which also destroys lots of happiness and satisfaction with life.

But when we get to GMO's, actual evidence just isn't there. The evidence, such as it is, against their use has a close resemblance to the arguments creationists use to oppose evolution. It is more based on protoreligious ideas and feelings than facts on the ground. The main argument seems to be that Monsanto deserves the death penalty (a corporation is a person, after all, no?) and since Monsanto uses GMO's, then the reason that they deserve to be executed, slowly and painfully, must be because of GMO's. It really doesn't follow.

Monsanto's antisocial behavior is integral to their very being and would be expressed no matter what they marketed to the world. GMO's are innocent victims of their evilness and the "evidence" against their use is based on questionable research and especially on data torturing.
 
 
+2 # maryf 2014-02-05 00:42
Quote:
But when we get to GMO's, actual evidence just isn't there.
The reason being that no one is testing these things that these companies ARE PUTTING IN OUR FOOD.

Anything that we are expected to eat – especially unwittingly, because they are not labeled as such – should be exhaustively tested for safety before being put on the market. The public are being used as guinea pigs. The fact that testing is not required because it would cut into profits is immoral.
 
 
+2 # nice2bgreat 2014-02-05 03:22
You need to check your facts regarding GMO's. There is evidence that their pesticide-resis tent crops are not only damaging to consumers and negatively/unna turally effect the environment, but they do not live up to promises/predic tions of increasing yield.

The main issues -- at this point -- are over transparency, basic labeling, and whether Monsanto and others should reap rewards over contaminating other crops or reap dividends by suing farmers that do not want GMO anything and/or unintentionally end up with percentages of GMO contamination or residual growth.

Other issues are over immunizing GMO Companies from liability.
 
 
+12 # joan 2014-02-02 23:05
It's strange to me who Lakoff calls "progressives." The only people I can imagine he's describing are right-wing Democrats like Clinton or Obama--hardly progressives, and liberals only in that they seem to prefer eating healthy food!

Though I don't like the word, I'm what most people mean by "progressive"-- and I have what Bush's guys used to call "reality-based" beliefs. I don't enjoy the sight of people exploiting the manufactured sentiments of our culture (what Lakoff calls "emotion") and if "progressives" start ranting about family values as he seems to feel we should, I'll just move to a country where people are educated in public schools to such an advanced degree that they do in fact recognize and care about their interests. Such places exist. The United States was once such a place.
 
 
+21 # Billy Bob 2014-02-03 00:25
I understand, but, you've capitulated on the idea that liberals have a right to discuss morality just as much, if not more, than conservatives. Lakoff's point is that you cannot win a fight (which this is) by conceding major battles to your enemy, simply because you don't like having to engage in them in the first place.

Nothing is self-evident, as you'd like it to be. Everything requires a constant struggle to renew it's reason for existence. Politics isn't a high art. It's a caveman struggle for survival. If you want something, be prepared to fight for it. The only reason it seems to exist in some other countries, is that modern liberals in those countries aren't deluded into thinking they can avoid that battle.
 
 
0 # maryf 2014-02-05 00:51
I believe we can speak intelligently about morality if we can state convincingly that "morality" is not about what goes on in other people's bedrooms but rather the profits-uber-al les mentality that characterizes capitalism in general and the belief system of most Republicans, all else being a distraction. I agree that I don't want to hear leftists ranting about god and family values. I refuse to accept that the only way candidates on the left can win elections is by contributing to the dumbing down and anti-intellectu alism of the American public. We should be doing everything possible to remedy that way of thinking.
 
 
+3 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 08:17
[quote name="mary1066" ] It's strange to me who Lakoff is calls "progressives." The only people I can imagine he's describing are right-wing Democrats like Clinton or Obama--hardly progressives, and liberals only in that they seem to prefer eating healthy food! ...

--- I totally agree with you, Mary. I read Lakoff's opening salvo and thought to myself, "What Progressives is he talking about. No one I know as a Progressive believes anything remotely approaching this."

The progressive mindset is screwing up the world. The progressive mindset is guaranteeing no progress on global warming. The progressive mindset is saying, 'Yes, fracking is fine.' The progressive mindset is saying, 'Yes, genetically modified organisms are OK', when, in fact, they're horrible, and the progressive mindset doesn't know how to describe how horrible they are. There's a difference between progressive morality, which is great, and the progressive mindset, which is half OK and half awful."

--- I don't recognize any Progressive anything in this assertion. Who is he talking about? The Clintons and Obama? Yuh, right! They are about as Progressive as George W. Bush; (gawd!!!)
 
 
0 # maryf 2014-02-05 00:56
My impression is that he is talking not about progressives in general but politicians who pretend to be progressives but in fact are incapable of taking a stand on anything.

I have no particular interest in figuring out how such politicians can win elections but rather finding people who do in fact stand for the same things I do and getting them elected.
 
 
+15 # Shorey13 2014-02-03 00:26
To understand what Lakoff is talking about, start with Reinhold Niebuhr" Moral Man and Immoral Society," written in 1939 yet astonishingly relevant today. Then look at the introduction to Paul Krugman's "The Great Unraveling," written in 2004. We are at the effect of a devastatingly effective Reactionary Revolution, and "liberals/progr essives" have always failed to stop these takeovers, in the 19th century, in the 20th Century, and now. Talk is cheap, and worthless. Even using the correct "frames" has only limited value. Power only respects power. Tolerance and nice words are taken for weakness and stupidity, a green light for continued predation.
 
 
+3 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 08:30
Quoting Shorey13:
To understand what Lakoff is talking about, start with Reinhold Niebuhr" Moral Man and Immoral Society," written in 1939 yet astonishingly relevant today. Then look at the introduction to Paul Krugman's "The Great Unraveling," written in 2004. We are at the effect of a devastatingly effective Reactionary Revolution, and "liberals/progressives" have always failed to stop these takeovers, in the 19th century, in the 20th Century, and now. Talk is cheap, and worthless. Even using the correct "frames" has only limited value. Power only respects power. Tolerance and nice words are taken for weakness and stupidity, a green light for continued predation.


--- Thank you for saying this; it's been my sentiments for decades now. We finally got around to some "push back", but the problem is WHO we have been electing; good orators but stinking warriors for working people's causes. Maybe that's bc they are trying to come up the middle and, in the final analysis, it doesn't work that way. You have to pick your poison and run with it.

--- I was watching a Korean history drama last week (drama based on historical texts and sources) and their Korean noble court was arguing issues we are divided on. (I think the date on this was from around 582 AD.) I had to LOL bc they were running the exact same laundry list of complaints and problems we are today. Different cast and labels, exact same problems.
 
 
0 # nice2bgreat 2014-02-03 12:46
The problem -- within our (US) Democracy -- is the bastardization of logical thinking and analysis.

While the "electable" and "lesser evil" concept, etc., has logic to it, it lacks the conclusions of true logic.

People can continue to spin their wheels with partisan mindsets, using polls to cement their final decisions, but until people overwhelmingly choose the best candidate that reflects their personal views, and voting out every weak incumbent in Primary Elections, there can only be perpetuation of empty promises and non-representation.

True Democracy is the answer, but only through an enlightened populous.

To the people who don't like the idea of the ignorant and uneducated deciding elections, educate the uneducated, give people opportunities, and take a chance on democracy.

To the ones a-feared of risking the greater evil winning an election, you can point fingers all you like, all the way through the flush, but there is nobody more to blame for poor representation than those who voted for the winners. When winning is losing, something is wrong.

If I voted with the winners, we'd have exactly what we have. If others would take a chance on something other than promises of change, by being the change themselves... voting Green Party, Libertarian, anything... by voting one's conscience -- not through a scheme -- change will happen; one would never know.

My real beef is with re-electing poor incumbents, for no matter what reason. It is just bad news.
 
 
+1 # davidr 2014-02-03 01:12
#1
The frame that Lakoff espouses is not native to America. Such "liberalism" as defined our political independence was an Enlightenment liberalism, emphasizing reason, science & argument in just the way that Lakoff despairs of. Moreover, our founding political credos — government by consent of the governed; life, liberty & property — suggest a family narrative quite unlike either proposed by Lakoff. Our earliest narrative was that of a runaway child — the abusive father be damned. Both Ben Franklin & the Puritans (otherwise so uncongenial to his nature) play out the same story. Go out on your own, proceed by your wits and providence, prosper or bust.
 
 
+2 # davidr 2014-02-03 01:12
#2
Lakoff does not acknowledge how hard our ground has been for Progressivism. The Civil War, our first great liberal undertaking (if the Age of Jackson is discounted), also stood for capital and empire. Modern liberalism almost died aborning in the Progressive Era and finally thrived for a mere 35 years during the middle of the 20th century — the only period in which Lakoff's liberal frame was in the ascendant. And suddenly it wasn't anymore. Baby Boomers, although heirs to Depression-era liberalism, reverted to something like Franklin's runaway (love)child narrative. Reagan’s strong father narrative was not compelling in itself. It worked because the children were out playing.
 
 
+5 # davidr 2014-02-03 01:13
#3
Will the Boomers' children, offspring of a most selfish generation, adopt Lakoff's liberal frame, the nurturing family narrative? Their parents have given them precious little example of it. So, how will those parents be fitted into the frame? Won’t their technology-infl ected children construct a family narrative of ignorant parents who need things explained logically, worked out in 0's and 1's?

In that new narrative, I believe, reason and science attain to an emotional state, a new and independent way of life — as they did in the Enlightenment, at our founding. Our native narrative that Lakoff overlooks is a narrative for our times, wherein children are divorced from parents and must live by their wits. Reason's day has come again — a fervent and deeply felt reason, like the common sense of Tom Paine — more powerful than the insipid Tory emotion of Romney Republicans, more powerful even than the faux-fiery nullification-r ants of the goofball reactionaries.

It may still be obscure to us, but we are entering a time in which it will be conservatives who bemoan the fact that their arguments are based merely upon (spiteful) emotion and are no match for the cutting reason of a prevailing liberal agenda.
 
 
+2 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 08:44
Let's hope so, davidr. Enough fundamental changing based on irrational need for greed. So far, save for that brief 35-40 years of progressive thinking and living, and in most recent decades, we have managed to rationalize ourselves into complete and utter irrationality, rapidly heading for annihilation and extinction.
 
 
+10 # backwards_cinderella 2014-02-03 04:30
i don't agree with lakoff at all. the right (the so-called conservative) don't have the moral high road at all. & the liberals aren't conceding that road EITHER. liberals like elizabeth warren & bernie sanders certainly aren't doing that. & many of us who self-identify as liberals, as lefties, as progressives, are as passionate & moral in our beliefs in as any in the right-wing camp.

i agree that people like the clintons, like obama, like governor cuomo in NY, who all profess to be democrats but act like moderate republicans muddy the water as to what a progressive is. that's because THEY ARE NOT PROGRESSIVES & SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH PROGRESSIVES OR PROGRESSIVE ENDS.

by moving the left to the so-called center, these democrats empower the right. this is not a communication problem of the left. it is, however, a serious problem that needs to be addressed & stopped.
 
 
0 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 08:47
Quoting backwards_cinderella:
i don't agree with lakoff at all. the right (the so-called conservative) don't have the moral high road at all. & the liberals aren't conceding that road EITHER. liberals like elizabeth warren & bernie sanders certainly aren't doing that. & many of us who self-identify as liberals, as lefties, as progressives, are as passionate & moral in our beliefs in as any in the right-wing camp.

i agree that people like the clintons, like obama, like governor cuomo in NY, who all profess to be democrats but act like moderate republicans muddy the water as to what a progressive is. that's because THEY ARE NOT PROGRESSIVES & SHOULD NOT BE CONFUSED WITH PROGRESSIVES OR PROGRESSIVE ENDS.

by moving the left to the so-called center, these democrats empower the right. this is not a communication problem of the left. it is, however, a serious problem that needs to be addressed & stopped.


--- Exactly, #backwards_cind erella. Spot on and well said!
 
 
+10 # ericlane 2014-02-03 05:17
There is one glaring omission in this discussion: Protestantism. If we look at religion in the same manner Lakoff describes, all would be strict father based. Catholics would have the most nurturing religious impulse. But the Protestant ethic is dominant in the US.

The idea that we live to work is actually a disgusting concept since the vast majority grab whatever employment they can get. The so-called strict father model places all its strength on materialistic well-being. Religion really exists to take care of all the other concerns: critical thinking needs, philosophy, sickness, creativity, etc.

Protestantism and capitalism were born at the same time. Can one exist without the other?
 
 
0 # WestWinds 2014-02-03 08:51
Quoting ericlane:
There is one glaring omission in this discussion: Protestantism. If we look at religion in the same manner Lakoff describes, all would be strict father based. Catholics would have the most nurturing religious impulse. But the Protestant ethic is dominant in the US.

The idea that we live to work is actually a disgusting concept since the vast majority grab whatever employment they can get. The so-called strict father model places all its strength on materialistic well-being. Religion really exists to take care of all the other concerns: critical thinking needs, philosophy, sickness, creativity, etc.

Protestantism and capitalism were born at the same time. Can one exist without the other?


--- Excellent point.
 
 
+5 # Citizen Mike 2014-02-03 07:29
This blithering barrage of jargon contains no useful information in operational terms. What exactly should we be doing? In my opinion, we should borrow the well-developed marketing techniques from the commercial world to promote our ideological position. Borrow from advertising and publicity methods. Define our brand, take a clear position in the marketplace of ideas, use buzzwords and repetition. Keep the message simple, easy to remember and on-brand. Most importantly, we should take control of the vocabulary of political action and stop using our adversary's definitions of terms.

For example, we must stop defending ourselves as "tax-and-spend liberals" but demand fair taxation and useful, reasonable spending, while defining our opposition as greedy, irrational and selfish tax-haters! Much more effective to dismiss those silly "tax-haters" than to defend ourselves using the opposition's terminology which we tend to re-inforce by repetition even when we deny it.
 
 
+3 # sschnapp 2014-02-03 08:24
Mike: I felt similarly, that the article presented a good argument for what we should not be saying but not enough of what we should say. I do not disagree with Lakoff that we should not concede ground to the right in our messages, and we should root them in values as much as in facts and logic.

However, messaging is one small part, albeit growing because of the way we take in information, and engage with others about it. Organizing & mobilizing people to act (social movements), which is the predominate way structural change happens. Messaging is important but real education, complementing the organizing, is what is necessary. And it must be democratic education, Freirean education, not top down -- "we experts understand the world correctly and must inform the ignorant masses" -- but a dialogic process in which we recognize that we all know something. In fact, the "masses" e.g., fast food workers, undocumented immigrants, transgender youth, high school dropouts from the 'hood, et al, have wisdom about their oppressive circumstances about which most of us well-read & well-meaning folks have only a surface understanding.

Getting the messages right so they expand the limited frames in which so many are stuck is undoubtedly important. But the processes of organizing and educating are vastly more important. This is long-term work that we progressives need to support with our resources (money & time). Let's get to it.
 
 
+1 # Eliz77 2014-02-03 09:16
I agree, sschnapp. We must work to educate ourselves and the people around us at all economic and educational levels. Building movements takes time and we are running low on that commodity. It is past time for all of us here, who understand, to get together the best way we can, and build... Or we die.
 
 
+4 # guyachs 2014-02-03 09:17
Lakoff is right. The progressives keep trying to defend what they want. The conservatives attack, viciously, untruthfully and in anyway they can. Progressives try to stick to the facts but the conservatives don't care about facts.
The estate tax becomes the death tax when it should be the rich kid's tax.
The richness of nature becomes the legacy God came us to exploit and we can't harm it because God created it.
It should be that the richness of nature is a gift that needs to be nurtured or it will die. It doesn't take too much imagination to see that we can destroy nature.
 
 
+3 # Eliz77 2014-02-03 09:20
I also notice the trolls on every progressive commentary page, but very few commentators from the left on rite wing pages. Is there something we are missing here, or, as in my case, the rite wing commnentaries are so violent and smug that I don't have the stamina to hang in and argue with them.
 
 
-2 # nice2bgreat 2014-02-03 13:23
Consider yourself lucky to lack whatever it is that is necessary to stomach what right-wing sites offer, spew, and/or inflict upon this universe.

Personally, I don't know. I've never been to one ... certainly not intentionally; I just assume they are bad and not worth my time.

However, the answer to changing the world is not through them, anyway, but in spite of them.

Unfortunately, there are many on "progressive" sites, who are vilified for not being partisan Democrats.

The real fight is within the gates. So you are likely in the right place.

But if the smugness of the right is too much for you, you may find the arrogance of the unprincipled (so-called progressive), partisan left much to bear, as well.
 
 
0 # Texas Aggie 2014-02-03 14:28
A big part of the phenomenon you mention is that when progressives show up on those sites, the moderator immediately deletes their posts and bans them from the site. Erick seems to have a particular penchant for that.
 
 
+1 # nice2bgreat 2014-02-03 09:43
From the outset, there are apparent problems with how Lackoff, evidently, defines terms and categorizes groups.

I take great issue with arguments based upon, the misconception or mistaken conflation of liberals and -- for lack of a consistent ideology and/or principles -- the ever-changing Democrats/cente r-left Democrats/hard- right Democrats and/or malleable progressive Democrats.

The idea that Liberals do anything wrong, let alone everything, must be based upon an accurate assessment of just what liberals are.

To me, those who, after neo-con vilification of the term liberal during the 1990's, have gone the way of a self-identifyin g transformation to progressives, do not in any way represent the liberal left.

Yet the liberal left usually bears the burden of being conflated with, then accused of beliefs held not by true liberals, but their less-principled , highly partisan brethren -- who have long ago settled upon relegating their thinking actions, decisions, rhetoric and strategies through an inter-connected sycophant-lemmi ng/master-serva nt relationship to the corporatist Democratic Party.
 
 
+1 # Tigre1 2014-02-03 10:23
You know, some of us just like to fight, and reeps are the best and most blowhard
oppressors we've got.

Some of us who work intensively on political campaigns and thus attempt to shape political reality are activist liberals, doing what it takes to empower
the best public representatives ...I have a hand in PICKING some of them, how about YOU?

I am committed to the age-old fight of liberal ideas against the conservative sense of entitlement and social cruelty...I believe in 'extending the political franchise'...I' m the brute you nice guys enlist or hire to win office for them. De Oppresso Liber. Let me encourage EVERYONE to develop a real active relationship with the country and the government, and you know that in any relationship, sometimes you have to go first...
 
 
-2 # nice2bgreat 2014-02-03 10:54
You can fight the blowhards all you like, to no avail. But by ignoring the enemy within the gates, you are doomed to lose... and not only at your expense.

And you write of "empower[ing] the best public representatives ..." and of "hav[ing] a hand in PICKING some of them..." Who are these hand-picked -- by you???????????? -- "best public representatives?"

There is something blowing hard right now, and it's not the oppression of the "reeps."
 
 
+1 # maryf 2014-02-05 01:15
Quote:
You can fight the blowhards all you like, to no avail.
Yet I am astounded by how much energy commenters waste trying to respond to certain trolls who visit RSN, such as the idiot Penn. People like that thrive on driving others into a frenzy and racking up large numbers of thumbs-downs. They would give up eventually if everyone just ignored them.
 
 
0 # EarthSelf 2014-02-03 10:19
Restating the obvious serves to maintain equilibrium. The concept of frames is just a myopic interpretation of individuals and parties accepting positions within false equilibria, where profitable deviations are predicted and exploited. True equilibria can be established in relation to what I call Earth selfishness. Personal selfishness requires monetizing the Earth. This is false since one cannot monetize one’s self. The Nash Equilibrium was applied to the market during Reagan’s presidency. I see no indication that the Equilibrium has not been applied to social and political structures as well. If fact, once one understands these operational dynamics, it becomes clearly visible, as personal selfishness find more and more profitable deviations from what is called a Conservative stance. Progressives are being “played” in the execution of game theory applied to economics.
 
 
-3 # Gwen Aguia 2014-02-03 12:03
All the progressives that I know are adamantly against fracking and GMOs, whereas some liberals share these views while others don't. I've been an online activist almost daily for 12 years, and I can't believe these two very different orientations are being treated here as one and the same. It's beyond absurd.
 
 
+3 # Billy Bob 2014-02-03 22:51
I'm a liberal - liberal, being the opposite of conservative.

Progressive is a term no one used, to mean anything seperate until, some liberals started running away from the term "liberal" in the '90s, because Rush Limbaugh attacked them as "naughty".

I refuse to join the bandwagon. Eventually, the conservative media will make "progressive" a naughty word too, and you "progressives" will all say that you were secretly "pomegranites", because you've decided that "pomegranite" is a safe-haven from "progressive" bashers.

If you want to insist there's a difference between two things that were NEVER considered opposite until the '90s, go ahead. I realize that in on line communities, all these delineations now exist, that never did before, but, as I said, I'm not a bandwagon joiner.

How many things can be the absolute opposite of "conservative" at the same time?

Is it possible for there to be more than 2 polar opposites?

Is sideways also the opposite of down? Or is it enough to say that "up" is its opposite?

Conservative, by definition, does NOT mean "liberal", any more than "black" would also mean "white", or "up" would mean "down".

All of these secret, hidden, attributes that "progressives" have ascribed to "liberals", are getting a bit absurd.

It's as if you LIKE the conservative ideal of "divide and conquer".

That may be it. Maybe progressives, are secret conservatives, hired to make liberals ashamed of a word.
 
 
+3 # Billy Bob 2014-02-03 22:55
In other words, NO liberal is for fracking or GMOs - NONE.

If they're for those things, then, by definition, they are CONSERVATIVES.

Don't confuse opposites.

Just because Obama is pro-fracking, don't assume "liberals are". Obama is a CONSERVATIVE. He's NO liberal. He's a Democrat, but since when has that had ANYTHING to do with having ANY firm convictions?

IN FACT, Obama never refers himself as a "liberal" either. HE uses the term "progressive".
 
 
0 # maryf 2014-02-05 01:22
One of the problems with the word "liberal" is that it does not have a consistent meaning in other countries. In Europe, a "Liberal Democrat" favors liberal MONETARY policies, not social ones.

Incidentally, the epithet "fuzzy-headed liberals" existed well before the fat gasbag was famous.
 
 
0 # WolfTotem 2014-02-03 14:52
Why we’re blind - a general reflection

We’re blinded by our skill in the science of optics!

Galileo, Kepler and Janssen invented the telescope and the microscope and these prosthetic devices have helped human beings in innumerable ways. Such, however, has been the influence exerted upon mankind by instruments designed to help us better to perceive and measure the physical world that we have become enslaved by them and forgotten how to make good use of our own faculties.

Paradoxically, our dependence on optical instruments has made for frog-down-a-wel l obscurantism and an inability to see or even conceive of the big picture. We have become the slaves of analysis, incapable of adequate synthesis. Our view of reality has become intrinsically fragmentary, focusing on myriad details yet incapable of encompassing the whole. Optical aids have developed into mental impediments; and there’s the rub, not so much in our practical use of instruments, not even in our over-reliance on them, but in their interference with our ability to conceptualize. The process has gone so far that it has become a major factor skewing our relationship with the physical world. And consequently our ability to survive in it.

“For this, for everything, we are out of tune.”

Technology has become the beam in our eye. Such is the impediment that we must go back beyond the dualistic view of ourselves and the world or ourselves in the world and examine our mind and how we relate to it.
 
 
0 # draypoker 2014-02-04 17:35
Britain has a Tory government (covered with a Liberal Democrat coalition partner). Their rather extreme right wing policies are not an example of the decline of the Left - they seem to be intent on undoing most of what the previous Labour government achieved.
 

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