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George Lakoff begins: "My wife, Kathleen, and I stood gaping at the TV as we watched the towers fall. Kathleen said to me, 'Do you realize what Bush and Cheney are going to do with this?' We both realized very well."

Ground Zero, Lower Manhattan, New York City, September 11th, 2011. (photo: Todd Heisler/NYT)
Ground Zero, Lower Manhattan, New York City, September 11th, 2011. (photo: Todd Heisler/NYT)

9/11, Intimidation via Framing

By George Lakoff, Reader Supported News

11 September 11


The use of 9/11 to consolidate conservative power: Intimidation via framing.

y wife, Kathleen, and I stood gaping at the TV as we watched the towers fall. Kathleen said to me, "Do you realize what Bush and Cheney are going to do with this?" We both realized very well. Until 9/11, the Bush presidency was weak. On 9/11, Cheney understood that the attack was an opportunity to take control, and take control he did. Colin Powell recommended calling the attack a crime. But Cheney understood that if it were framed as an act of war, then Bush and Cheney would be given war powers. So war it was, a metaphorical "war" on terror. The American people, intimidated by the vision of the towers falling, accepted the framing. Democrats, seeing the reaction of their constituents, went along with the framing. Except for my congresswoman, Barbara Lee. I ran to my computer to be the first to congratulate her on her no vote.

Terror meant everyone should be afraid of terrorists. Throughout the Midwest the predictable happened. A highly memorable event raises one's judgment of the probability that it will happen to them. All over America people started being afraid of terrorists. Bush asked for and got unlimited war powers and the Patriot Act.

From 9/11 on, the American people have been subject to conservative intimidation by framing. I've now written five books explaining how framing works in the brain and what citizens could do about it - Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant, Whose Freedom?, Thinking Points, and The Political Mind. The books were based on results from the cognitive and brain sciences on how reason about social and political issues really works - primarily in terms of morally-based frames, metaphors, and narratives, and only secondarily, if at all, in terms of policy, facts, and logic. Those books were widely used by Democrats in the 2006 and 2008 elections - and they helped.

But since the 2008 election, conservative intimidation of the electorate via framing has come back big time, with no adequate Democratic defense against it. With a Democratic president in office, Democrats, both citizens and office-holders, turned their attention to policy and logical, fact-based arguments for the policies. In response to the president's health care policies, conservatives attacked on the moral front, choosing two moral values from their value system: freedom ("government takeover") and life ("death panels"). Knowing well that morality trumps lists of policy details, lists of facts, and logic, conservatives won that framing encounter, and have kept winning. Why? Because people, using their real reason, normally think unconsciously in terms of morally based systems of frames, metaphors, and narratives.

Since the 2008 election, America has returned to post-9/11 conservative intimidation by framing. The intimidation does not use violence. It uses media. When conservatives, using their moral system, are able to frame the main values that define public discourse, the media follows suit, because that is how "mainstream" public discourse has been defined. The media, encountering more conservative language, picks up on that language and uses it. Since conservative language evokes conservative frames and values, which are carried with it, the media (liberal or not) winds up helping conservatives. Even arguing against conservatives, liberal pundits in the media first quote what they say. Liberals in the media help the conservatives by quoting their language, even to argue against it.

In the post-2008 return to 9/11 style intimidation by framing, conservatives have been winning. They have protected banks from financial regulation, health insurance companies from government insurance, and corporations from serious environmental regulation. They have successfully attacked the very idea of the public - public education, employees, unions, parks, housing, and safety nets.

Here's how public intimidation by framing works.

The mechanism of intimidation is framing, not just the use of words or slogans, but rather the changing of what voters take as right as a matter of principle. Framing is much more than mere language or messaging. A frame is a conceptual structure used to think with. Frames come in hierarchies. At the top of the hierarchies are moral frames. All politics is moral. Politicians support policies because they are right, not wrong. The problem is that there is more than one conception of what is moral. Moreover, voters tend to vote their morality, since it is what defines their identity. Poor conservatives vote against their material interests, but for their moral identity.

All language activates frames in the brain. Conservative language activates conservative frames, which activate conservative moral worldviews in the brains of those who hear the language. The more those frames are activated, the stronger the conservative moral views get in people's brains.

When Democrats are intimidated into using conservative language, they help conservatives, even if they are arguing against them. Here's why. The main voters you want to affect are the bi-conceptuals, those who are conservative on some issues and progressive on others; that is, those who have both conservative and progressive moral worldviews, but on different issues. They are sometimes misnamed as "the center," "independents," or "moderates." But they do not have any single overriding worldview. Instead they have two. Given the way brains work, the activation of one worldview will inhibit the other worldview. The more one is activated, the stronger it gets and the weaker the opposite one gets. The worldview that is most activated by the public discourse they hear will most likely govern how they will vote. What activates one worldview versus another? Framing. Conservative language activates conservative frames, which activate conservative worldviews. If Democrats use conservative language, even to argue against it, they are just helping conservatives.

To a large extent, Democrats don't understand this. They think that language is neutral and that reason works by logic. If you just tell people the facts and reason logically, everyone should be convinced. But they aren't, because language works by framing and by brain mechanisms. Framing is just the normal way people think and talk. Conservatives tend to understand this. They avoid using liberal language. They frame issues very carefully to fit their goals. Democrats need to do the same - avoid using conservative frames and instead frame the issues with their own values.

This takes a lot more than just a list of policies. Appropriate policies are vital, but lists of policies in the absence of a clear moral basis for them will always be ineffective in public discourse. Progressive have a clear moral basis for their policies, but they fail to discuss it. Democracy is defined by a simple morality: We Americans care about our fellow citizens, we act on that care and build trust, and we do our best not just for ourselves, our families, and our friends and neighbors, but for our country. Americans are called upon to share an equal responsibility to work together to secure a safe and prosperous future for their families and nation.

The conservative consolidation of power violates this most basic of democratic principles. It replaces social and personal responsibility with personal responsibility alone. It approves of the government over our lives by corporations for their own profit, and hence sees government by, of and for the people as immoral and to be eliminated.

The conservative move to defund government is a means not an end. What conservatives really want is to run the country and the world on conservative principles: to control reproduction (no abortion); to control what is taught (no public education); to control religion (conservative Christianity); to control race and language (mass deportation of Hispanic immigrants); to guarantee cheap labor (no unions); to continue white domination (no affirmative action); to continue straight domination (no gay marriage); to control markets (eliminate regulation, taxation, unions, worker rights, and tort cases); to control transportation (privatize freeways); to control elections (institute bars to voting).

The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible for Democrats to learn how frames, narratives, and brains really work. It is possible to take moral stands, with all policies backed up by a single moral vision. It is possible to awaken and strengthen the progressive worldview already present in swing voters who are partly progressive as partly conservative (called "independents," "moderates," and "the center"). It is possible for Democrats to say what they believe and win, without giving in to intimidation tactics.

But the longer we wait, the more damage the conservatives do. Ten years is already too long. It is time to end the era of conservative intimidation that took hold on 9/11. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+55 # Yakpsyche 2011-09-11 14:33
ABsolutely. So, what is the plan to teach Democrats how to do this?
+50 # doneasley 2011-09-11 18:53
"The plan", Yakpsyche, is to use "talking points" in the same way Republicans do. In reply to an event, the GOP works out the talking points immediately, and the next day - truth or lie - all Conservatives are on the same page and repeating the same lines. Example: Our best economic research firms estimate that the Stimulus created 1.6 to 2.5 Million jobs! The Congressional Budget Office thinks those estimates are conservative, estimating 2 to 3.5 Million jobs created or saved. We'd have had a sure 2nd Depression without the Stimulus instead of this Great Recession. Even though they were spending Stimulus money in their various districts and cutting ribbons on Stimulus projects, Republicans created the talking point that "the Stimulus was a failure"! And, without any facts, they continue to repeat the "Failed Stimulus" talking point every day. Instead of defending the Stimulus, Democrats don't fight back with the facts - not even the President! The same is happening with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Even Democrats are calling it "Obamacare".

Republicans are in their strongest position in the states since Reagan destroyed the aircraft controllers union. They're striking while the iron is hot. They're stymied in North Carolina by Democratic governor Bev Purdue.

WAKE UP PROGRESSIVES! If you don't wake up now, America's future is in deep, deep trouble.
+19 # RLF 2011-09-12 06:53
Exactly! Where are the liberal think tanks? One problem is the Democrats think they can encompass everything and let people like Joe Lieberman stay in the party. They have to decide on a single course of action and then punish those that stray. NO MORE BLUE DOGS!!!
+49 # artful 2011-09-11 14:46
Wow, this may be the best single consolidated view of republican thought-control principles. It seems to be a very clear perspectiove on how and why they wish to dominate a very different America, one the citizens of, say, 1960 America would not have recognized. We used to be mostly a moral, principled people. Too bad we no longer hold such principled positions. Too bad for us . . . too bad for the world.
+113 # Albatross 2011-09-11 15:05
Okay, I agree with you, so I'm going urge you to take it a step further.

Of course we agree that our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are not wars - they are occupations. This is important because while wars must be won or lost, occupations can only be ended. The only way to end our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan is... to end them.

But you refer to "the era of conservatism" and I assert that referring to these people as "conservatives" is also buying into their framing.

Dick Cheney and his ilk are NOT "conservative." Like "war," the term "conservative" is used to lend credibility and gravitas to their positions. What we call "conservatives" are actually RADICAL AUTHORITARIANS. These people are eager to dispense with small-d people-powered democracy in favor of corporatist/aut horitarian top-down governance. The Citizens United ruling is one example that people recognized as 'radical' rather than 'conservative.'

Just as we must stop using the term "war," we must stop using the term "conservative." The REAL conservatives? That would be the people working to preserve Constitutional rights, habeas corpus, and equal justice under the law. The people sneeringly called "liberals" by the radical authoritarians.
+45 # futhark 2011-09-11 17:26
Conservatives have to conserve something in order to qualify for that appellation. Please tell me what neo-cons like Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld have conserved.

Well, they haven't conserved anything positive, but have rather squandered the goodwill and confidence of the rest of the world with these endless occupations. They haven't conserved the health or welfare of American citizens or the natural resources upon which we all depend. Their unjustified and unwise military adventures have been funded largely on borrowed money, jeopardizing the faith and credit of the federal government as they ran up unprecedented deficits. The democratic process and constitutional rights have both been eroded, not conserved, by the neo-cons. Let's start calling them out on their so-called conservatism.

As far as I can tell, the only thing conserved by the neo-cons has been the wealth and power of the already wealthy and powerful. Every other living being on the planet has been paying the price for their exploitative actions.
+76 # Swamib 2011-09-11 15:05
I appreciate the work George Lakoff has done over the years to clarify communication and provide wise alternative narratives to the ones being put forth by conservatives and neo-liberal Democrats. However, he seems to not get that the Democrats DON'T WANT TO offer a truly different narrative because they actually do not stand for that narrative. They are simply the "we're not as bad as the Republican" branch of the neocon / neolib empire. They are locked into the same money game as the Republicans, and consequently are courting the same funding sources who are essentially behind the corporate state. Like Lucy pulling the football away and sending Charlie Brown flying on his behind, the Democrats will NEVER play a new game ... maybe what we need now is an independent citizens movement gathering around the principles that we IMAGINED Obama would support. That would be the majority of Americans and a half a billion dollars in donations ... then we could HIRE our own candidate instead of participating in the puppet show politics the media serves up. I know, I know. I am proposing a sane world. I must be crazy.
+10 # sally 2011-09-11 15:07
George, why don't you get together with Al Gore.
+33 # stonecutter 2011-09-11 15:10
Lakoff had me when I read his prescient "Moral Politics" a few years ago. This guy has it figured out! The more inscrutable question: why Democrat leadership has not embraced his analysis? Maybe because Democrats actually don't differentiate themselves from Republicans? Or maybe because they're stupid? Or maybe because they're slopping in the same trough as their GOP "adversaries"?

Lakoff is speaking about "progressives" and "conservatives" and "bi-conceptual" voters. Obama apes "progressive" when he makes a speech, but his "compromises" (or wimp-outs, depending on your pov) come off as way too Tea Party-friendly. There's a dissonance there that's deeply frustrating, even painful, to most self-described progressives, despite his hollow rationales.

"Progressive" Pelosi took any effort at Bush/Cheney impeachment off the table before it started; the rough equivalent of Ford's pardon of Nixon. Obama has given a legal pass to super-rich Wall Street high-rollers and scammers, despite a mountain of alleged evidence of their fraud and corruption, which lead to the 2008 meltdown and the massive loss of middle-class jobs and assets. It feels like progressive leadership is morally bankrupt, and--when it comes to the "social responsibility" Lakoff says defines progressive framing--OUT TO LUNCH!

No ethics, no trust, no hope.
+8 # Jorge 2011-09-12 12:10
Yes, stonecutter, Mr. Lakoff is correct about the framing issue used very successfully by the Repugs. But Lakoff uses the terms Democrats and Republicans as though there were big differences between the two. The modern Congressional Democrat still votes for endless wars and caves on tax cuts for the rich in exchange for the few crumbs of Obama "negotiations" (Boner said the Repugs got 98& of what they wanted, that means the working folks got 2%). So, Lakoff needs to define the values of Progressives (not these modern-day conservative Dems) v. the totalitarian goals of the modern Repugs (not "conservatives" as is pointed out they do not representative traditional conservatism such as isolationist polices, v. the current U.S. interference and military bases throughout the world). Perhaps Lakoff should encourage a Progressive third party instead of relying on "hope" that Obama and the Dems will help average Americans (no matter what the framing).
+2 # molesoul 2011-09-14 22:20
When Lakoff talks about conservatives/R epublicans and progressives/De mocrats being different, he is referring to the worldviews and moral values that the two groups have traditionally stood for, not how the battle between these worldviews has played out in the political arena more recently. In other words, Democrats in office, theoretically, have moved to the right policy-wise not because they have actually come to believe in conservative values, but because they have failed to understand the major force behind the rightward shift in public opinion—i.e., aggressive use of conservative framing.

Yes, Democrats have also moved to the right because they are taking corporate money. They want to win elections and stay in office like everyone else. But this does not mean they are converts to Randian conservatism. Spineless, self-serving, and corrupt yes, but they are not true believers in smaller government, bigger defense, corporate welfare, Christian dominance, etc.

Money in politics is not Lakoff’s area of expertise.
+27 # Charlie W 2011-09-11 15:26
It is time indeed to end the era of "ultra" conservative intimidation. Pray America wakes up soon.
+21 # Ruth 2011-09-11 15:36
What will it take to educate the Democrats?
+12 # Virginia 2011-09-11 17:57
A good hard look at who owns the Federal Reserve. And probably a revolution. There are too many politicians being fed by the Federal Reserve either for political favors (what they spend and fund in their states) and/or linked to their campaign donations. The root of the problem is directly linked to the Federal Reserve. Make people understand what it is and they'll know intuitively what needs to be done.
+31 # Nwcitizen 2011-09-11 15:42
This is important. I've know for a long time that facts alone to not change minds no matter how clear or persuasive they may seem. Lakoff explains why the language we use (the framing) makes all the difference.
+42 # teineitalia 2011-09-11 16:18
thank you, Mr. Lakoff, for reminding me of the truest Democratic principal... concern for others, not just for myself.

As you say so eloquently, "The conservative consolidation of power violates this most basic of democratic principles. It replaces social and personal responsibility with personal responsibility alone."

I don't see how conservatives Christians can quote their Bibles and yet miss the fact that Jesus wanted us to do just that... to take care of one another, as members of a caring society, and be good stewards of the beautiful earth we have inherited.

Where did we go wrong in allowing the selfish (and the insane) to frame the message? How can we reframe it, short of establishing truly liberal media outlets that are as busy and as omnipresent as Fox News?

(One thing we CAN do is work to elect Democrats true to these ideals....true Democrats ... not DINOs and charlatans parading as Democrats.)
+33 # mghu 2011-09-11 16:19
Amen, George Lakoff! It is remarkable how dense and slow the Dems are to realize how off the mark they are linguistically and conceptually. Do we have some screw missing or something? Why are the Dark Siders so much "smarter" than our side? I have found myself wishing so hard that they would take up one of your books and actually learn how to master the narrative. Time is awasting and we are going down fast. Get with it, Dems/Progressiv e-- whoever you are.
+32 # Vardette 2011-09-11 16:21
I think there is a widespread consensus among the majority of Americans that being involved in these protracted so called "wars on terror" has been far too costly, has led to to many civil rights abuses and has been fabrication to support a vast and expensive security matrix that we are supporting because of the enemies we created. It doesn't take brain surgery to realize that if you invade a nation based on lies and kill tens of thousands of their people, destroy their infrastructure and then rob their resources that this wouldn't instill hatred into the hearts & minds of the victims. People died in 911 but what we have done in the name of retribution has far exceeded their crime against us. What if another power did this to us? We didn't just punish those who actually did the crime, we took over 2 nations using 911 as the excuse. This is a very profitable venture for a vast number of corporations, arms manufacturers and much more. Everyone should watch, IRAQ FOR SALE: THE WAR PROFITEERS online. The level of corruption and abuse will blow your mind. So we created enemies to justify getting trillions for these endless wars and now we all have to endure threats and the loss of our liberties, turning us into a goddamn police state that is a result of OUR aggression. I call my reps and tell them we have had enough and do not support conflict for profit at our expense!
+4 # Cailleach 2011-09-14 15:51
An excellent insight into why 9/11 was perpetrated by our own government: Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rove, IT WAS MONEY FOR THE MIC! All involved got very, very rich from this so-called attack on America. Did you know that the office the "airplane" hit at the Pentagon was where all the records were kept that showed that the DOD had "lost track" of 2.3 trillion dollars? The Project For a New American Century called for a new Pearl Harbor. They sure got it, and not by accident.
+32 # walt 2011-09-11 16:24
And worst of all, President Obama adopted the Bush Wars! He feared the scathing remarks from the opposition who would call him "weak on defense" or one who would "cut and run." He bought it as he was too weak to stand for something different that would have given the USA a stronger position in the world.
He also bought into absolving Bush and Cheney of the crime of invading another country on lies to the public, thus joining Congress in abandoning their sworn obligation of upholding the constitution.
We can simply forget about Obama who seems unwilling and hopeless in stopping the wars. It's time for all citizens to speak out and demand an end to the insanity that has cost us over 6000 lives and trillions of dollars of debt!
+8 # Sallyport 2011-09-11 16:30
The antepenultimate para above is very telling. "Control....con trol....control ." What agency will do the controlling, the government? Can it, when it has been starved to the point of being drownable in the bathtub?
+14 # X Dane 2011-09-11 23:28
sallyport, it is NOT an AGENCY doing the controlling. The Koch brothers and other big corporations, BOUGHT and PAID for "the government" at least a VERY large part of. They are in control, busy trying to get rid of the EPA and others, who are in their way, and impeeding their money-making.

They don't want to drown the government, THEY WANT TO TOTALLY CONTROL IT!!!!!
+12 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2011-09-11 16:35
I keep reading Lakoff's articles, but he never seems to include any specific suggestions for the wording of compelling progressive frames. It's as if he's saying, "I know the answer; hire me and I'll tell you."
+20 # Gord84 2011-09-11 17:01
They should have quoted "A Defence Plan For The Twenty-First Century" in which the neo-Republicans stated that they needed another Pearl Harbor and 9/11 delivered to them.
+25 # giraffe 2011-09-11 17:04
We still have the VOTE (and if we participate in our districts) we can "help" insure the GOP/TP (who have been "known" to lose ballots - whatever) cannot prevail in phony election results (as I suspect happened in 2004) and we saw what happened in 2008.

At the 2012 elections don't sit home like you did in 2010 -

If you have a GOP/TP governor (you've been warned) -- so as Michael Moore recently published "GET OUT AND DO SOMETHING" - like go door to door in neighborhoods that you KNOW the GOP has required IDs and let these people know getting the IDs are free (Gov of Wisconsin is trying to publicize that IDs cost $28 -- Our constitution is adamant that our elections are FREE - we don't have to pay to vote)

That is our weapon against the minority TP.

Also, don't forget some Republicans in some states regret their 2010 decisions (I don't know about the evangelicals - but those few states should form their own country anyway). My point is you can go to some Republican districts BUT keep your focus on Dem districts - especially minority ones who the TP/GOP are targeting the most.

The Bush/Cheney administration tricked us into wars with lies -- and then let their rich cronies to profit (Haliburton - CEO: Cheney) and look up the Carlyle Group for others).

Oil Men went to Iraq for OIL (billions of Gals there)
+20 # Erdajean 2011-09-11 17:32
"But Cheney understood that if it were framed as an act of war, then Bush and Cheney would be given war powers. So war it was...." Pardon me, but an interesting question it's always been thought uncouth (or unsafe) to ask, is, How far back -- even before the event (?) -- did Cheney have this brilliant epiphany? As in, maybe, "Gee, Little George -- think what WE could do, with War Powers! Hmmm...."
Lakoff is so right, of course, about the "programming" of the human mindset. Once the deed was done, its framing was the next big step: timbered tight, unwavering and without variation: Muslims did something BAD to us 'cause they HATE our FREEDOMS! Let's get 'em!
Until we get to the bottom of how this all came about, and FRAME the perps, in a cage or on the gallows, this day is going to haunt our lives and liberties.
+1 # mgwmgw 2011-09-11 17:41
Let me suggest that people who are not satisfied with the other available candidates take a look at Gary Johnson.

Gary was the 2 term governor of New Mexico, who left office with a budget surplus. He is pro choice, anti war, pro drug legalization, and a whole lot better informed that some of the other Republicans seem to be.

Getting him some support may improve the current topics of discussion in the campaigning.

Given that the economy may make it hard for Obama to win re-election, Gary Johnson would be a Republican whom Democrats would find much more acceptable than most of the Republican alternatives.
0 # Anarchist 23 2011-09-14 20:05
[quote name="mgwmgw"]L et me suggest that people who are not satisfied with the other available candidates take a look at Gary Johnson.

As a long term resident of NM, the best that can be said for Gary Johnson was that he was always somewhere else, climbing mountains or running triathlons. He sure did not do much for NM, still one of the poorest states in the GSA (Geheim Staaats of Amerikkka-used to be USA)-here in NM we are usually saying "thank god for Mississippi" or Texas, since they usually have worse poverty or illiteracy or lack of health care than we do. Until people WAKE UP and realize that you can't melt steel with jet grade kerosene, unless you are a powerful Evil magician, this rip off of the nation and the future will continue.
+17 # Rara Avis 2011-09-11 17:42
This analysis should be the play book for the Democrats in 2012. I use it on my blog. I've spoken of the same framing the president used, the conservative value of responsibility, and strongly argue that our national security is at stake if our economy cannot take care of our people. The behavior of Republicans is an evasion of their responsibilitie to the nation to serve the people, when given the repsonsibilitie s of office in the House of Representatives , and their inability to help our government function borders on treason. How's that for re-framing. It's also sadly the truth.
+26 # angelfish 2011-09-11 18:26
Can ANYONE tell me WHY we can't get ANY Accountability for these Crimes against Our Nation and Humanity itself? WHY is there NO Special Prosecutor looking in to all the Malfeasance and Criminal Activity of our Government under the Bush/Cheney Regime? Torture, Holding people without Charge or access to Counsel? These are things that the Bad Guys do, NOT us! WHERE is JUSTICE?
+5 # moonchild62 2011-09-11 20:41
Just one question, How?
+13 # Lulie 2011-09-11 22:18
The right wing has been doing this for many years. The Democrats are aware of it and could replicate it. They don't because they are trying to placate the same corporate masters that the Republicans are. The Dems squeak out just enough "progressive" talk to keep the Left voting for them, all the while moving the country to the right to get those ever-important corporate contributions.
Apparently, progressives would rather think that their "leaders" are weak or inept than that they are guilty of betrayal.
+10 # oakes721 2011-09-11 22:29
Occasionally someone will suggest that there is a "Parallel World." The corporate-owned media has provided such a duplicity for us, where a political reality is given constant exposure over actual reality. Thus, we are pulled back and forth, trying to separate the truth from the nonsensical fictions we are daily bombarded with. Simple words like "we" and "our" have been kidnapped: WE, the people do not profit from wars. "OUR" government has actually become a tool to manipulate power for the wealthy, yet we accept the language and repeat and reinforce it without first really clarifying that we've been overwhelmed by this ~ when we do not mean to take possession of these corrupted meanings.
+13 # oakes721 2011-09-11 22:30
The 9/11 crashes were allowed to happen (while the largest military force on Earth were helpless to stop them?), yet it's been framed as a surprise attack. Evidence buried immediately. Within days Bush promised there would be endless wars ~ (no more Peace on Earth, EVER?) ~ but, not to worry, for it would all be televised. He'd gone directly to Hollywood. He was gonna make a movie of it.
"In the Beginning there was the WORD." Pay attention to linguistics! Most debates with neo-cons end with emotional outbursts, blaming every problem on (Authoritarian) God or Nature, whereas dems blame man's actions. In a Master vs Slave relationship, you've got to serve somebody.
+8 # sebouhian 2011-09-12 04:21
Unfortunately,I find Lulie's comment to be the most incisive, penetrating understanding of today's politics. Even more unfortunately I find President Obama is himself like those of his party, kow-towing to the "Masters" of the dollar. Mr. Lakoff's "framing" approach leads to the conclusions that Democrats are simply confused and linguistically limited--not their fault. Compare that view with Lulie's take on the Democrates, motivated, as consciously intentional, as pragmatic as the Republicans' in relation to the dollar "Masters"--clea r, neat, and overwhelmingly threatening to what's left of the democratic goal of the new government of 1776 .
-24 # Joeconserve 2011-09-12 05:57
The article and the comments so far are unbelievable! Neither the writer nor any commentor expressed any sadness for the lives lost on 9/11. Not one of you. Is you your hate so enormous that concern for your fellow man takes a backseat to your politics? I am appalled and disgusted!
+12 # antineocon 2011-09-12 09:25
Quoting Joeconserve:
The article and the comments so far are unbelievable! Neither the writer nor any commentor expressed any sadness for the lives lost on 9/11. Not one of you. Is you your hate so enormous that concern for your fellow man takes a backseat to your politics? I am appalled and disgusted!

Problem with you and your grief is that you think a bunch of Arabs who hate America did th is. look and sse who really did it, and then you will understand your grief better
-8 # Joeconserve 2011-09-12 14:51
I recommend you read "The Arab Mind" by Raphael Patai. Then ask yourself why the proposed mosque near Ground Zero was initially to be calle "The Cordoban Center.". Then go check out what happened on September 11, 1683 in Eastern Europe.
+9 # karenvista 2011-09-12 20:22
Quoting Joeconserve:
what happened on September 11, 1683 in Eastern Europe.

You mean Vienna.

How about the more recent and appropriately related September 11-The U.S. overthrow of the democratically elected government of Chile under it's President Salvador Allende and our installation of the murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet?

The more recent 9/11 turned us into a predatory state populated by a bunch of cowards afraid of their own shadows. It was engineered by our own corporate overlords to turn public funds into private profits and, in that, it's been a great success (Trillions, so far).

Now we have been conditioned to give up our Constitutional rights, through code yellow, orange and red scares for years, anniversary terror hype events with threatened new attacks and numerous stupid entrapments of people who had no intention of doing anything terroristic but were enticed by FBI informants into some harebrained scheme. In the case of the Miami defendants, they agreed to go along with the FBI informant if he would get them some boots because they were so poor they couldn't afford any. Yeah, some well financed and terrorizing folks there.
+10 # karenvista 2011-09-12 20:35

If you have ever been to Cordoba (or even if you Google it) you would find out that the Moorish rule of Spain was extremely enlightened and tolerant. Muslims, Christian and Jews all lived together in harmony. When the Christians drove the Muslims out of Spain in 1492 they brought the evangelical conservatives with them and immediately started THE SPANISH INQUISITION!

So you are convincing us that Muslims are more inhumane than Christians??

Since you are looking so far back in history-why not take a look at the Crusades? You might learn something!
+11 # reiverpacific 2011-09-12 09:27
Quoting Joeconserve:
The article and the comments so far are unbelievable! Neither the writer nor any commentor expressed any sadness for the lives lost on 9/11. Not one of you. Is you your hate so enormous that concern for your fellow man takes a backseat to your politics? I am appalled and disgusted!

No, that's just another topic and has been addressed in other articles and post. The "hate" in it's enormity is much better expressed by the actions and attiuteds of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the cabal of unfeeling criminals. As usual, you and you ilk of "agents provocateurs" who post y'r bent, patronizing, myopic and arrogant world view on RSN because you can and this is actually an excellent example of Mr Lackaffs' point at issue (for which I thank you as a revelatory statement on the mindset of the reactionary, rather than the logically thinking Conservative).
Away back, lower your flag and seek counsel as to what truth-in-contex t rather than words manipulated to make a non-point! Just don't talk to me about compassion as a front to make a mindless opposing view without a real motive other than making vague insults!
-16 # Joeconserve 2011-09-12 13:21
I and my ilk of 329,000,000 Americans (I generously allowed for 1,000,000 of your ilk) we're saddened by the 9/11 tragedy and as seen in the recent solemn remembrances continue to be sad at what happened. Lakkeof, on the other hand, felt no sadness but only hate. I'm currently reading about the French Revolution. I see a lot of similarity between Lakkeof and the typical Jacobian whose hate saw no bounds.
+11 # reiverpacific 2011-09-12 14:33
Quoting Joeconserve:
I and my ilk of 329,000,000 Americans (I generously allowed for 1,000,000 of your ilk) we're saddened by the 9/11 tragedy and as seen in the recent solemn remembrances continue to be sad at what happened. Lakkeof, on the other hand, felt no sadness but only hate. I'm currently reading about the French Revolution. I see a lot of similarity between Lakkeof and the typical Jacobian whose hate saw no bounds.

Are you implying that "me and my ilk" were not saddened by 9-11? A typical smear-type assumption based on nothing but hubris and myopia.
I see no "Hate" (and again,you are making a huge and typical assumption these words of Mr. however-you-spe ll it) -'scuse my crappy typing skills, just an abiding sadness for the direction the country has gone since that trigger-point ('tho' not necessarily it's real one -but that's a whole other subject).
On the French Revolution, are you of the opinion that the Queen's "let them eat cake!" which pretty much sums up the plutocratic and reactionary mindset, was OK and that the people had no grievances? -Unlike you, I hesitate to make the assumption that you are.
Incidentally if you want a good reference point, none other than R. Nixon said of Barbara Bush once "Now there's a woman who knows how to hate!" She was a real, live example of "let them eat cake" after Katrina, what?
-8 # Joeconserve 2011-09-12 15:41
On the French Revolution, nope. I only see Lakoff as a Jacobian. I said nothing beyond that.
-7 # Joeconserve 2011-09-12 15:58
I'm not implying I'm stating you and your ilk were not saddened by the tragedy because your first words on paper were full of hate!
+6 # reiverpacific 2011-09-12 17:27
Quoting Joeconserve:
I'm not implying I'm stating you and your ilk were not saddened by the tragedy because your first words on paper were full of hate!

Nope not hate (you are making assumptions again). Just the desire to see justice done to the perpetrators of the original act -the hate-mongers and power-grabbers themselves, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld that crowd ya know. I always hope for justice rather than revenge, not a thing the US is noted for these days (nor very often really). Your ver style of communicating is full of assumption.
That's it from me; I don't intend to engage in war of words with the irreconcilable head-in-the-san d that you SEEM to be (I don't really know y'see and at this point I don't care top go any further to find out, I welcome debate, not dogmatism.
Buy the way, I'm Scottish, so I know a bit about Jacobites. Happy reading and assuming what you don't know.
-11 # Joeconserve 2011-09-12 19:15
Having spent time in Iraq I can safely you don't know what took place there nor what WMD is. If we would had a Carter or an Obama in the office you would seen Iran as the ultimate victor. Bush did what was right.
+8 # X Dane 2011-09-12 22:44
You are crazy Joeconserve, Bush screwed up so badly, for Iraq and and Iran balanced each other, Bush senior understood that. And therefore he didn't want to go to Bagdad and take Saddam out in 1990. But W were too stupid to understand , and now what he accomplished, besides killing hundred of thousands of people is to to upset the balance and make Iran MUCH STRONGER, they are influencing Iraq since Iraq has a majority of Shiites, and Iran is Shiite,

No matter how many time Cheeney asserts it, Saddam did NOT have any more weapons of mass destruction.
+3 # Anarchist 23 2011-09-14 20:16
[quote name="Joeconser ve"]Having spent time in Iraq I can safely you don't know what took place there nor what WMD is. /quote]

There were NO WMDs in Iraq!!!! Or did you find some and neglect to report them?

If we continue this present course of unlimited war against the peoples of the Middle East, Iran will be the victor-they will represent an alternative to the imperialism of the West.
-2 # Joeconserve 2011-09-12 13:23
Lakoff not Lakkeof
+3 # Anarchist 23 2011-09-14 20:11
Dear Joe, I am appalled and disgusted by the loss of life on 911-but even more distressed that so many people accept the 'Official History' of the events which are compiled of so many lies which have gone pretty much unchallenged by MSM right and left-along with 75% of the population who beleive that 56 minutes of black smoke and a big kerosene fireball outside Tower 2 could bring down 100,000 tons of steel (in each building!)at free fall speed. 911 has been used to justify everything from endless wars to the abolishing of our constitutional rights. That is the biggest 'framing' scam in our recent history.
+6 # chinaski 2011-09-12 06:27
The clearest example of the power of framing is a presidential candidate who campaigned on 'change', got elected, and then bought into the very policies created by previous administration and its instituted 'framework'.
+3 # BradFromSalem 2011-09-12 12:58

Nice call out.

Many of us believed that Obama's tendency was to appease the right by governing as a moderate.

Reality was that Obama was appeasing the left. And that was his Change. Appease the left by articulating their concerns while governing as a moderate that understands both "sides".

The problem with that is the Right Wing frame he must use to govern as a moderate, is completely incompatible with a mostly un-articulated Progressive philosophy framework.

America is a nation of idiots. We want a government that keeps bad guys from our shores and doors. We want to be able to go to the doctor when were are sick and not be burden to our children when we get old. We want to come and go as we please and to have enough to eat. We want a warm home and comfortable beds, and we want entertainment so we can let others figure out how we can all have what we want.

Until we can frame what everyone wants in a positive light the finger pointers will win.
+2 # Tee 2011-09-12 12:20
the simple fact is that Obama and the majority of Democrats really mean what they say. They say one thing and do something different to get money from various interest groups.

The politicians gain in the short run by being bribed,and reelected. Their constiuents suffer in the long run as our government is taken over being the oligarch's, military industrial complex, and extremist republicans.

We must start from scratch by first getting money out of politics. Then reversing the supreme cour decision. Then we need to vote out all the politicians, starting with the president, who took bribes and sold us out.
+12 # PatriotPaul 2011-09-12 13:15
It's funny but when I was a tourist stuck in the dank Superdome during Katrina and I had a copy of "Don't Think of an Elephant" (I really did take this on my trip.) I thought that when the media started exaggerating the chaos in New Orleans that Bush was going to try and take advantage of the situation and frame it like a bunch of heathens taking over that he needed to rush in and save us from.

Unfortunately FEMA never rushed but the right wing & Fox "News" still managed to demonize so many innocent citizens of New Orleans. In reality most civilians had far more to fear from their own Police Dept. and Blackwater guards.

Paul Harris
Author, "Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina"
+9 # BVA 2011-09-12 13:45
Mr. Lakoff also wrote a book about the power of metaphors:

"Government is the adjustable (Crescent) wrench, and/or the Vise-Grips of institutions. We choose to use it when all other institutions or combinations of institutions (business corporation, non-profit corporation, trade association, charitable organization, educational organization, or other private institution) are not large enough in resources to accomplish the task, not unbiased enough to be fair, not legally powerful enough to obtain compliance, or just plain inappropriate in the public's perception. Government gets all the thankless, difficult tasks of society.

If we had waited for private corporations, or other private institutions to act we would still have child labor, rivers catching on fire, worry about our children catching polio, no healthcare for and high poverty rates among the elderly, a struggle to get out of the Great Depression, and the Nazi government of Europe and the Japanese Empire of Asia.

The saying "a bad mechanic blames his tools" applies. The Republicans blame the tool that they have sabotaged -- government. This is not hypocrisy on their part – it is sophistry! Sometimes government is not appropriate, but more often its failure is the result of sabotage by corporate lobbyists and politicians seeking political advantage."
+5 # Jorge 2011-09-12 14:59
Bingo!! Thanks for articulating that important point. Repugs want to dominate the government that they hate (it just so happens that there is some enormous wealth associated with that control).
+1 # BVA 2011-09-12 14:19
The Democrats are also bad at basic strategy. Consider that the healthcare reform act is now on track to be declared unconstitutiona l. The Democrats could have had a backup mechanism to the "purchase mandate" in the legislation to motivate more universal coverage of "freeriders" (who don't purchase medical insurance until they are more likely to need it). A mechanism that would likely have been almost as effective as the "purchase mandate" is a provision that protects all Americans against insurance company underwriting (for pre-existing conditions, etc.), unless they have a gap in coverage of 90 days or more. Having not heard of a backup provision I assume that none exists.

In Obama's most recent jobs proposal to "jump-start", or "prime the pump" of our economy why no RETROACTIVE pay raise for all military personnel especially those who have fought for us? He could have proposed a combat pay raise (50%), hazardous-duty pay raise (25%), and regular pay raise (5% to 10%) RETROACTIVE to 9/11/2001. How could Republicans vote against that? Now that would be a real CASH "jolt" to the economy. Almost every cent of it would be spent within a year by current and past military members and their families, along with the surviving families of war dead and disabled. Nobody can say they don't deserve it!
+5 # BVA 2011-09-12 14:56
Mr. Lakoff didn't mention it but a mention of "Terror management theory" is very appropriate here. Google it and you come up with an amazing array of websites. If you just want to get to the political use of "Terror management theory" see "Judis, J.B. (August 27, 2007).Death grip: How political psychology explains Bush's ghastly success." New Republic.

You can also go to for a good introduction and links to more incisive readings.

The Republican political strategists know all about "Terror management theory", but key Democratic political strategists for the Kerry campaign didn't have a clue. When one of the scientists who conducted the research (in the early 90's) that developed TMT tried get through to campaign officials to explain it and how the Bush administration was using it, he was thoroughly rebuffed. "Not invented here!"

As the saying goes the Republicans believe in faith-based governing and science-based campaigning, while the Democrats believe in scientific governing and faith-based campaigning!

TMT ties in nicely to framing theory, neural networks of words, etc. Look it up!
+5 # charsjcca 2011-09-12 15:23
A New Mexico consultant under contract with our government, known for his engineering knowledge, first stated publicly that what was reported and the narrative was a joke and could not be true because the towers could no be dismantled in the manner explained. Shortly afterward he explained that he had been wrong in his original observation-hen ce no need to question the explanation.

I live by The worldwide architects and engineers who comprise this group have not been misguided by propaganda. The towers could not come down as portrayed by our government and the 911 Commission.
0 # maggie_zhou 2011-09-12 21:36
By using "Democrats" and "Progressives" interchangeably throughout the article, Mr. Lakoff establishes and re-enforces the myth that the main body of the Democratic party actually WANTS to stand for the progressive values that they (at most) pay lip service to.

Both the Democratic and the Republican parties are Corporate parties, representing the interests of the power elites who fund both campaigns. The Green party and the Socialist party do not, but Mr. Lakoff's language completely obscures this most fundamental distinction. Progressives in the Democratic party are not in control, is increasingly the fringe, and will never take over the party as long as the party is funded by corporations.

Lakoff also says: "Given the way brains work, the activation of one worldview will inhibit the other worldview." - as if science has identified where the worldviews map in the brain, and you could see one being activated resulting in the purge of the other! No, it doesn't work that way. Even just within the American political views, there is no clear definition of conservatism as it is extremely distorted and hijacked from its original (already fussy) conception. It is funny to suggest that such an amorphous term is actually clearly understood by brain scientists as far as how it works on the brain, and how it interacts with other amorphous
+3 # maggie_zhou 2011-09-12 21:41
(continued) ... amorphous terms in the brain. Having a Ph.D. in molecular biology myself, it strikes me as over confidence and over interpretation of our still extremely limited glimpse of the workings of the brain.

Finally, the reason why most Americans are so easily influenced by propaganda, especially the right-wing propaganda, is because of the long attacks on public education, especially the absence of teaching independent and critical thinking skills, as well as the concurrent instillation of "patriotism", "entrepreneuria l spirit" (market worship) etc. from a young age.

To counter this, I think we absolutely need to show fundamental logical flaws in the propaganda they're fed with, and how it actually contradicts their moral principles. Mr. Lakoff's fear of quoting the conservative language is largely unfounded, as long as we can convincingly show how wrong they are, and in the process use our own language and framing to replace it.

Also, while I agree that simply listing a bunch of good policies does not work, and that having clear talking points is a great strategy to help organize our messages, highlight key concepts, facts, and principles, we must always ground our rhetoric in solid facts and honest principles, and guard against descending into the same manipulative "bait-and-switc h" spin tactics that the right-wingers
+3 # maggie_zhou 2011-09-13 00:13
(continued) ... use to push the public's moral and emotional buttons in order to influence their opinion. We do have the enormous advantage that truth and moral high ground is on our side, without spinning, though I agree Mr. Lakoff's suggestion of highlighting the moral connections is a valuable one.
+3 # tclose 2011-09-13 11:01
One of the key exponents of the Progressive view should of course be the President, who happens to be a Democrat and who has espoused the progressive view before becoming President. He should be the leading the framing if that is indeed what is needed. But imho he is not using the bully pulpit to do that. He should at this point be courageous in his defense of progressive principles, not leaving the "framing" of the conversation to the right wing.

He did at one point in last week's address to Congress aggressively defend Progressive principles - finally. Lets hope he continues to do that, in spite of what is certain to be withering fire from the right.
+1 # BVA 2011-09-17 14:52
BVA 2011-09-16 11:27
"Mr. Krugman asserts what linguistics Professor George Lakoff ("Don't think of the Elephant") has been saying for years -- all politics are ultimately about our basic moral principles. Progressives are about compassion and conservatives are about personal responsibility.

Take your choice, because evidently right now our political environment won't allow a reasonable mix of both at the same time. So, we are on course to create a society that requires a stricter code of personal responsibility for ordinary people, and a more expansive notion of collective compassion for those 'persons' called corporations."
+2 # BVA 2011-09-17 15:45
I copied three paragraphs of this RSN blog/column and input it at the White House contact webpage (with quotation marks, and this webpage address).

I regularly post the first three paragraphs with title, byline, and web address (word limitation) of columns, blogs, and other postings that I agree with to the WH contact page at

It's a great shorthand way of communicating basis ideas through the poor person who has to sift through all the 'emails' they get. The first three paragraphs are just enough to identify something they have probably already read. All the WH monitor has to do is to count all the inputs referring to this or that column/blog/post.

I urge everyone else to do the same. It's like voting for your favorite message of the week (month? day?) to the President!

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