Monday, June 13, 2005

Responding to Conservatives

I recently stumbled across an excerpt from George Lakoff's book Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. All of his suggestions as to how to respond to conservatives are quite good. I found a couple of them to be especially insightful;

...Remember that everybody has both strict and nurturant models, either actively or passively, perhaps active in different parts of their lives. Your job is to activate for politics the nurturant, progressive values already there (perhaps only passively) in your interlocutors...

You can make considerable progress with biconceptuals, those who use both models but in different parts of their life. They are your best audience. Your job is to capture territory of the mind. With biconceptuals your goal is to find out, if you can by probing, just which parts of their life they are nurturant about. For example, ask who they care about the most, what responsibilities they feel they have to those they care about, and how they carry out those responsibilities. This should activate their nurturant models as much as possible. Then, while the nurturant model is active for them, try linking it to politics. For example, if they are nurturant at home but strict in business, talk about the home and family and how they relate to political issues. Example: Real family values mean that your parents, as they age, donÂ’t have to sell their home or mortgage their future to pay for health care or the medications they need.
His comments about "framing the question" are also worth repeating;

...If you remember nothing else about framing, remember this: Once your frame is accepted into the discourse, everything you say is just common sense.* Why? Because thatÂ’s what common sense is: reasoning within a commonplace, accepted frame.

Never answer a question framed from your opponentÂ’s point of view. Always reframe the question to fit your values and your frames. This may make you uncomfortable, since normal discourse styles require you to directly answer questions posed. That is a trap. Practice changing frames.

Be sincere. Use frames you really believe in, based on values you really hold.

A useful thing to do is to use rhetorical questions: *WouldnÂ’t it be better if...? Such a question should be chosen to presuppose your frame. Example:* WouldnÂ’t it be better if we had a president who went to war with a plan to secure the peace?
Since I'm prone to making every mistake Lakoff discusses in this excerpt, I'm bookmarking this page, and am going to try to read it before posting responses to conservatives in the future.

On another note, for those interested in pushing forward the Downing Street Memo, David Corn offers some good points in his recent article, Reconsidering the DSM.

One final note; in case you haven't heard, another memo has surfaced, dated July 21, 2002 (two days before the DSM; a preparatory memo for that meeting) in which we learn that Tony Blair had agreed with the President's plans to invade Iraq as early as April 2002. This memo also supports the accusation that military action was already a foregone conclusion. The NYT, in a piece that appeared this weekend, chose to ignore all the content in this memo that affirms the implications of the DSM, and instead chose to focus on one line that claimed "no political decisions had been made." From this they deduce that the way the DSM is being used as a "smoking gun" are off base. One wonders who in the media we can trust, when even the NYT leaps at an opportunity to cozy up to this administration.


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