Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff
My rough summary: If you’re a ‘progressive’ (American for lefty-liberal, I think…) then you need this book. In fact, the Democratic party in the U.S. did need it, then Obama did a pretty good job of using it to win. If you wonder why people don’t seem to take in the facts when told some emotive untruth by (any) extreme wing, this will help you understand why, and what you can do about it. And the answer is in deep but easy-to-grasp issues of ‘frames’, metaphor and language, not ‘out-do your opponent at their own game’ – a timely lesson when the Labour party try to boast they are “tougher than the Tories” on benefits.
- People do not necessarily vote in their self-interest. They vote their identity. They vote their values.
- Unlike the right, the left does not think strategically. We think issue by issue. We generally do not try to figure out what minimal change we can enact that will have effects across many issues.
- The media does not have to accept the right wing’s frames. What can a reporter ask besides “Do you support gay marriage?” Try this: “Do you think the government should tell people who they can and can’t marry?” Or “Do you think the freedom to marry who you want to is a matter of equal rights under the law?” Or “Do you see marriage as the realization of love in a lifetime commitment?” Or “Does it benefit society when two people who are in love want to make a public lifetime commitment to each other?”
- When the facts don’t fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored. It is a common folk theory of progressives that “the facts will set you free.” If only you can get all the facts out there in the public eye, then every rational person will reach the right conclusion. It is a vain hope. Human brains just don’t work that way. Framing matters. Frames once entrenched are hard to dispel.
How I’ve used this book: I’ve written elsewhere here about Lakoff and love his work – haven’t read enough of his other books though, and hope to get really stuck into the linguistic side.