The Importance of Using Different Language for Political Messaging Effectiveness

Language can be used as a method of influencing or controlling thought. I have my disagreements with the cognitive linguist Lakoff, but he does present a useful analysis on why it’s important to use different language to defeat the extreme right-wing in political messaging. One example is that he tells progressives to avoid the phrase “death tax” when referring to the estate tax, instead recommending the counter be the “billionaire’s tax” since less than 0.002% of people will have to pay it. According to Lakoff, this is how the negative connotation to taxing extreme wealth can be countered.

Without knowing it, many Democrats, progressives and members of the news media help Donald Trump every day. The way they help him is simple: they spread his message.

Think about it: every time Trump issues a mean tweet or utters a shocking statement, millions of people begin to obsess over his words. Reporters make it the top headline. Cable TV panels talk about it for hours. Horrified Democrats and progressives share the stories online, making sure to repeat the nastiest statements in order to refute them. While this response is understandable, it works in favor of Trump.

When you repeat Trump, you help Trump. You do this by spreading his message wide and far.

Nobody knows this better than Trump. Trump, as a media master, knows how to frame a debate. When he picks a fight, he does so deliberately. He tweets or says outrageous things, knowing they will be repeated millions and millions of times. When the news media and Democrats repeat Trump’s frames, they are strengthening those frames by ensuring that tens of millions of Americans hear them repeated over and over again.

Quick: don’t think of an elephant. Now, what do you see? The bulkiness, the grayness, the trunkiness of an elephant. You can’t block the picture — the frame — from being accessed by your unconscious mind. As a professor of brain science, this is the first lesson I give my students. It’s also the title of my book on the science of framing political debates.

The key lesson: when we negate a frame, we evoke the frame. When President Richard Nixon addressed the country during Watergate and used the phrase “I am not a crook,” he coupled his image with that of a crook. He established what he was denying by repeating his opponents’ message.

This illustrates one of the most important principles of framing a debate: When arguing against the other side, don’t use their language because it evokes their frame and not the frame you seek to establish. Never repeat their charges! Instead, use your own words and values to reframe the conversation.

Selected Links for Feb. 10, 2018

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Various links from around the web.

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How to Know When a Child’s Flu Turns Serious

Daniel Ellsberg Interview on Denial About Nuclear War

The Legacy of Internet Pioneer John Perry Barlow

Climate Change

With US Carbon Footprint Set to Grow by 2050, Fossil-Free Movement ‘Our Only Hope’

To Help Save Humanity, A Six-Step Guide to Combat Fossil Fuel Industry’s Climate Lies

Climate change is increasing flood risks in Europe

Polar bears could become extinct faster than was feared, study says

Antibiotic Overuse

Insane drug cocktails in India net drug makers millions and pose global threat

Huge levels of antibiotic use in US farming revealed

50+ Groups Back Landmark Effort to Halt ‘Out of Control’ Factory Farming in Iowa

Technology

Uber and Lyft, Driving Drivers into Poverty and Despair

Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

Private Censorship Is Not the Best Way to Fight Hate or Defend Democracy: Here Are Some Better Ideas

Newly Released Surveillance Orders Show That Even with Individualized Court Oversight, Spying Powers Are Misused

Google Chrome to Mark HTTP Sites as “Not Secure” Starting July 2018

Screen-addicted teens are unhappy

Stealing data from air-gapped computers in Faraday cages

Chinese police are using facial recognition sunglasses to track citizens

Political Economy

Fueled by Broken Social Contract, Study Finds Inequality and Despair Driving US Life Expectancy Down

Article on Millennials Organizing in Unions

Amazon warehouses don’t lead to broad job growth, study finds

The Rise and Fall of the Stock Market: What to Expect

U.S. Politics and Government

Congress Puts Aside Partisan Differences For Good Of Military Contractors

Academic audit finds about $21 trillion of unauthorized military spending from 1998-2015

The threat to America’s public lands is increasing

Majorities Say Government Does Too Little for Older People, the Poor and the Middle Class

Citing U.S. Prison Conditions, British Appeals Court Refuses to Extradite Accused Hacker Lauri Love to the U.S.

Doctors floored by epidemic levels of black lung in Appalachian coal miners

Scientific Research

Scientists Rank 9 Drugs on Dangerousness by Looking at Emergency Room Visits

11 Health And Fitness Myths

New ‘4-D goggles’ allow wearers to be ‘touched’ by approaching objects

Viruses — lots of them — are falling from the sky