Thursday, August 25, 2005

Thomas Frank And George Lakoff

If you haven't read Thomas Frank's What’s the Matter With Kansas? or George Lakoff's Don’t Think of an Elephant, you're not ready for the political season yet - fear not, for there's plenty of time, and these books are readily available for your immediate consumption. I won't go into the details of the books (that's what the links are for), but suffice to say that they are both required reading.

In June, I attended the TCG Annual Conference in Seattle - an annual flesh pressing extravaganza amongst theatre professionals from across the country and around the world. Both Thomas Frank and George Lakoff were plenary speakers at this year's conference, and TCG has been so good as to post the transcripts to their web site, so you can get a sense of Thomas Frank and George Lakoff before you purchase the books.... which you will.

Here's a small taste of each, to whet your appetite:


...back in 1980 when the great conservative revolution was just getting off the ground, over 20 percent of the American private sector workforce belonged to a labor union, and American CEOs were paid on average about 42 times what their blue-collar line workers received—a figure that was, by the way, pretty much comparable to the numbers that were coming out of Western Europe and Japan. Today, or I should say by the end of the 1990s, they made 500 times as much, while unions have fallen to below 8 percent in the private sector and are still dropping.

There is something wrong when the places that are hardest hit by conservative economic policy are the very same places that are most enthusiastic for conservative politicians, for conservative gains, tax cuts and laws cracking down on bankruptcy—there’s something going on. When the poorest state in America, which these days is West Virginia—and that’s, by the way, a place that is home to some pretty ferocious class consciousness—but when a state like that goes for the Republican by 13 points, which it just did, there’s something wrong. And when the poorest county in America, which these days is up in North Dakota, goes for Bush by 78 percent, there’s something amiss. By the way, the second poorest county, which is in Nebraska, went for Bush by 81 percent.


...when we started talking about stem cell research, Frank Luntz wrote a memo. Frank Luntz is the conservative language man. And the memo said, “Don’t talk about stem cell research; talk about embryonic stem cell research.” Why? And notice this has spread. The New York Times says embryonic stem cell research. The Democrats say embryonic stem cell research. The bill in California says embryonic stem cell research. What is the mental image of an embryo? Think about it, it’s a little baby. Tom DeLay says stem cell research allows people to tear babies apart. Dismember embryos. How does it really work in stem cell research? Stem cell research is carried out on blastocysts. What’s a blastocyst look like? It’s a hollow sphere, just a few days old. It has in it a small number of stem cells. No hair cells, arm cells, blood cells, heart cells, brain cells, nothing else but undifferentiated stem cells. And if you called it blastocyst stem cell research, who would care? But that’s what it really is.

Language matters, framing matters. And framing can distort the truth. It’s very very important, that framing can distort the truth simply by carrying mental imagery. And you know about mental imagery, that’s what you deal with every day.

Posted by FleshPresser at 9:56 AM /


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