Oh, you silly linguists
So I picked up George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant: blah blah more words, and I'm impressed. The following things jumped out at me from the first few pages.
The book doesn't look edited. The book was rushed out to make it in time for the election, so it's written like a speech. There's nothing wrong with writing something like a speech when you're planning a speech, but if you're writing a book, it's problematic. Example:
People do not necessarily vote in their self-interest. They vote their identity. They vote their values. They vote for who they can identify with. They may identify with their self-interest. That can happen. It is not that people never care about their self-interest. But they vote their identity. And if their identity fits their self-interest, they will vote for that. It is important to understand this point. It is a serious mistake to assume that people are simply always voting their self-interest. (p. 19)
Now, count sentences, and then count how many things were said. I guess progressives are just really stupid and have to have things repeated to them even when reading. "Political advice for people who aren't willing to move their eyes up a line to reread something they didn't quite get the first time around." But see below.
The book is disingenuous. Not really a criticism, (his point is that progressives need to be more disingenuous) but I read something so funny I just had to point it out. This quote has a lot of ellipses, since the statement is spread out over half a page (see above), but the meaning really is intact:
Clinton figured out how to handle this problem. He stole the other side's language. He talked about "welfare reform," for example. He said, "The age of big government is over." ...
It turns out what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and guess what? We get "compassionate conservatism." The Clear Skies Initiative. Healthy Forests. No Child Left Behind... This is the use of Orwellian language- language that means the opposite of what it says- to appease people in the middle at the same time as you pump up the base. This is part of the conservative strategy. (p. 21)
Yeah, you read that right. "Clinton did 'this.' Conservatives copied 'this.' 'This' is part of the conservative strategy."
His book's thesis seems to deny any possible effectiveness for his book. If the problem is framing, and no matter how many facts you throw at someone, it won't work if it doesn't fit in their frame, how does throwing the facts of "Gee, these strategies worked really well for conservatives" at progressives even have the slightest chance of making a difference? Presumably, this question will be answered in Part 2: From Theory to Action. But skimming through the section on "what progressives should do," (which, by the way, is VERY SHORT, compared to the rest of the book which appears to be just bitching about conservatives) it doesn't look that promising.
posted by Beetle Aurora Drake 10/18/2004 10:45:00 PM #
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