:: to the teeth ::    thoughts on social justice, medicine, race, hope and beats

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." :: Arundhati Roy ::

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." :: Alice Walker ::
Thursday, August 21, 2003  

WHAT LIBERALS CAN LEARN FROM CONSERVATIVES -- FRAMING!

"Why do conservatives seem to communicate better than liberals? One reason for the liberal left's chronic difficulty is a tendency to overintellectualize issues. Liberals bombard the media and the public with figures and statistics that prove their case. But again and again the data glance off without making any impression, and the issues don't go anywhere. 'If the facts don't fit the frame, it's the facts that are rejected, not the frame,' is an oft-repeated FrameWorks aphorism. For a classic example of overintellectualization, think of Al Gore in one of the presidential debates assuming his audience would get a reference to the Dingell-Norwood bill."

(From a very interesting article on FrameWorks, an organization that teaches organizations how to better frame their issues to the public, something that liberals MUST pay more attention to).

"In explaining their issues, environmentalists tend to predict a wide range of disasters: catastrophic weather phenomena, species extinction, tropical pests heading north, you name it. The canonical example is probably Paul Ehrlich's 1968 book The Population Bomb, which began: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines -- hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." .... She shows two slides. First she displays a cover of the children's book Chicken Little. When greens sound like Chicken Little, she says, the message is that the sky is falling, it's your fault and you have to lower your living standards. Not surprisingly, that message attracts only true believers. Then she puts up a second slide of The Little Engine That Could. A far better message is that good old American technology can solve environmental problems, and that citizens can hold government and business accountable if only they have the political will...

"That and the fact that conservatives, from Limbaugh on down the line, already know how to come up with clever frames and stick with them. Take the "death tax," the right's reframing of the estate tax. According to a report in The New York Times, Republicans spent five years teaching their troops to use this terminology. One lobbyist, Jack Faris of the National Federation of Independent Business, even hit on the idea of making everyone in his office who used the wrong phrasing put a dollar into a "pizza fund." Soon Newt Gingrich instituted the pizza-fund concept on Capitol Hill -- and today, Republicans always say "death tax." A similar story could be told of the frame "partial-birth abortion," an extremely rare procedure that the right renamed for propaganda purposes. The Times also reported recently that Republican pollster Frank Luntz has circulated an entire lexicon on how to rename environmental issues in a way that benefits the Republican Party."

(In talking to friends at an amazing Health Justice gathering in New Mexico in June, we had a long discussion about messaging, and some people were uncomfortable with framing issues because it seems like trying to shape the public's view instead of giving them the facts. But if we are to compete with conservative messages, we need to get ourselves in gear and use important messaging techniques! Thanks to Andru Ziwasimon for this article...) Any thoughts?

posted by Anjali Taneja | 8/21/2003 07:59:00 PM | |


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