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Lakoff: Why Conservative Lies Spread and What Progressives Can Do to Fight Them

When Democrats use conservative language to promote their agenda, it ultimately creates more support for Republicans.

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Framing is Long-term

Framing is the establishment of permanent (or long-term) high-level frames and systems of frames with the brains of voters. Framing can be done by long-term careful political messaging, or through education (say, by controlling school textbooks).

Prototype Framing

An important part of framing is the establishment of prototypes: social stereotypes, prototypes (typical case, ideals, nightmares, salient exemplars). Stereotypes are used in automatic reasoning and decision-making.

Bi-conceptual Framing

For important domains of thought, like morality, religion, and politics, it is commonplace for people to have two inconsistent frame systems that inhibit each other. When those frames apply to different issues and in different contexts, we speak of "bi-conceptuals." When you can shift back and forth on an issue, you are bi-conceptual on that issue. That is, you can frame the issue in two ways, using inconsistent higher-level frame systems.

Contested concepts

In politics, the high-level frames are moral frames. There are opposing conservative and progressive moral systems. Important political concepts are "contested," overlapping in some classic cases, but diverging in content depending on the moral system. Thus, vital political concepts like Life, Freedom, Responsibility, Government, Accountability, Equality, Fairness, Empathy, Property, Security, and so on are contested.

A major goal of political framing is to get your version of contested concepts accepted by the voters. Messaging can then use these concepts and their language freely and effectively. That is how framing works generally -- independent of whether the frames are used in politics. In politics, bi-conceptual voters can shift back and forth on an issue, depending on how the issue is framed in terms of higher-level political systems. Political Messaging

Messages use words. The words activate frames. In political messages, you have a double intention: to get voters to think using your frames and to keep voters from thinking using the other side's frames, which contradict yours.

Your message will be more effective if it fits existing high-level frames in the brains of voters, and less effective it contradicts such high-level frames.

Political messaging and bi-conceptual voters

Your goal, with bi-conceptual voters, is to activate your system of political frames and inhibit the other side's system of political frames. Your message should therefore fit your high-level frame system, and it should not fit the other side's high-level frame system. If it fits the other side's high-level frame system, your message will be helping the other side, because it will tend to make voters think using their frame system.

Why Does Disaster Messaging Arise?

Suppose the other side has structured its messaging over a long period of time to consistently strengthen its high-level frames, prototypes, and versions of contested concepts in the brains of voters. They can now do effective messaging by using those high-level, morally-based frames in messages that evoke the existing strong high-level frames.

Why Conservatives Consistently Win Messaging Battles

In the US, conservatives have set up an elaborate messaging system. It starts with an understanding of long-term framing and message experts who know how to use existing their long-term frame systems. Then there are think tanks, with experts who understand the high-level frame system and how it applies to the full range of issues. There are training institutes that teach tens of thousands of conservatives a year to think and talk using these framing systems and their language and argument forms. There are regular gatherings to consolidate messaging and policy around a contemporary issue that fits the conservative moral system. There are booking agencies that book conservative spokespeople on tv, talk radio, etc. There are lecture venues and booking agencies for conservative spokespeople. There are conservative media going on 24/7/365.

 
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