George Lakoff: Moral Politics



one of the things you learn in cognitive science right away is something very obvious you can't think without a brain that may sound obvious but when you get into the details it's actually quite profound the shape of the brain structures how you understand the world and any idea you have that you've learned that you use over and over again that is as part of your conceptual system is physically represented in your brain and that fact matters for politics enormous Lee one of the things we've learned is that as Andy said Descartes got it wrong the idea that we are all just have the same rationality that we all think in the same way that we all have a universal conceptual system is not true there are certain universals of thought I mean we know a lot about those but there are also lots of differences in what I'll call a framing and in metaphorical thought they're also universals of metaphorical thought let me if you're not used to metaphorical thought let me give you an example of it take the notion of morality there are lots of metaphors for morality for example morality is uprightness so someone who's upright or low down and so on but there are others much more interesting that you think in terms of take the idea of morality as accounting that's one of the major metaphors around the world for morality for example in that well-being you're well morality is about well-being about harming and helping people well-being is seen as a kind of wealth so if I do you a favor you can say I'm in your debt I owe you one how can I ever repay you it's sort of as if by doing you a favor I've given you money well if I harm you however it gets more interesting how do the moral books get balanced well I can make up for it that's restitution Oh I can you can pay me back in kind that's retribution or you can take something good away from me that's revenge those are the normal ways of doing it there's a kind of moral arithmetic to this in which giving bad is the equivalent of taking good that is harming someone back who's harmed you is the equivalent of taking something good away and that's how metaphor works but it works in your thought it's not just in language it's in the way you understand what morality itself is and there are other forms of this forgiveness is like forgiving a debt I remember vividly sandy driving me up to college and on the way he was telling me about how Nietzsche had observed that they in german the same word for guilt is the word for debt and there's a reason for that it's the moral accounting metaphor so this is an extremely important form of thought and that's one of the things I've been studying for a lot of years another important form of thought has to do with what I'll call framing framing is the simplest most obvious thing in everyday life up for example suppose you have a cup if you have a cup a cup is a very small object and you understand it every time you hear a word cup as a container that you can usually pick up with a hand that you typically put liquids in and you drink out of okay very simple no problem you have a frame a conceptual mental structure for a cup and if I say you know there's a cup on the table you'll think of a cup now when I start to talk about framing the first thing I do is give my students and exercise and the exercise is very simple it goes like this don't think of an elephant whatever you do do not think of an elephant and nobody can do it some people claim they can but I don't believe them and the reason for this is as follows the word elephant evokes a frame invokes a mental image and knowledge about that image if you negate it you preserve the frame negating it still evokes that frame now when you take a political example of this my favorite simple example is tax relief on the first day that George Bush george w bush took office a press release came out of the White House about his tax relief plan this was read on TV over and over and I noticed it I said well gee that's interesting he's got this term tax relief and then it was the same the next day and the next day and the next day after that now a linguist looking at this says the following look at the word relief what is it's frame what sort of mental structure do you have for there to be relief there must be an affliction something that arms you there has to be an afflicted party who's harmed by it a reliever who takes away that affliction is a kind of hero and if anybody tries to stop them there's a bad guy because they're trying to stop someone from relieving this affliction if you add tax to that you get a metaphor taxation is an affliction and every time you hear tax relief that is what goes in your mind and you hear it over and over and over until it becomes part of your physical brain until it's in the synapses of your brain and when that happens it becomes common sense now let's suppose you are then invited onto Fox News here's how foxnews works fair and balanced we have two liberals and two conservatives and one conservative host and the host gets to frame the question are you for or against the president's tax relief plan are you if you like tax relief or you against tax relief it doesn't matter which it is taxation is still an affliction in short if you take the other side's terms if you're opposing something some political position and they define a term in terms of a frame that fits their ideology if you argue against the term it's just the same as arguing for it you're evoking it and you're reinforcing it in the minds of the public all right now it's a very simple idea comes out of cognitive science and it's profound it's one of the reasons why you have a wonderful cognitive science department here that I hope you will appreciate and support because this is the kind of result that is very important um there are others that are important first of all that frame is what I'll call a surface frame it goes with words it's kind of superficial it depends on deeper framing it depends on framing that has to do with the way you understand the world and I started working on this this is in the book moral politics back well I I guess it first started in 1992 the night summer of 92 I was watching the Republican National Convention largely I'm a liberal I watch it out of civic duty it's I'm serious about this it's an important thing to understand how public discourse works in this Republic and I got that a great deal I particularly wanted to hear Dan Quayle's acceptance speech because it was written by William Kristol and I wanted to hear what crystal had to say and as Quayle started his speech I because I was sitting in my living room watching this and I became extremely embarrassed because I could not understand and Quayle I understood every word in every sentence that was not the problem it was how the sentences fit together and everybody else there seemed to get it they were clapping and waving their signs and and this was written by crystal I mean it was not Dan Quayle alone that I didn't understand so i sat there I said okay I'm going to remember at least one of these things that are embarrassing me and it was quail's a argument against the progressive income tax it was a one-sentence argument and here's how it went why should the best people be punished everybody claps waves their signs and I'm sitting there saying why is this an argument against the progressive income tax I just don't get it but those guys do and I'm a professor of semantics all right this is embarrassing the next embarrassment came in 1994 again out of civic duty I went down to my wonderful local book store picked up a copy of the contract with America and became instantly embarrassed I could not understand the following problem I had just published a book on categorization on how people categorized and I couldn't understand the category conservative I'm a liberal I mean it's up was a problem and here's why I couldn't understand why it was that the same people who were against abortion were for the flat tax I had no idea what abortion had to do with the flat tax and I couldn't understand why the same people were for the flat tax were against environmental regulations and I couldn't understand why the people are against environmental regulations were for owning guns and I couldn't understand why those folks were for owning guns were for tort reform I couldn't figure out what any of these had to do with any others so I said to myself we'll look I have the opposite views on every one of these things what unites them for me and then I really got embarrassed I had no clue now this is a typical case of a cognitive science problem all right this is a problem for a cognitive linguists to study semantics that is what is it that brings together these ideas and unites them in such a way that they fit together in some natural order and what is it that that makes this possible and how is it that if you're a you know a sort of hardcore liberal or conservative you can hear a new position and know what you think about it all right that's a cognitive science problem I had no idea how to do it but I started doing research that's my job and as a linguist I started you know interviewing people taking down notes on what what happened so for example I would go out and talk to liberals and interview them easy at Berkeley and they would say oh those conservatives are so irrational how can you be pro-life and for the death penalty and then I would find some conservatives impossible in Berkeley not impossible and even elsewhere and they would say oh you liberals are completely irrational how could you not want to put a murderer to death and sanction abortion now when you come across this as a cognitive scientist you notice that you're dealing with a well-known phenomenon different worldviews world views where the logic the normal logic of P and not P is not at issue where each of these make sense within these different worldviews so the question is what is it that defines those worldviews how do you characterize it and what we do is we get lots and lots of data so I would collect X expressions I would listen to arguments on both sides right down you know the logic of these arguments figure out how they worked notice who use what metaphors for morality they were quite different and then I finally asked the following question why is it that conservatives talk so much about Family Values and what are those Family Values why in a presidential campaign with issues at stake like nuclear proliferation and global warming and war in the Mideast do they talk about Family Values what is going on and so what I did was I said I realized as I thought this through that a student of mine had written a term paper showing that we all have a metaphor of the nation as a family and if you look send our sons and daughters to ward we have founding fathers Daughters of the American Revolution right and so I sat down it worked out the metaphor for the family in the tip of the nation as family in detail I said look if we have two different notions of the nation maybe there are two different notions of the family here so I work backwards I said okay here are the different political positions what notions of the family would structure these positions straight cognitive science problem and out pop two notions of the family a strict father family and a nurturing parent family and you can kind of guess which is which now I then discovered that having lived in Berkeley I when I started talking to other people outside of Berkeley about this they pointed out that there was a guy named James Dobson who talked about conservative notions of the family in fact was teaching people Dobson as I'm sure you know down here is the country's most popular columnist appearing in more newspapers than anyone else he's on something like 3,000 radio stations he has so many people writing for his um his books and and his pamphlets that he needs his own zip code he has about an operation of between two and three hundred million dollars a year and he has gotten his mode of tea of child-rearing into starting with fundamentalist churches and then other churches childcare centers and so on around the nation he says the guy who's in charge of Focus on the Family now what is it that Dobson teaches well Dobson of course is an author he's written various books his classic is called dare to discipline I found this in Berkeley it wasn't easy but it wasn't in the local books there but it wasn't that hard there is a you have to go to your local Christian bookstore and even in Berkeley there's a local Christian bookstore you go down past Cody's on the right and you find the Jews for Jesus bookstore and you put on your dark glasses in your trench coat but they're on the Shelf is the new dare to discipline and lots of other right-wing child care books now what's interesting about this is that when you see what Dobson's teaching it's exactly what I constructed out of doing the cognitive science it's a model of the family that's ideal but he teaches it as a real case it's really out there and it turns out to structure conservative ideology in general and a certain view of morality which I'll call strict morality it goes like this why do you need us to be strict father there's a difference by the way it's a gendered system daddy is different from mommy you got to have both it's got to be a gendered system why do you need a strict father because there's evil out there in the world and he's got to protect the family from evil because there's competition out in the world there will always be winners and losers he's got to be a winner to support the family because children are born bad in the sense that they just want to do whatever feels good they don't know right from wrong and you need a strict father to teach him right from wrong by the way when Sonny Bono was elected to Congress I you know stood up late at night to watch his acceptance speech and he came out and he said we're going to Washington and teach our kids right from wrong honest so you need a strict father to teach your kids right from wrong how do you do it well Dobson says there's only one way punishment when they do wrong and maybe reward when they do right it's a sort of behaviorist system and the punishment he says must be painful enough so that the child will want to discipline himself or herself to do the right thing to avoid the punishment that's the idea to get internal discipline to avoid the external discipline and dobson by the way is one of the more liberal people on this matter he says that you should never hit a child under the age of 15 to 18 months there are other authors who have it earlier like from birth now if a child is disciplined that's the only way a child becomes a moral being through such discipline and if the discipline occurs there's an extra bonus what's the bonus the bonus is they can then pursue their self-interest to become self-reliant and prosperous that is as a link between morality and prosperity the same discipline that allows you to be moral morality is seen as obedience to a moral authority God or district father at home that the same discipline that allows you to be obedient to a strict father is the discipline that allows you to become prosperous and there's a logic here suppose you're not prosperous then you're not disciplined enough and if you're not disciplined enough you're not don't have the discipline to be moral so you deserve your poverty and that has social implications now another major part of this model is that after a child has grown and become mature if they have gotten the self-discipline they can go out in the world and care of themselves if they haven't if they're still dependent and haven't been sufficiently disciplined then they also should go out in the world they receive by the way the name for this discipline is called tough love there's a word for it they have to go out in the world and be disciplined by the world and if they can't make it too bad Hey but by the time they're adults that's what they should be now there's another part of this why is it moral within this system to pursue your self-interest Dobson is very clear about this this is a version of Adam Smith's view of capitalism the idea in in at least the popularized version of Adam Smith and so there's actually a more complicated thinker than that is that if everybody pursues their own profit then by the invisible hand as a law of nature the profit of all will be maximized right so it's good to pursue yourself interest because you're helping everybody else and what's bad what's bad is to interfere with people who are pursuing their self-interest well how do you interfere with that well one you could have a disincentive for pursuing their own self-interest namely taxation and that is why Dan Quayle said why should the best people be punished because they're the good people who are pursuing their self-interest the other form is government regulation that gets in the way of people pursuing their self-interest and there's also a term in conservative language for people who don't pursue their self-interest people are out to help other people prime primarily there's a name for though that and and Tom DeLay recently referred to George Soros with this term it's a term do-gooder a do-gooder is somebody who is trying to help other people and therefore gets in way of those good people who are pursuing their self-interest now there are lots of other parts of this model of the family and you can begin to see how what does it say for example about social programs says all social programs are immoral because they hurt the people they're trying to help why because they give them something they haven't earned and that makes them dependent and it takes away their ability to be disciplined which takes away their ability to be moral beings so social programs are amoral according to this logic and also you have the idea of the strict father as a moral authority well a moral authority is a very interesting idea because it brings together two ideas morality and authority morality and power and part of conservative thought is that that is correct that the people who are powerful are the people who are who are moral the moral people should rule and that means the disciplined people should rule that gives rise to a hierarchy the hard-working of a what alcohol the moral order in the moral order which is part of conservative thought you have God above man man above nature very important piece of that adults above children Western culture above non Western culture America above other nations it's the idea that if you look at forms of authority if historically that will show you what God has made moral as if the morality should line up with it and then you have other versions that that some conservatives have but not others namely bigoted versions you have things like men above women lights above non-whites straights above gays Christians above non-christians now not everybody not every conservative has those last four there are non bigoted conservatives and we're going to go into lots of types but it's important to understand and it's something that was rather interesting for me as a liberal I grew up as a liberal thinking that conservatives were either irrational or mean or greedy or stupid and they're not I mean some are but that's also true of some liberals I mean their moral they have that morality strict morality for the most part the most most conservatives are some who are mean and greedy and we you know fine we can name them but but for the most part most concern most you know strict conservatives see themselves insert as moral people and it's very hard for a liberal to swallow this to say that there are people who have a different morality and they have know what morality would a liberal or progressive have well the nurturing parent family that structures progressive thought goes like this in a nurturing parent family you have two parents who are equal they both have the same responsibility for raising their children and in that family their job as a nurturer is to raise their children is to nurture their children and a second part to raise their children to be nurturers of others a major major piece not to forget to raise their children to be nurturers of others what is it nurturer two things it requires empathy and responsibility empathy you have to identify with your child you have to know it all those screams are and responsibility you have to take care of yourself because you can't take care of someone else if you're not taking care of yourself and you have a responsibility toward your child or children right and that's awesome you have to be strong to do this I mean apparently it's not for weaklings and then you raise your children to do the same to care about others and be responsible for themselves and other it's the opposite of permissive parenting the very opposite now from this many things follow and what follows is progressive thought in politics as well as a view of a purr of a nurturing family if you care for your children if you empathize with them you want to protect them you know what do you want to protect them from well obviously you know crime and drugs but also cars without seatbelts smoking you know poisons in the environment etc all the things that liberals want the government to protect citizens from if you care about your children and notice this is a major idea in progressive thought we have Environmental Protection worker protection consumer protection safety nets central and progressive thought if you care about your children you want them to be treated fairly and fairness and equality are central to progressive thought if you care about your children you want them to be out have happy and fulfilled lives and happiness is an important part of this you want to have a happy family why because if you're not happy and fulfilled in your life you're not going to be empathetic for someone else you didn't want not going to want somebody else to be happier than you are so it's a moral obligation to have a happy fulfilled life if you're going to care about other people and the same is true with your children you want your children to be have happy fulfilled lives so that fulfillment in life becomes a very important part of progressive thought you can't be fulfilled if you're not free to pursue your your dreams and this is very clear there's a reason why liberty and the pursuit of happiness go together if you're not if you can't be free if there's no opportunity and you can't have opportunity for everybody if there's no general prosperity so opportunity and prosperity are part of progressive thought and you live in a community what kind of community do you want to live in well you want to live in a community where which is a nurturing community where you have leaders who care about the people in the community and are responsible and you want community members who care about each other and are responsible to other members of the community and to the community itself people who do community service what kind of community is that it's one where there's cooperation for cooperation you need trust for trust you need honesty and openness those are progressive values and that's it those are the progressive values every single piece of progressive legislation has always been in the service of one or more of those values now what's interesting to me as I started going through this in rural politics and seeing how these two notions of the family structured to ideologies several things became clear first we all grow up with both of these models and you can be nurtured in every part of your life politically in your family with your friends with your community but you can walk into an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and understand it and if you understand it you've got a strict father model at least passively and the same is true for a conservative who happens to flip the TV and Oprah comes on and they can understand it they may not live it or like it but they can understand it and it's very important to understand that we all have these views and that even the most strong progressive and conservatives among us have the opposite within us it's you know a sort of daunting thing to notice but what's really interesting is that there are the people who are so cold in middle those folks who are not the strong conservatives and progressives turns out they have a mixture of these two models they are conservative they have strict they're strict morality in some parts of their lives and nurturing morality and others and this is something that Ronald Reagan understood what were the Reagan Democrats the Reagan Democrats were blue-collar workers who were strict fathers at home and nurturing than their Union politics and so Reagan used metaphors for the home in talking about politics to move people with their morality from the home to use that morality for politics very important he did it all the time and it was conscious I had the pleasure I will say of talking to Richard Wirthlin a couple of weeks ago he was Reagan's chief strategist I met him at a conference and he was very generous and very open with me about this and he said something some very interesting things he said first I asked him about working with Reagan he said well when I first started working with reg and I had gotten my degree in economics from Berkeley and I believed in the rational actor model and I was a pollster and I found that there was a mystery to Reagan I was told that people voted for people on the basis of their their programs on the issues and when I surveyed people on the issues they were all against Reagan's positions on the issues but they liked Reagan it didn't fit anything I was taught and then he said well what's really involved here was that people identified with Reagan they trusted him they sensed his values and they identified with those values not with the positions on the issues and that's true if she with Reagan it's true with George W Bush it's something that the Republicans learned and that the Democrats have not learned and that's a sad fact but it's what's important about this is that he understood that Reagan had to address people in the middle and get them to trust him on the basis of his values and so he gave his strict father values out there using metaphors from the family to move people who are in the middle toward his conservative position very consciously and that's still being done in Republican politics today it's something that the Democrats haven't learned now why have the Democrats not learned this they haven't learned it for actually a very interesting reason having to do with the history of progressive thought the way progressive thought is usually thought about by theoreticians who write about this and actually in the actual history of who read who is that progressive thought came out of the Enlightenment what enlightenment views rationalism rationalism said we are all rational beings everybody is equally rational and therefore we can govern ourselves we don't have to depend on the king or the church to tell us what to do we can govern ourselves and now that we're all equal in terms of our rationality so we should have a democratic government in addition it's irrational to be against your material interests therefore a rational government should be in favor of the material interests of all people that's tradition of a ray of progressive thought in addition facts matter science matters because facts have a consequence is for material interests therefore if you just present people the facts they will recent to the right conclusion false there's a flaw there the flaw is just that at the time they didn't know about framing and metaphorical thought the idea of rationalism was that all thought was literal that people only thought literally about things that there was no framing there was no metaphorical thought and ensured in addition not only the people just think literally about things they were conscious of their thought according to that view and we know from cognitive science that most thought is unconscious most people don't know all the frames they use they don't not aware of the metaphors they use they just do it and it's a remarkable thing to know that now but this history of rationalism had a profound effect and it's still there in the Democratic Party in the Democratic Party you find people who will defend this rationalist position and it has a consequence in polling Democrats and Republicans use polls in the opposite way Democrats assume that since people are rational and on vote in favor of their self-interest what you have to do and that they're aware of of their self-interest and aware of their reasoning the assumption is they will take polls ask their positions and say what are you in favor of what's the most important thing to do to you the Democrats will get a list and then they'll make up programs to address those those interests and they'll run on the programs and they'll lose over and over now sometimes they won't lose sometimes they'll win because it's or may turn out that people's identity people vote their ID with someone may coincide with their self-interest when that happens we'll win but otherwise they often lose now Republicans use polls in a different way they use polls either to advance their agenda for example you have a polling question are you for or against tax relief you know overwhelmingly for right there are lots of polling questions like that to advance an agenda or to find out where people are so you can change them Republicans know how they want to change them and how they want to move people so it's a very different use of polls one based on rationalism and one based on a deeper understanding of how the mind actually works and it's sad to me that conservative Republicans have done better at this but it's not an accident that they've done better at this when Goldwater lost in 1964 nobody wanted to be a conservative conservative was a dirty word everybody wanted to be a liberal full quarter lost he was you know wiped out and the Conservatives went back to the drawing board and started you know working out why they lost and what to do about it the fateful year in that history was 1971 in 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War the National Chamber of Commerce asked Louis Powell who was about to be nominated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon to write a memo about what they saw as a problem and the problem was this that the best and brightest of American students were not becoming conservative businessmen in the Vietnam War they rebelled against conservative business practices and this was seen as a disaster by Lewis Powell and the Chamber farmers so pal devised the plan he said here's what you've got to do first you have to get wealthy conservative businessmen to pool their resources put them together and do a list of things first endow chairs teaching conservative business principles in American universities like the Olin professorships to support or create institutions in those universities to teach those principles on you know like the Hoover Institution at Stanford which is supported in that way there's a Noland Institute at Harvard ah but you can't trust the universities he said so you need to set up your own research institutions you need to get thing things and get the best scholars you can to teach these general principles these conservative principles and to do research supporting them get the best research you can researchers the best research assistants pay them well give them good facilities and not only that they have to become respectable how do they become respectable you have to create journals where they can publish like the City Journal in New York out of the Manhattan Institute you have to create magazines that they can publish in like the Weekly Standard you have to get book publishers to publish their books like Gregory press and you have to buy up media hence Clear Channel Murdock etc what you have since then is the development of more than one think-tank per year in those years since 1971 there are now between 40 and 80 of them about 40 of them are Ager think tanks you know supported 5 million dollars or so or more the best in doubt have budgets between 30 and 40 million dollars a year and they spend about 400 million dollars a year almost half a billion dollars a year on conservative think-tanks in short they have an intellectual operation that is doing its job and what is the job it's doing a very important job for conservatives it used to be the case that types of conservatives used to hate each other and they've brought them together over a period of time beginning in the 1950s and moving up recently and you begin begin to see some of the fractures now in the Harriet Miers nomination debate but the fractures have been there for a long time and they sort of figured out how they fit together there are many types of conservatives there are fundamentalist conservatives religious conservatives there are libertarians they don't necessarily get along but recently you begin to see libertarians who are fundamentalists who come together in terms in terms of what has been called diffusion movement you have fiscal conservatives like the old Rockefeller conservatives who are not strictly libertarians and never got along with the social or religious conservatives and you have social conservatives now you have Neo conservatives and what I'll call thoroughgoing conservatives in each case they have a strict father morality that structures at least some part of their lives either their religion for example fundamentalists have a view of God as a strict father we give you Commandments you follow them you go to heaven if not you go to hell but I'll give you a second chance my son will let you off but now you follow it me go to heaven if you go to help there are more progressive Christians in the country than conservative Christians but they if you interview them they're not very good on their theology in its relationship to politics but their theology is very clear God is a nurturer and parent God offers you Grace and grace is metaphorical nurturance you have to be close to God to get grace you cannot earn grace it is given unconditionally it heals you it makes you strong it makes you a moral being braces metaphorical nurturance and it's been one of the central concepts grace and love for the central concepts in progressive Christianity very different idea about God and it used to be debated openly in this country between 1850 and 1920 the abolitionists who viewed the goddess nurture and parent are argued against slavery the pro-slavery position was the strict father position in which some people are just better than other people there's a moral order and this is carried over into women's suffrage arguments the same positions lined up there were debates about whether God was there interest rate debates with tens of thousands of people there were preachers preaching the thousands of people in cities all over the country on just this issue and one of the most popular essays was Christian nurture and night in the 1920s the fundamentalist one out in the churches the debates ended and you got some you know thinkers like Reinhold Niebuhr who were sort of more intellectual than others later on but popularly the idea of God is a nurturing parent with its connection to politics which was understood earlier was forgotten and that's sad and it's still forgotten it's not being brought together now but fundamentalists do understand their theology and their connection to politics and their organized and progressive Christians are not organized and they need to be organized not an easy job now what you have in the right-wing idea Factory and message machine is an operation for moving these ideas and between the idea Factory all those think tanks and the media is a funnel the funnel funnels ideas from the think tanks into messages and the main person involved in that is a guy named Frank Luntz of Lunz Research he puts out materials a workbook for training sessions and there are now leadership Institute's that use these trainings so the Leadership Institute in Virginia has trained 26,000 conservative leaders in ten years you have a new one being formed in San Diego here the conservative Academy to train the next generation of conservative leaders what what happens in this workbook is LUNs puts out several things he takes arguments many of them legitimate arguments that say here are the conservative principles on this issue here are the liberal arguments here the holes in the liberal arguments here's how we argue against them and so on so part of it is a very legitimate reasonable thing in giving language he calls this the new American language where he goes through these arguments then there's a second part of it though it's mixed in we realize and the lines are interesting they are without call Orwellian language and they go like this there's a section on the environment that came out a couple of years ago that was leaked all of this material has been leaked over the Internet and in that section he said on global warming the Liberals seem to be up on us they have science on their side but we can win through language here's how you have to use words that environmentalists like healthy clean and safe you got a coal plant it's healthy clean and safe if you got a nuclear power plant that's healthy clean and safe and George Bush a couple of months ago had a press conference where he talked about healthy clean and safe both coal plants and nuclear power plants it was also used to name the clear skies initiative which increased pollution and the healthy forest initiative which allowed clear cutting and destruction of forests now that's the use of our William language that means the opposite of what it says and a lot of liberals get angry when they hear this and that's the wrong way to think you should think like a linguist a linguist looks at this and says when do they use Orwellian language they don't always do when we look the rest of of the you know the Lunt's materials and they're you know they're honest when did they use Orwellian language is a simple answer when they're weak when they have to when the public doesn't agree with them when they could not come out and say we've got a dirty skies initiative we're going to increase pollution in this bill right they know they can't do that and that should tell every progressive where to attack and how do you attack it's very simple you describe it adequately this is the dirty air act and here's why it's the dirty air act and you repeat it over and over you know they call it the healthy forest initiatives you call it leave no tree behind over and over in short there is a way to use words to deal with these issues but it is not the case that just coming up with the right words will do it what is really crucial is not the surface framing of things like the clear air that clear skies act but the deep framing that's behind it the strict father model and the nurturing parent model and they have literal counterparts the strict father model has a set of fundamental frames behind it I discovered this last year I was invited by Nancy Pelosi to go to Washington to talk to the Democratic caucus and she asked me to go through some of the conservative arguments for Social Security for getting rid of Social Security and as I went through them which I went through the liberal arguments as well I noticed the following thing there are a set of conservative arguments that had no facts now I think of something as momentous momentous is this with no facts this is a cognitive science problem it's an interesting phenomenon how in one of the most momentous issues in the history of our country do you get an argument with no facts the answer is very interesting what they use was a set of what I will call fundamental frames ideas that are used not just for Social Security but for just about everything general ideas and ideas that come right out of the strict father model when you apply them to to politics let me give you some examples there's a frame that says it's only individual initiative that has made this country great that everybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps that it is the unfettered free market unregulated without regulation that is the great engine of our economy that government just gets in the way government is the problem it should be you know gotten rid of shrunk to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub it's it interferes with the good people trying to you know pursue their self-interest to become prosperous its unamerican in that way and not only that you know how to spend your money better than the government does now why is it that Democrats have a hard time doing the kind of argument that's necessary let me give you an example of how they could take Hurricane Katrina it's a perfect opportunity for Democrats why the entire nation probably for the first time saw something they never saw before they saw poverty and its effects they saw poverty and its effect of incredible suffering right in front of them and their hearts went out to the people of New Orleans in Louisiana and Mississippi and he showed they showed it in the charity that went out the feeling went out all over the country now what the Democrats did not do is what they should have done that's human suffering was human cost not just natural caused by nature but you know it was human cause now Laura Bush said know it things things just happen but they don't because we knew from work on global warming that when you heat up the oceans or the Gulf of Mexico you increase the force of hurricanes and it had been predicted well in advance that there was an enormous increase in heat in the Gulf of Mexico and that there would be class 5 hurricanes and there are lots of them this year they was all predicted known in advance not only that but conservative policy said we don't believe in global warming so they took no notice of it in addition through conservative policy FEMA was taken out of the cabinet and Joseph Alba was put in charge of FEMA and Alba and his testimony initial testimony before the Appropriations Committee said that he saw FEMA as an entitlement that should be gotten rid of it was an entitlement that you know we should get rid of and not only that that FEMA should not be the first on the scene it should be the last on the scene as a matter of policy everything should be left to the localities and the states and that the federal government should come in last if necessary and if called upon but should not come in first as a matter of policy of shrinking government similarly they took away a huge amount of money from fixing the levees that had been proposed the dangers were pointed out and the money was taken away to further other things for the war in Iraq for tax cuts and so on this was a matter of policy of conservative policy and we all saw on our TV sets where conservative policy and conservative moral theory failed this country it was not just a failure of the government it was not just Bush alone it was the ideas that failed the country and this was a perfect opportunity for the Democrats to come out and say there's a minimal difference between progressives and conservatives progressives believe a traditional American belief we use the Commonwealth for the common good so each of us can be compete better off we use the Commonwealth for the common good so we can all be better off whereas conservatives believe that you should be doing it alone its individual initiative you're on your own buddy sink or swim and it's sink or swim conservatism that was on that TV in Katrina they had a perfect opportunity I actually wrote a paper on it three days after Katrina and sent it to all the leadership they read it and didn't use it I got together with John Halpin of the Center for American Progress last week we wrote another updating of it was published The American Prospect online we can go Friday copies were sent to the leadership they haven't used it they have a different idea they said they our idea is well the Conservatives are having a hard time letting you know sweetie let them stew in their own juices say nothing it's not going to work because what the Conservatives are doing is framing Katrina their way they say this was shows that the conservatism was right all along and government failed it wasn't government that failed it was Conservative government that failed but that's how they're framing it that private enterprise will be better than government every time and they're out there designing you know the rebuilding of New Orleans and the coast the Gulf Coast from conservative principles they're taking this as an opportunity to consolidate power and the Democratic leadership is allowing them to do this and I find this sad to say the least because it's not necessary there is a fundamental difference and that is just where that fundamental difference lies and it needs to be discussed this is why framing matters it's not just surface framing it's not spin it's not spin doctoring it's not slogans it's about how you honestly understand what's really going on that's what framing is about how you honestly say what you really believe what you really feel the study of framing is the study of your unconscious thought of your unconscious values and how you can save them and express them effectively and truthfully that's what all of this is about thank you you you




Comments
  1. One thing Lakoff seems to miss is that, while progressive policy may well have good intentions, they seldom have positive outcomes, especially in the long term.

  2. This lecture, along with Lakoff's works, are absolutely essential to deciphering modern politics and more. Profound and universal. Terrifying. I look forward to using this information.

  3. Does anyone know if Lakoff has ever tried to apply his analysis of Democrats and Republicans to left wing anti-capitalists who are conservative in the social-cohesion frame (against individualism) and liberal in the progressive nurturing frame? He doesn't seem to have much to say about political ideologies like Anarchism or socialism or any of its variants.

  4. At 52:30 the problem with in the Democratic party and their sponsors is that they themselves agree with a lot of the economic and public policy of the Republicans and conservatives. It is possible that from their donors they were forbidden to say anything that was proposed here to be said. Democrats seldom discuss civics in the 1950 sense of the word. Even something business like it benefit the economy if we address issues like Katrina quickly was not said. All the kids at the Ivy League schools are taught some form of neoliberal ideology so that you essentially have Republicans neoliberals and Democratic neoliberals, in fact you have white neoliberals and black neoliberals, straight neoliberals and gay neoliberals, feminist neoliberals and anti-feminist neoliberals, etc. Is this a great country or what?

  5. Where does Donald Trump fit on the Strict-Father Nurturing-Parents spectrum? How does one reconcile the election of an amoral "grab'em by the p~~sy" alternative-facts sort with Strict-Father morality? Right now, Trump is the ultimate expression of Ayn Rand's Strict-Father as "Father of America", the ultimate authority. . . . Very scary trend as an exemplar for US Morality. For Trump, it is me me me and everyone else is prey . . . . no sense of empathy or compassion.

  6. This moral obligation to have your own house in order before assisting others seems to underpin a lot of Jordan Peterson's new book but I concede I haven't read it.

  7. Conservatives can see themselves as moral all they want, but it's a meaningless delusion rooted in unexamined fear. Their morality exists in a vacuum decoupled from the complexity of reality, as if the Earth is an infinite banquet they can feast from without consequence.

    If these people either can not see the connections and interdependence of things or refuse to as a matter of psychological defense mechanism, then what are we to say of both their intelligence and the existential risks they impose on civilization and Earth systems more generally?

    Authority is the laws of thermodynamics, complex systems, and chaos. Conservatives ignore real authority and create a bubble within which they pretend to rule, meanwhile externalizing the conequences of their behavior onto the rest of society and the planet.

    These are the least responsible and hence most immoral people of all, and it is rooted in their fear-based ignorance.

    Intolerance and punishment is also their game. Maybe it's time to throw it back in their faces. Then again, that's what climate change is for. It's the punishment this conservative-driven world deserves. This is by their own logic.

  8. And W admitted himself that you have to keep inundating the public with the rhetoric to convince, although I don't think he used the word, 'rhetoric'.

  9. I am a registered Republican, I vote straight ticket Republican, I have every book by Lakoff and Mark Johnson. I have read every one cover to cover and a number of them more than once. I fear the enlightenment democrats more than the strict father republicans. Give me a Lakoffian progressive and I would be happy to vote for them.

  10. The monist position is self-contradictory: we must possess rational minds in order to show the brain determines the mind. Has the brain "determined" it's own self-discovery? That is an absurdity.

  11. Since you sink or swim by yourself. What happens if you need an operation – Or in an accident and need help?? Do you fix that problem by yourself like the rest of the things you believe in? (Was it because you were bad? No. The book of Job proved that good people can have bad things happen to them. ) Conservative thinking is warped at best.

  12. The whole beating your child or punishing them totally ignores basic human nature. The rebellious nature within all of us. Let alone rewarding good behavior is far more effective than disciplining bad

  13. What this man did was to shed light on the power of language and what gives it meaning. It’s rooted on unconscious material, which we are unaware of by defitition, but always subject to. When democrats learn to harness the power of their unconscious material, understand its meaning, learn to translate into language, and use their intellect to tie it to history, politics, social context and relationships, and then execute grounded on that material, the world will benefit from politics that align witht the deper forces of nature and the psyche.

    Until then, we will continue to be led astray, subject to the corruptive power of dualistic thinking and narrow-minded politics.

  14. The right in the US "frames" things much better than the left. The reason women are about to lose reproductive rights is because the left has allowed the right to frame this issue for the last four decades. Women were allowed to exercise this right because they framed the issue prior to Roe v. Wade.

  15. Read Lakoff's analysis carefully.
     
    How could anyone be surprised by Lakoff's assertion that the current catastrophe in communication (maximal example: our current President and his bizarre choice of modes for 'speaking" to his constituency) is best addressed by an examination of how the only mechanism we have available to us to effectively transport and transfer our ideas – language – has become so devalued. Sorry to sound so stuffy but this comes from someone who witnessed the last hurrah of oratory when, in 1959, I heard Hubert H. Humphrey rock the Senate chamber with both his wisdom and his style. More than any time in history (I might suggest) we need diliberative, thorough and unambiguous discourse coming from our leaders.

  16. just a thought; 'nature protection' n nurture relating to this… n referal to addresses? ..as (?) .. im sure ther…ehm… sensible attendence intent content signified dignified w exchange valuables? … i mean, … so what does it mean to an ending depending up on … where does self interest come if placed alL folLowing order? …

  17. A master bullshitter. Circular logic, neverending "if then" statements, massive assumptions based on complex words that the audience pats themselves on the backs for (not) understanding

  18. That explains why I am so confused about modern politics… I have Asperger's syndrome. I struggle with the notion of metaphor; even more with collective identity; instead I have trained myself in understanding and analysing the rationality of decisions – a very Cartesian approach.

  19. Re-watching this Nov 28, 2016, it's clear the failure of Clintonism-Obamaism was very much a failure to attend to and engage with Lakoff's ideas and rhetorical suggestions

  20. Politics is organized law making. Laws can be defined only divinely OR arbitrarily. Any secular way of making laws, whether it be majority rule, dictatorship or a non-religious monarchy, is the arbitrary imposition of the will of some on others, with no moral footing. If politics has a moral meaning, it has to be rooted in divine law, and the now "taboo" faith.

  21. The only problem with Conservative ideology is attaching it to anything Jesus taught. If conservatives used Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" as a hand book it would fit their argument. If Jesus was for anything, he was for the welfare of his brothers, where as Conservative ideology is for self interest. The obvious reasoning for this is that using Jesus as a symbol for their self interest is more effective for enrollment. Enrollment always equals more dollars and clout for self interest policy promotion which is not egalitarian as was Jesus. Millions of folks across the country calling them selves Christians practice Darwinism, but dismiss or demonize the theory behind it, while claiming to be Christ like which is anything but self centered. If there is a right and wrong its not the ideology you choose, it is labeling it with an opposite terminology . Another words when you by a container of OJ, and you pour from it into a glass, you expect OJ to fill your glass and not Milk !

  22. There will never be "Moral Politics". Statism relies on legitimized aggression. All forms of Statism violate the non-aggression principal, they are all morally illegitimate.

  23. Thanks for sharing. I agree in principal about the causes that create the two different thoughts that determine political views. However I don't feet that the analysis gets to the deepest depths of what causes the origin of the two rationales. Psychologists know that the two most powerful human motivations are love and fear I believe that it is the failure of the conservative mind to overcome their fear that leads to their immorality. Their whole subconscious is fear based . 90 percent of every decision they make is out of fear. This fear limits their ability to think beyond their own nose. Out of fear comes hate , the fear to change ,bigotry ,the need to control. I should add that these are the same character flaws arising out of fear and hate that can lead to crime. In fact I would venture to say that when these values that are supposed to work, create prosperity and happiness , but doesn't that when this conflict arises within a person of a conservative mindset overcome problems thrown at them in life that the result is often an act of crime. Loving is working with God. If we fear God who needs satan

  24. Orwellian language: When a so called liberal talks about needing more government intervention and a so called conservative complains about threatened freedoms mentioned in the constitution. OR, when a progressive talks about democracy, yet does not think that one tyrant is better than 300+ million tyrants after the first so called democratic vote. But hey, most trolls here are undergrads, and probably rest on their laurels of attending a famous west coast college. Face it kids, there is no conversation worth having outside of philosophy. Lakoff's endless string of if…then… conditionals and generalizations do not sway the critical mind, merely bores it to death. Lakoff is a cure for insomnia<<<—- METAPHOR

  25. this means Katrina was an inside job. They knew that the hurricanes were caused by the oil companies and then the government paid the corporations to fix the place for the survivors. The real Harp, weather control. Conservatives also think that climate change is not man made, yet their conspiracies say that people control the climate with HARP.

  26. This guy is doing the exact "framing" that he talks about in the early part of the lecture and uses that framing to get audience onside so they respond affirmatively with approval of what he says.
    Statements like "if you are not happy and fulfilled in your life you are not going to be empathetic with someone else. You are not going to want someone else to be happier than you are. " What he demonstrates is the internalised framing of some sort of expectation he has of what is his own ''Envy'. This guy assumes that this envy is part and parcel of everyone else's way of thinking.
    He is a sick puppy in this respect.
    Get over it George. Why should you be only happy when your happiness is only when you perceive you have matched or exceeded what you perceive is the happiness of others.

  27. the "doing it on your own" / "Sink or swim" republican attitude is not only out of touch with reality, it's a big fat lie. Especially when they tell others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, when the reich wing has stolen everybody's boots. There is NO SUCH THING as a human being who isn't a socialist unless they live away from all other human beings. PERIOD.

  28. Immoral man frames the argument himself, as one of arbitrary preference (psychologism) rather than reproductive strategy. We all advocate on behalf of our reproductive strategies. We are forever biased on behalf of our genes. Lakoff is just as biased, as anyone on the other side. The difference is they merely advocate it. He produces pseudoscience to justify his position while casting the opposition as psychological or logical fallacy,

    The work to study on this topic is Jonathan Haidt's. Lakoff is like Chomsky: a very sophisticated liar, which is why both of them work in the field that they do.

  29. There is no doubt that this is a Liberal video and is specifically aimed at promoting a Liberal point of view. That does not take away the value of what is being said, you just have to sort through the bias to get to the details that can be useful That said, I found one part of the discussion, toward the end, to be less than adequately expanded on. He talked about how he wrote letters to Liberal leaders and they were ignored. He did not examine why that may have been, or at least not to a large degree. In my own opinion, this can be attributed to the fact that the leaders of both sides are ultimately supported by money from the same people. As in our corrupt political system, money always flows in one direction, and conservatives are swimming with the current while Liberals are swimming against it. As such, the current is what would make these leaders ignore his letters. They are not permitted, by their benefactors, to act against their interests. It is the same reason Democrat administrations cannot seem to move the ball very far down the field during a Presidential term. It appears they are trying to move their agenda upstream, yet the Republican administration's agenda seems to be on steroids while they are in office. They BOTH are depending on the same benefactors, and the Republican platform is better aligned with those benefactors.

  30. Excellent explanation for our present political world in 2015 and frightens me how difficult it is to change a person's perception of what is morally good or evil, since it is so embedded in our psyche. It frightens me because we seem to be living in a country where fear is being promoted and empathy and compassion is going out the window. We are so divided. We have to continue to live HOPE –it is our only chance for LIFE.

  31. Highly interesting! Even before the disaster of Sandy…yes, he's thinking in terms of how people think, which in itself is a thinking person's subject! So it may follow that those who are simply "framing" rather than seeing the whole picture of the political structure can be bypassed by the implications of which he speaks.

  32. As soon as he mentions Fox News and the audience laughs…  I lost interest.  I don't care for Fox News, but I could see immediately which way this "research" was going.

  33. Though 10 years old, this is absolutely applicable today, explaining the framework of Republican and Democratic outreach and discourse. But he doesn't go so far a to discuss the fundamental tendency, which almost seems to have a genetic basis, of open versus closed perceptions, empathy versus authoritarianism, etc which seem fundamental to our world views and are almost beyond changing.

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