Review of The All New Don't Think of an Elephant!

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Rating

9 Overall

9 Importance

8 Innovation

9 Style


Review

Linguist George Lakoff urges his fellow progressives to study the conservative playbook on how to frame an issue and use it for their purposes. Conservatives have framed a variety of issues, from taxes to military spending to global warming. Lakoff argues that liberals make a mistake when they argue using facts because facts don’t matter if they run counter to a voter’s belief system. Lakoff’s book first came out in 2004 – the peak of the George W. Bush years. This 2014 version precedes the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and the fall of Hillary Clinton, who clearly didn’t master the art of framing. Lakoff’s premise holds: Trump and Sanders seemed to be reading directly from his playbook; Clinton campaigned as if she had never heard of framing. While always politically neutral, getAbstract finds that though Lakoff’s detailed, tactical teachings on framing speak to liberals, conservatives also will find them instructive. 

About the Author

Linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff teaches at the University of California at Berkeley. His political books include The Political Mind, Moral Politics and Thinking Points.

 

Lakoff describes himself as a cognitive scientist. He is interested in explaining how conservatives apply cognitive principles to inculcate their ideology – with all its internal contradictions – into the brains of people who are or will be their supporters. He doesn’t exactly regard these tactics as evil. His concern is that effective cognitive disruption seems to be the province only of conservatives. Lakoff wants liberals to up their game in this field. His hard-nosed realpolitik recognizes that it’s too late to moralize against effective conservative tactics. He argues that the time has come for liberals to fight fire with fire. This manual is Lakoff’s attempt to enable liberals to do just that.

Lakoff effectively reduces framing to its basics. He cites former president Richard Nixon, who famously said: “I am not a crook.” When Nixon said that, Lakoff reports, pretty much everyone in America instantly believed he was, in fact, a crook. This illustrates one of Lakoff’s bedrock principles: never, ever use the language of your opponents. Their language reflects their frame. Use it and you’ve gutted your argument before you begin.


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