Thursday, November 01, 2012

Lakoff Refuted

George Lakoff has a theory that Republicans are master manipulators of emotions by their clever framing of issues. He sometimes says we are able to evaluate ideas on their own, he emphasizes the fact that people unconsciously respond to word associations, and form their beliefs based on these clever marketing strategies (it's a bit like how Samuelson used to say he was in favor of a modest Federal deficit but this was always mentioned when criticizing tax reductions or military spending, and never to suggest a Democrat should not spend more on social programs).   His big idea is to change words like 'taxes' to 'membership fees', and 'activist judges' to 'freedom judges', because then people will see things with his progressive lens.

In this TED talk, Mark Forsyth notes that the word  'President' was originally used to designate the US head precisely because it was meek: President was like 'presider'. Congress fought the Senate on what to call the head of the new US government, as the Senate wanted something less humble, something with more grandeur, but agreed to use the title 'President' temporarily, hoping that it would be changed later to something like Chief Magistrate. This highlights the nature of an temporary government policy.

The title of President doesn't sound so humble anymore because the US is the world's foremost superpower with 5000 nuclear warheads and 11 aircraft carriers. There are now 147 nations that use President for the title of the chief of state, mainly because they aspire to the US President's power. Reality changes words much more than words change reality.

As Machiavelli noted, it is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.


Alexander Falkenstein said...

Have you read Cult of the Presidency by Gene Healy of the Cato Institute? Great book that discusses how we have changed our view of what it means to be President.

Eric Falkenstein said...

good link. Thanks son.

Anonymous said...

I believe the phonetic pronunciation of Lakoff in Swahili means "donkey's anus"

Unknown said...
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Peter McCluskey said...

I'd assume that Lakoff is well aware of that and wants to change his faction's framing fairly often. Even if that isn't very effective at winning elections, it provides plenty of opportunities for the well-connected to show off their ability to be the early adopters of the latest fads.