Front page

Are you afraid of the dark?

(Click to invert colors, weenie.) (Requires JavaScript.)

All email will be assumed to be for publication unless otherwise requested.

What's in the banner?

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

How Not to Hang a Frame

Andrea Harris, through a rather roundabout route, comments on this post on lefty blog "Body and Soul" about how to "frame" the national debate. Andrea is annoyed at the metaphor in the main post, one of savage caveman and civilizing woman. Actually, I don't think that's the metaphor the poster is getting at. She's trying to construct a fairy-tale version of unilateralism vs. multilateralism, using a mammoth hunt as an example. At the same time, she's referring to Berkeley professor George Lakoff's views on the perception of "stern father" (Republicans) vs. "nurturing parents" (Democrats).

Lakoff believes that the Republicans are getting their message out because they have seized the debate. They, you see, have defined the terms being debated, therefore they have control. (Apparently the left never, ever does this by, say, referring to themselves by the nice, positive-sounding term, "progressives"---which, of course, is how Lakoff refers to his ideological kinsmen throughout the above-linked interview.)

Jeanne, the blogger at "Body and Soul", dislikes Lakoff's parental metaphor, and is trying to find a new "frame" she thinks will fit better, one that will best distill complex reality down into simple fairy tales for the consumption of the masses. Jeanne is a little troubled by the need to do this, but decides that it's vital, since the evil Republicans did it first.

(The fact that both parties do this sort of thing constantly, and always have, apparently doesn't occur to her, or her commenters. Nor does the fact that nearly every word she writes reveals that she already believes, deeply, in the current "frames" of the Left. For her, those ideas aren't just fairy tales; they're reality.)

Frankly, if the discussion on this blog is indicative of the mindset of thoughtful Democrats, we (Americans) are in a hell of a lot of trouble.

From this discussion, I glean the following:

1) Republicans are immature, Democrats are mature and serious. The Republicans, in particular, are little boys---emphasis on boys, rather than generic children---obsessed with guns:

From Jeanne:

Looking at the Republicans, what I see over and over again is a play-acting, pre-adolescent version of masculinity. Little boys think that what makes daddy a man is that he's big. He can beat anybody up. His weapon's longer than your weapon. His god's bigger than yours. And so when little boys pretend to be men, the emphasis is on bigger and stronger...Republicans are funny, in the same way that little boys who want to be men [are funny]...

Heather Wokusch had an interesting piece up recently at CommonDreams about the connection between fear of sex and love of violence in the Bush administration. That's the little boy pretending to be a man issue peeking out again. Sex is icky...

2) And because sex is icky, Republicans don't have any, which is probably why they're boys, rather than men.

From commenter "john steppling":

One cannot really imagine a healthy sex life for people like Cheney and Bush and Rove and Rumsfeld...and deep down that anxiety is manifested in the puritanical obsessions of this administration and its endless need for violence and domination.The post 60s "touchy feelie" brand of sensitive men has played a role here as has the anxiety caused by the feminist movement. Jeanne recently had a pic of Kucinich in the picket line, and another of Bobby Kennedy and Chavez....all much more substantial images of masculinity....but this culture is so addicted to the visual hyperbole of the culture industry and so awash in the marketed idea of fear and threat that only the image of a bully seems to resonate...

(All ellipses except the last are in the original.)

3) As implied in that last sentence, people are sheep; they buy what they're told to buy and believe what they're told to believe. From Jeanne again:

...we have to deal with the fact that a great deal of politics
is marketing. Republicans aren't under any illusions about that, although most of the people who vote for them aren't aware of it...Republicans have to do it, because...most Americans disagree with them. They have to find a way to get Americans to "buy" ideas that they don't want, the same way stores have to get Americans to do something equally unnatural -- go out and spend money on crap they know they don't need, or even really want.

4) Bush is selling fear, which is irrational. He is sending people into a panic to gain their support. This is "aimai", talking about "Joe Schmoe", a frequent Calpundit commenter who briefly dropped into Body and Soul:

In Joe Schmoe's case I've read lots of his posts, and I think he is, potentially, tellilng us something very important about the frames issue. His frame is "fear" and his source of comfort is "someone knows better than me what to do, and the thing to do is simple: its violence." He will vote for the person who most accurately portrays that theme, regardless of any evidence to the contrary that the person is a sham.

Behind every passage I've quoted here to illustrate my point are several more on the same theme. I was going to quote all the good ones, but the post got very long.

This the thoughtful, nuanced left? Childish theories, threadbare Freudianism, and contempt for The People---this is what they've come to? No, really. I want to know. These people are so---partisan? blinded? stupid?---that they don't even see that they have already "framed" the debate, although they dimly realize that this frame is unlikely to appeal to their intended audience.

Imagine them trying to convince people with their true vision: "Wake up, you sheep! You only believe what They tell you! We're much smarter than you are---we know the Truth! Bush and Co. are nothing more than nasty little boys, whose sexual retardation makes them prone to violence! Violence isn't the answer to terrorism---the ICC and alternative energy are the answers!"

Yeah, sign me up now.

I have no way of knowing just exactly how widespread this playground mentality is. But if Matthew Yglesias wants to know why some Democrats are defecting, he could do worse than to look at the linked Body and Soul discussion.