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Nie myśl o słoniu!: Jak język kształtuje politykę by George Lakoff

dee9401's review against another edition

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3.0

I just finished reading George Lakoff’s don’t think of an elephant: know your values and frame the debate. Published in 2004, it appears to be a collection of essays and thoughts he has pulled together over the years. Frankly, it could have been reduced to about a 30-40 page primer that might get a wider audience. However, at 119 pages, it’s a quick read.

The book is about frames, i.e. how we understand the world, how we know what we know. Frames control how we deal with new facts that are presented to us. If a fact agrees with the frame, it’s accepted. If a fact disagrees with the frame, in more cases than not, the fact will be discarded, regardless of whether it is true or not. According to Lakoff, frames rule our world.

His book is for progressives and goes a long way to de-vilefying conservatives and “red-state voters”. He notes that progressives can’t call people who voted for Bush as stupid or moronic. The frames they have developed, and that have been reinforced by 40 years of conservative communications, simply won’t allow these facts to overwhelm their worldview. Lakoff urges progressives to think in terms of ideas, frames, and moral values. Everyone has these and it’s a matter of framing progressive values and repeating them often to get our message across. It can’t be done overnight, and as he repeats often, “the truth will not set you free”. Facts by themselves are not sufficient. One of his best examples is the frame of “tax relief”. It just sounds good, doesn’t it? Relief. Relief is a good thing. Relief from what? Taxes. If it’s relief, then taxes must be bad. If progressives talk about tax relief and say that it isn’t any good or helps the wrong people, they’re still using the tax relief frame and are simply reinforcing the idea of relief. We need to talk about it differently. We need to talk about how government built the interstate system, how it created the internet, how cures and vaccines have been developed by the national health institutes. Paraphrasing Lakoff, your tax refund can’t pay to build a highway to drive to work.

One thing I’d like to mention is his differentiation of framing from spinning. He sees spin as manipulative use of a frame. However, I would argue that it’s spin, regardless of whether it’s for good or for manipulation. Speaking in frames is an attempt to manipulate, or change, an individual’s world view and how they process facts. We frame it one way in order to counter another frame. He says framing is good if we articulate frames we believe in and that we see as morally good. But, isn’t that what conservatives, and all groups, do? They believe in what they’re saying and use a frame that articulates that belief system. Propaganda, as Lakoff rightly points out, is something entirely different and bad. He defines it well by calling it the use of a frame that is known to be wrong and selling that frame for political or economic benefit of the purveyor.

To end on a high note, his last chapter on how to respond to conservatives is a must read. That chapter along with the introduction of frames and a few examples make this book worth a look, but it really should have been edited down to a few dozen pages.

noahwags's review against another edition

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5.0

I cannot underscore how important this book is for progressive understanding and success. We need to understand how we understand the world, how conservatives understand the world, and how folks who fall in between understand the world and then how they ACT on that understanding. We need to learn how our messaging can work for us or if we're lazy, against us.

Lakoff is brilliant. If you're interested he also has a podcast called "FrameLab".

Main takeaways:
- If you say "Don't think of a pink elephant," the first thing someone does is think of a pink elephant. In order to not think about something, you first have to think about it to know what to not think about.
- The private sector depends on the public.
- Systemic causation IS a type of cause and effect (pollution does CAUSE global warming).
- Conservatives understand the world through a strict-father morality. Progressives understand the world through Nurturing Parent morality. Bi-Conceptuals view the world with a little bit of both.
- People DO NOT act rationally if it doesn't fit with their understanding of the world.
- Facts aren't effective if they don't fit your worldview.
- The most effective way to bring people closer to progressive worldview is to highlight and strengthen their empathy.


Read this then share it with someone else.

pickleballlibrarian's review against another edition

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5.0

George Lakoff hits the nail on the coffin! Unfortunately, the republicans have maintained control of the frame during the last few elections.

I have used information on this book to understand other aspects and people I deal with. "Strict Father" and "Nurturing Mother" models are good to understand.

alexisvana's review against another edition

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4.0

WILDLY redundant (to the point where I asked myself "didn't I already read this chapter?" at least two times). I'm upgrading it a star because the redundant points were still decently mind-blowing.

adamrbrooks's review against another edition

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4.0

This book kept coming up in discussions; realized I had to read it. It's smart an interesting, though not as life-changing as I had imagined. (And I'm not sure if it's central premise about two kinds of families is based on research or conjecture.)

Also, it almost seems out of date, because it exists in a world where both sides attempted to argue real facts. When one side will say "Greatest ECONOMY EVER" -- despite the statistical evidence -- how can you have any real understanding?

It all ties in nicely with what I think about how we need to question certain assumptions which frame debates. (For instance: "Corporations' only moral duty is to maximize shareholder value." That's not some natural law. That's a choice.)

Biggest takeaways:
* Do NOT repeat the other side's messaging and let it become the dominant metaphor
* Thinking differently requires speaking differently
* Facts matter, but they must be framed in terms of moral importance
* "Framing is about getting language that fits your worldview. It is not just language. The ideas are primary - and the language carries those ideas."
* "The moral hierarchy is an implicit part of the culture wars."
* "You do not have very much freedom if there is no opportunity or prosperity. Therefore, opportunity and prosperity are progressive values."
* "People do not necessarily vote their self-interest. They vote their identity." (This has become MASSIVELY clear in the last few years.)
* HUGE idea... conservatives invest in think tanks and such, for long-term strategy. Progressives invest in SERVICES to people in need, which creates a structural imbalance.
* People have a very hard time understanding "systemic causation." If we can't say "X caused Y" people throw up their hands and say "Oh, too complex. We'll never know." Climate change doesn't cause Hurricane Joe.... but we can see it's causing more, and more powerful, hurricanes.
* Re-read the Declaration of Independence ... it's not just about the rights, it's also about why government matters to secure those rights.
* Companies have two kinds of employees -- assets (irreplaceable) and resources (commodities)

frog_bird's review against another edition

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4.0

This book was a worthwhile read. It both contextualized, and also gave detail to, ideas that I have and gave me more tools to debate. I did think that it was a bit too heavily based in the "two party system" and that author based most examples and ideas within the two major parties. In addition, the author didn't really give much attention to leftists (anti-capitalists). That was needed, especially with such a strong focus on bringing together progressives. I think a lot of this is very implementable for me as a leftist in my discourse and political understanding.

edit: i think about this book a lot especially in its points about political psychology (soft, compassionate progressive side vs. tough, individualistic conservative side), and also framing which i didnt fully understand at the time but i get more now

bootman's review against another edition

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5.0

Goerge Lakoff is phenomenal, and I wish more people read his work. I loved his other book Moral Politics and was about to reread it but then remember I haven’t read his other books. I wouldn’t say this book is better, but it’s just as good. For those who don’t know, Lakoff is a cognitive scientist who studies how we think about values, morals and politics. This book focuses on how we frame issues and try to sway others. Basically, he explains why the right is amazing at this and the left sucks at it.

If the left hopes to consistently win elections, we need to learn how to frame things and talk to people. So, for the love of all that is holy, read this damn book.

bryan8063's review against another edition

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3.0

For Democrats, this is a good handbook on how conservatism think. The first chapter alone is worth reading as the cognitive scientist delves into the conservative mind. Author argues that Democrats need to create their own powerful message the GOP has done.

rumbledethumps's review against another edition

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3.0

Of the three books I've recently read on political messaging and tactics, this is by far the best. It doesn't have the snarky cynicism of Frank Luntz's book, and avoids the "Ends Justify the Means" attitude of Saul Alinsky. Instead, Lakoff recommends that progressives focus on values they truly believe in, and stop responding to the debates in ways that conservatives have framed.

He believes that progressives have "lost" the culture wars because of their inability to properly frame their arguments, and instead have only responded with truth and facts. "It is a common folk theory of progressives that 'the facts will set you free.' If only you get all the facts out there in the public eye, then every rational person will reach the right conclusion. It is a vain hope."

Instead, progressives should do four things to win the culture wars: "Show respect. Respond by reframing. Think and talk at the level of values. Say what you believe." 

It is interesting in that it mirrors much of what Jonathan Haidt argues in "The Righteous Mind." But where he loses me is in defining which moral models of the family progressives and conservatives adhere to. Progressives use the nurturant family model,  where they believe "the world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that. The parents' job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nurturers of others." But conservatives use the strict father model, where "what is required of the child is obedience, because the strict father is a moral authority who knows right from wrong."

He does an effective job at explaining how these models define adult world views, but a less than adequate job of proving these moral models to be true. His idea that "preserving and extending the strict father model is the highest moral value for conservatives" is a bit of a straw man.

Overall worth a read, though, as it does give a different perspective of why people cannot seem to agree about important issues.

kurtliske's review against another edition

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1.5

Disappointed. Had to wade through A LOT of progressive confirmation bias and strawman assumptions to get a few marginally useful thoughts.