Sunday, April 20, 2008

Framing: Bullshit

There's certainly no shortage of irritating terms these days--don't even get me started on 'branding' or 'narrative.' But this "framing" bullshit really needs to go. Sadly, liberals are crazy about it. As with most irritating terms (e.g. 'paradigm'), 'framing' is irritating largely because the concept associated with it is vague, lame and annoying. Consider:
What 'framing' means is hard to define, not unlike the word 'meaning' or 'symbol.' In linguistic jargon, it is a semiotic meta concept or 'model' invoked in discussions of how people understand words. For progressive politics, 'framing' is what Democrats say to other Democrats when talking about being more persuasive with others. In that ongoing conversation, which has been equal parts therapy and strategy, one question has emerged more often than others: Once we understand what framing is, how do we put it into practice? How do we do it?
Ah. Thanks. That clears it up. I've got no problem with complex concepts. But this is just a lame-ass one. Liberals seem to me to be more susceptible to this kind of lame, quasi-scientific linguistic hogwash. Gah. It's just embarrassing. For an actual explanation of why "frame" is lame, you'll have to wait 'til I've got more patience.

Oh, and check out this awesome quote from the book in question:

A political campaign is not the place to educate voters--it’s a place to persuade them. (Framing the Future, p. 52)

Argh. Where to start. You see, if you persuade people by telling them true, informative, non-misleading things, then you are persuading them by educating them. If you persuade them by telling them false or misleading things, then you are lying to them. That's mere persuasion, or non-rational persuasion. That is, e.g., how the Bush administration sold the Iraq war to Congress and the American public. So glib claims like the one above, even if there might be a truth or two lurking in the vicinity, are bullshit.

It's really distressing to see liberals falling for this kind of crap.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know Winston. Luntz got a lot of mileage out of bullshit like the *death tax*. This guy seems to agree:

10:18 PM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

WS, the definition of 'framing' you quote is an expression of the incompetence of its author to write about framing. First order, 'framing' is easy to define; it's the baggage of assumptions implied by the language that's conventional in a subject area. If you agree that a question can be loaded, you have to acknowledge that framing matters.

Anonymous's example of 'death tax' as an effective and highly loaded frame is perfect, but there are many others. Anti-abortion became pro-life. Bushist propaganda is filled with frames. 'Central front in the GWOT' is a good example.

Of course, you rightly don't want liberal arguments to devolve into counter-loading of questions with no attempt to be rational. In a world such as ours, where bullshit reigns, that may be a lot to ask. Who wants to be Cassandra?

But I sympathize and I still hope for rational and honest framing.

Gay rights is a frame, but I happen to think it's an honest frame, much more honest than 'death tax'. 'Homophobia', when imputed to all opponents of gay rights, is another framing device, though significantly less objective. Not all of them are afraid; at least a few are simply bigots. Others are simply not swift to change.

Rights in general have been a very successful way liberals have framed the treatment of minorities. That's framed right in the Constitution.

One very strong frames that works against the public interest is the neoclassical economic consensus that markets are always good and right, and that we should never resist their "solutions" to our problems. Of course, that's the real bullshit.

You may say that liberals just need to make better arguments, and that's certainly true. But Republicans have brought marketing techniques to bear when selling us bad presidents, and we need to master those techniques in order to counter them.

10:39 PM  

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