Monday, June 12, 2006

George Lakoff's Meta-Spin

I hope the Chalicesseur who sent me this will forgive me as I don't think I was supposed to look at it and see what I did, but this person forwarded me a perfect example of Lakoff-as-spinmeister.

The email is from George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute and proudly proclaims:

Two weeks ago, Rockridge published The Framing of Immigration by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson, an analysis of the framing surrounding immigration used by progressives and conservatives, as well as a discussion of framings not being used, but which would reveal important truths. Late last week, the DailyKos leaked a memo by Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging strategist, advising Republicans how to talk about immigration. If you want to compare what Rockridge does with what Luntz does, this is your chance.

And they provide handy links to a leaked memo from the Conservatives. (That's spin, kids, what the bad people do.)

And, of course, a polished public statement from the liberal side. (That's framing, kids, what the good people do.)

Naturally the Republican memo is all scary and Lakoff's statement is comparitively mild and couched in all sorts of happy terms.

Again, to take the Rockridge institute at face value, we would have to suspend our disbelief sufficiently to believe that a stolen internal memo meant for the eyes of politicians and what is essentially a press release are comparable.

Lakoff surely comes off looking better, I'll admit.

But I can't shake the feeling that liberals think I'm stupid.



Anonymous said...

OK, I didn't read all 25 pages of the leaked Luntz document (I read several pages), and I did read the shorter Lakeoff and Rockridge documents.
You are being disingenuous to point out that Luntz's is a secret document and Rockridge's is for public consumption, and that makes a difference in their tone: If you read it carefully, it says in the Rockridge document that one of the differences is that ALL of Rockridge's documents are publicly published, while the Luntz documents aren't. That's a real difference.
Rockridge says that they are more honest than the other side. You have to judge that for yourself: I saw a sentence in the Luntz document that could be interpreted as advocating being untruthful, but was not that blunt. I saw parts of the Luntz document that advocated using different wording for different audiences. I did not see that in the Rockridge documents.
Other than that, they seemed quite similar.
They were both on the issue of immigration, which is, and was acknowledged to be by both sides, a complex issue.
I didn't agree with what either side had to say fully, but then I never did -- the framing has no effect on that. I haven't yet seen a good solution to the problem.
Maybe we should just trade Mexico for Texas.... :-)

TheCSO said...

I don't think those two documents are even comparable. Luntz is about how to effectively present a consistent core message to different groups; Rockridge is about how wouldn't it be so nice if the debate was framed differently.

I've seen "progressive" guides on how to present a consistent core message to different groups. Unsurprisingly, they read almost exactly like the Luntz document.

Chalicechick said...


Do you honestly think that the Democrats don't have people who work for politicians and help them spin issues?

Would comparing the work of one of those people to the Luntz document be a more honest approach?


Anonymous said...

You were criticizing this comparison. Rockridge publishes all their stuff.
Sure there are guys who advise candidates in private. I happen to think that the ones advising the Progressive candidates lately are either incompetant or working for the other side. Rockridge is trying to help.
As I said in my first comment, they seemed pretty similar to me.
You can criticize this kind of stuff all you want, but the fact remains that the current regime is leading our country in the wrong direction and they need to be stopped. Are you losing perspective on that? Do you think that the two philosophies are of equal value? What are you advocating? I'm not pretending to be neutral here, I am definitely on one side. I don't feel I need to advocate for the Right -- they are perfectly capable of doing that themselves. I feel they are more dishonest about it than the Left. I don't say the Left is completely without fault, just more honest, because honesty is one of the Liberal values, and it is not on the list of Conservative values. Liberals are far more likely to disapprove of a lefty who is caught being dishonest than this particular group of "Conservatives" is to disapprove of one of theirs caught being dishonest. [I don't like to use the term "Conservative" for them because they aren't conservative.]