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January 25, 2006


I'm all for looking at narrative. The storyline of a weak and unpopular president going to the well once too often to shore up uncertain Americans about policies and performance they don't care for is good enough for me.

So is asking a President they don't fully trust to be responsible for domestic spying without a warrent, refusal to allow Katrina hearings and other devices meant to build an Imperial Presidency.

It's all a question of whether the media is interested in a storyline that migth deny them access to the powers that be (in this case, Republicans) and the answer is a resounding no. The only way to get around that is to win elections.

I have just seen the power of a narrative in reading about the Palestinian exit poll. A Hamas-led government would have been a disaster. A government with Hamas in a sizable majority may be pressured to govern its own people better.

Did not mean to type "majority". If did, comment makes no sense. Substitute "minority".


Yeah, those narratives are good.

But we need to get out of the weak-strong binary, otherwise we're just fighting Republican still-dominant firepower. I prefer competent-incompetent. With the added benefit that it feeds right into the Indie and Disgruntled GOP values.

My only problem--I'm trying to think of a really good "competent" Hollywood character. And you KNOW how bad I am at pop culture. So who is there? I think we could build it around the Working Mom type of character. But I'd like to avoid a character that Hillary has already tried on for size.

I meant to add in the post that the inability of BushCo to override popular memes for nuclear option, social security, and domestic spying suggests the media ISN'T just taking them at their narrative anymore.

Narratives grow, if they grow well, out of character. That's where Democrats typically fall down worst. Those who have real and consistent character often don't project it to the back rows. And too damn many Dems inside the beltway don't seem to have any real consistency. That's why voters are willing to accept ersatz character, like Bush's strutting sham of a tough guy.

Am I the only person in this country who's sick of hearing "storylines" about politics? The infantilization of politics does not benefit Democrats. Politics is about making tough, adult choices. It is not normally a narrative of good and evil, beautiful princesses in distress and daring rescues.

But if we have to hear political narratives, please ground them in reality--about actual facts, and what real characters are doing to face up those circumstances. The mistake is in buying into other peoples' narratives and playing along. That only gets you a bit part, and you can get written out pretty easily.

Digby had an interesting post recently about Harry Reid's appearance on the PBS Newshour. According to Digby, Reid was in good form personally, but he hit a brick wall because Lehrer wouldn't let him climb out of the GOP narrative that Reid had allowed himself to be seduced by.

It concerned corruption. The Dems decided, that in trying to paint themselves as the party of reform, they need to advocate piecemeal legislation to rein in corruption--just as the GOP is doing. So what distinguishes Dem from Gooper, Lehrer wanted to know? IOW, if new legislation is needed, isn't that a sign that the problem endemic to DC?

As Digby pointed out, the right approach by Dems is to say that the GOP is corrupt in all its manifestation and by it's very nature...that it isn't a question of needed reform legislation, it's a question of holding corrupt Goopers to existing laws and standards, of exposing a culture of corruption and rooting it out.

That's a winning "story". But the piece of schlock that DC Dems have hammered out instead, called 'You can trust us more', is DOA.

I'm not sure why you don't get how the librul media meme doesn't affect the narrative. I think that that point is spot on.

If you've watched the way the media reports stories for the last couple of deacades you can see it like the coffee stains on my teeth. What used to be straight forward reporting of a story with facts and fact checking has now become "he said, she said." That is a function of the constant bashing by the GOP. Anytime a comment that was obviously false was given to a reporter in the past they would dispute it more times than not. Now they just hang out there.

There was a great example of the way the right expects the media to opperate right after Katrina. Carl Limbacker wrote an article about an interview CNN gave Haley Barbour. In it Barbour claimed that Kat was a cat 1 storm until just before it hit N.O. The interviewer disputed that and Barby just stood his ground. Limbacker said they should have just agreed to disagree.

The reason I saw that article was because some of my winger friends sent it to me as proof of a lib media. And no matter how many times I pointed out that Barby ws lying they still said that Lim was right.

The CNN guy was an exception to the new rule of reporting. And if we still had the Horse around we would be seeing even more examples of the way the media is keeping any kind of narrative from developing by allowing the GOP to change said narrative regardless of whether there is any truth to the narrative that they want.

But what about storylines that create negative brand identity for our opponents? One thing that has made Bush supporters impervious to the reality before their eyes is the wild success at negatively branding Democrats and Liberals. I find this amazing since, no matter how pusillanimous and self-serving the Democrats, it is they who really care about public policy and good governance and it is the Republicans who are fundamentally dishonest in their intentions about what they will do with political power (even as they denigrate the very organization in which they seek employment). No matter what evil Republicans do or say, the Democrats are just too odious to consider, e.g., “Bush got us into this horrible war but I just can’t vote for that liberal Democrat Kerry”.

Its seems that we are having a “Republicans can’t be trusted with power because they are 1) corrupt, 2) dishonest, and/or 2) incompetent,” being handed to the public on a platter – even by the traditional press. Can Democrats create an ugly yet mostly true storyline about Republicans even as they suffer the ugly yet mostly untrue one crafted by conservatives? Should we? Will it take a generation, as it did for the right wing?

Mike S

There is a difference between the false objectivity of "he said she said" and the dominance of one (Republican) narrative. The false objectivity, in fact, often interrupts the seamlessness of narratives, although sometimes the Republican "she said" simply reinforces their existing narrative. The false objectivity is just noise that either supports or interrupts an existing narrative. But what is crucial about a narrative is its ability to capture attention, sustain interest, and affect emotion. A strong narrative--like that of the Republicans--will sustain attention even amongst the noise of a "he said she said."


I guess I'm saying the key is NOT to try and overtake the Republican narrative. Even a war hero like Kerry was going to have a tough time beating out the "war hero" narrative of Bush, only because Bush's was already well established and had already set the particular themes of that narrative. Whereas the corrupt and incompetent is largely vacant--it hasn't been used since 1994. So yeah, if we tell the story of the competent Dems (Clinton balanced the budget AND improved people's lives--Democrats as a party can do the same) and the incompetent corrupt Republicans, then it should work.

Plus, Abramoff and DeLay make such perfect villains. We just need to formulate the person who can defeat those villains (Spitzer, Feingold, Fitzgerald) consciously and determinedly.

The false objectivity is just noise that either supports or interrupts an existing narrative.

And that is when it is most frequently used. When the right sees that a narrative is taking hold that is detrimental to them.

I guess my poorly made point is that the media is afraid of the GOP message machine so it is far more willing to either ignore a Dem narrative or allow it to be changed by the right.

As we say in the Democratic stronghold of Boston, "Ya can't shine you-know-what." The Democratic "leaders" voters see on TV aren't made to appear weak and timid-that's who they are. The refusal to filibuster Alioto makes this Democrat wonder "what's the use of voting for these people? So they can in the majority. A band of 55 self-absorbed cowards won't be any more effective than one of 45.
The Republicans have already announced they intend to filubuster Democratic Supreme Court nominees just because the Dems said mean thinga about Alioto. Think our side would respond with a "nuclear option." Hell, no.
Narrative isn't the problem. Replacing a generation of incompetent, incoherent, gutless representatives is.

As we say in the Democratic stronghold of Boston, "Ya can't shine you-know-what." The Democratic "leaders" voters see on TV aren't made to appear weak and timid-that's who they are. The refusal to filibuster Alioto makes this Democrat wonder "what's the use of voting for these people? So they can in the majority. A band of 55 self-absorbed cowards won't be any more effective than one of 45.
The Republicans have already announced they intend to filubuster Democratic Supreme Court nominees just because the Dems said mean thinga about Alioto. Think our side would respond with a "nuclear option." Hell, no.
Narrative isn't the problem. Replacing a generation of incompetent, incoherent, gutless representatives is.

Mike S

Oh, I see your point.

I don't know. Name a really good narrative we have tried to seed? That's part of the point of my title--chicken or egg. I'm inclined to think chicken, precisely because there are ENOUGH people favorable to the left to at least get a viable hearing. But we're not giving them anything to work with.


Much as I didn't love Kerry, he's not weak. Or he wasn't in his youth, when he fought for principles and against corruption (think BCCI). But rather than running on that--which is different from war hero--he ran on war hero, and got cancelled because his opponent had already dominated the market there.

That's also why I named Spitzer and Feingold. Not weak. Maybe not great narrative heros, yet, but definitely not weak. There's definitely something to work with, anyway.

I don't know. Name a really good narrative we have tried to seed?

Two Americas.

I'll give you partial credit.

Who's the hero of Two Americas? (Note, it's NOT John Edwards--a guy whose dad was a Millworker who then made good, even one who fought for the poor as a trial lawyer--in some sense reinforces the Two Americas thing because there's such a difference NOW. Think of the different figure, for example, of John Edwards, Senator, and Erin Brockovich, uneducated single mom.)

What is the narrative development of Two Americas? What is the narrative interest in it? How do we get to a happy ending?

Name a succesful Hollywood movie (besides Erin Brockovich--hey TNHers, did you see me name a movie!?!? That's pop culture, even!) on which the Two Americas narrative is modeled.

See, I think you've got a good story idea, but not one that was fully developed into a narrative.

the Republicans are Bluto

the Dems, alas, are Wimpy

but the media is like Olive Oyl, and routinely falls for Bluto's scams

and the media IS to blame, for totally failing to recognize the rather profound and clear difference between Bluto and Popeye, and indeed, for trying to sell the public on the idea that Bluto IS identically a hero as is Popeye, instead of identifying Bluto for the plain thug that he so obviously is

i'm not politically experienced, maybe that's why whenever i hear about the media this and that, what "tweetie" and "timmeh" did today


about how we need to worry about a narrative


about how we should pay the piedpiper of metaphor for a few seminars

it makes me want to scream.


just suppose

that most voters are more than movie-viewing adults who want to hear a satisfying tale.

also suppose

that a nation, any nation, faces real and serious problems at any one point in time,

sometimes these problems are solved (e.g., oil/naural gas supplies boosted)


sometimes, they get worse (e.g., energy supplies not boosted and weather becomes cold for a prolonged time).

furthermore, as time passes, other problems arise for the society to solve (e.g., weather and food supply, war, demographic movement).

the reality is that all societies, all the time face a continuously changing physical, economic, and cultural environment.

in the face of this perpetual change,

is it narrative that people need


narrative they want to hear?

i doubt it.

suppose people want to hear accurate, understandable descriptions of the problems their country faces


maybe some suggestions from politicians that could lead toward a solution ?

with respect to prescriptions to cure democratic electoral ills,

context is important here.

what democrats are worrying about when they talk of media unfairness, the necessity of an appealing narrative, and the importance of metaphor in maniplating voters ("tax and spend liberals"),

comes, i think, in the context of decades of republican dominance in national politics --the suckers keep beating us.

maybe the republicans are just cleverer at manipulating or intimidating the media than democrats.

maybe republicans are shrewder or more shamelss manipulators of citizen emotion than democrats.

but, while they have won political power with these capabilities,

republicans have proved themselves unfit to rule,

unfit to rule since the day reagan took office,

yea, i said

unfit to rule!

reagan left us with huge deficits, a bandit gang of major corporations increasingly unhindered by regulation, and an irresponsible, destructive view of citizen/government interaction.

the bush presidency has, at best, been a time of domestic and foreign policy stagnation.

and it has repeatedly failed to meet the "new" problems that appear in the road before us -- serious economic, enviornmetal/energy, human capital, and security problems.

i think the democratic failure in this is not one of failing to have a "compelling" narrative


insistance on chucking our spoiled national press under its chubby little double chin.

the democratic failure is failure to describe to voters, accurately, understandably, and repetitively, the nature of some of the problems wwe face.

look at the gore or the kerry presidential compaigns. democrats were trying to ape the republican values stuff and came off looking like the fakes they were for doing so (goose hunting in camos anyone?).

in the meantime what democratic candidate engaged the citizenry in a direct coversation invovling ordinary english, not the weird, anachronistic "my-fellow-americans" rhetoric of our political campaigns, using understandable descriptions of the problems we face as a society?

no one.

no democrat.

(well, maybe dean)

finally, it is essential that democrats accurately and repeatedly describe the missed opportunities, failured programs, and profound disregard for the commonweal that sums up of the 25-year right-wing republican reign.

and in doing so they are going to have to challenge the major televison and newsppaper corporations. we really do live in a time when the news corporation's concern is first the corporation, not the news.

as i see it, the problem is not media, metaphor, or narrative. it is in faluring to connect intellectually, rationally with voters.

it is in failing to articulate that the central difference between democrats and right wing radicals is that democrats as a group genuinely care about the wellbeing of their society, their entire society.

that caring i suspect they share with a majority of their fellow voters.

Democrats are so desperate for a hero that we've embraced Fitzgerald beyond reason. But what he seems to possess is honesty and integrity, what James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck and Gary Cooper used to represent in movies. But Republicans somehow managed to coopt that brand of Americana with Ronald Reagan, a second rate version. Still, I think people are crying out to not be bullshitted and for liars to be punished.

I don't believe, by the way, that the best narrative necessarily wins. I write for television and have managed to get in some good subversive material over the years, but what gets ratings is Dancing with the Stars. The Daily Show is a blip on the radar screen. The Republicans have no shame about the big Mission Accomplished type stunts that Americans seem to love. Obviously, I find those antics to be on the nose and an embarrassment as entertainment. But it gets the equivalent of big ratings. Are we willing to sink to those depths to get our message across? Is it necessary?


I'd love if you said more.

I DON'T think the best narrative wins, not even mostly.

The thing is, though, people become accustomed to their narratives. Whether it's the narrative of Jesus or Grisham or the Simpsons, they develop a narrative competence and preference. TV doesn't work for everyone, because it's too segmented. That's why I said movie (recognizing, of course, that not all successul movies are good).

You don't get Ronnie Raygun without Star Wars. We need to find our Star Wars and replicate it--or better it.

You know, I think there's also something to be said for getting the right *combination* of narratives--having several narratives that go well together. For instance, portraying Bush as a "war hero" doesn't stand by itself. It only works when you know what he's defending (national security, conservative family values), and who's the enemy (liberals, the rest of the world). Likewise, a Democratic narrative about "competence" has to be combined with something else: besides not making mistakes, what do we stand for? I think "Two Americas" is pretty good, but maybe there's something better.

Great topic!

Regarding how the "liberal media myth" influences narrative, I think Josh at TPM made a relevent point in a post about the Howell flap on the 22nd:
"(W)hen you actually watch -- from the inside -- how mainstream newsrooms work, it is really not too much to say that they operate on two guiding principles: reporting the facts and avoiding impressions of 'liberal bias'."
In other words, the MSM has an aversion toward running a Democratic narrative because they've become so sensitized to being accused of showing "liberal bias".

As an aside, Jane did a couple of posts at FDL on crafting image using narrative here and here last month.

My own suggestion for a narrative is admittedly pretty sketchy, and needs a lot of fleshing out. But maybe if someone with better research methods than I have (I have really only been reading blogs since late oct, and this is only my 4th or 5th post) might be able to develop it into something.

First some background:
Josh again, on the 19th, brought up the story of Democratic Rep Patrick Kennedy's effort back in 2000 to file a federal lawsuit against Tom Delay for racketeering and extortion. It was a fascinating read, and very prophetic of where we find Mr Delay and his associates now, though as Josh says it was laughed off at the time.

But what caught my notice was the name Patrick Kennedy. So I went back to other blogs I had been reading earlier that evening and sure enough at FDL there was another article about the Howell/WaPo/Abramoff controversy. To support their case, WaPo had apparently put up a website detailing contributions loosely tied to Abramoff respective to each party. Highlighted on the dem side was...you guessed it...Rep Patrick Kennedy.

Now if you buy into the theory that WaPo is pushing repub spin in saying that Abramoff was a bi-partisan supporter, is it too big a leap to think that Kennedy being prominently featured is another step in that spin? To take it even further, that the people behind that spin knew Kennedy could be a formidable adversary, and did a pre-emptive hit on him before the dems even knew what a potentially powerful weapon they had in their midst?

Ok, that's a really huge stretch, but you have to admit, it's a very intriquing coincidence.

One more slight detour and I'll tie this all together. That same evening, I read the same Digby piece an earlier commenter brought up about Reid on Newshour. It seemed to me Lehrer was trying to make the point that if reform was such a major issue, why hadn't it been addressed before, and it was at that point that Reid began to stumble and fumble around for a lucid response. It also seemed to me that that would have been a perfect time to reference someone like Patrick Kennedy and his lawsuit. Better still, thinks I, the dems should make Kennedy their go-to guy on explaining the ins and outs of the repub corruption and ethics story, and put him out on the talking heads circuit. He seems to have already been onto Delay's game and had it mapped out in great detail six years ago.

And so the narrative, a la "Return of the Jedi" (or something):
Another scrappy Irishman, with a great all-American surname, takes on the evil establishment villains, gets pushed down, only to come back to lead the rebels to victory.

Ok, lots and lots of potential holes here, I admit. I know zero about Patrick Kennedy other than the two references mentioned. Does he have any major negatives working against him? Can he play well on tv and work the narrative? And probably most problematic of all, can the dems be persuaded to take this up and run with it?

Am I totally out there, or could there maybe be something to this?


Thanks for posting those FDL pieces--I was thinking of them but didn't go link them, as I should have.

I guess, even as JMM says it, I still think claiming the fear of liberal bias affects narrative is wrong. They're different things, IMO. A narrative, done well, will not feel like it's biased one way or another (consider how often a movie or book has an omnipresent narrator basically fucking with your sense of time--but you don't notice. That's what narrative can and should do). I don't doubt there is that bias, but we can't even get the David Corns of the world to tell our narrative. (Although I would say that part of the problem is that liberals think more critically, which probably makes us hyperaware of narrative and therefore less likely to buy it.)

I like your Jedi idea, savo. Take Edwards and add the Jedi side, maybe?

"I guess, even as JMM says it, I still think claiming the fear of liberal bias affects narrative is wrong. They're different things, IMO."

I agree. But combine it with the negative Democrat narative foisted by the neoconservatives:

"The Democratic "leaders" voters see on TV aren't made to appear weak and timid-that's who they are."

"the Dems, alas, are Wimpy"

"look at the gore or the kerry presidential compaigns. democrats were trying to ape the republican values stuff and came off looking like the fakes they were for doing so (goose hunting in camos anyone?)."

"Democrats are so desperate for a hero that we've embraced Fitzgerald beyond reason."

And these are, presumably, Democrat supporters. There is little reason to believe that media elites should be any more impervious to the negative branding. I'm not sure what positive narrative about Democrats can overcome the negative one, in the absence countervailing one for Republicans. Democrats will have to drag Republicans down their level, as the public eye sees it, for positive Democrat narratives to give Democrats parity.

I don't like it but Democrats at least have the great advantage that the negative Republican storyline can be fact-based and honest.

It seems like the territory that completely belongs to us now is that of the individual against big government. Republicans used to mine this territory, but It's going to be hard for them to find heroes in the future, because of what they represent--corporate America, lobyists, Big Brother. I guess that's partly why it's so easy to project our wildest hopes onto Fitzgerald--he appears to be an individual with the capacity to fight a machine. The movie I'm landing on more and more is The Fugitive, with Harrison Ford--a person in a fight with powerful forces he can't see or understand or even combat on any sort of even playing field. One of the reasons we root for the Everyman is that the game is so clearly rigged. A lot would have to go right for this to happen, but here's what I think would be a wildly successful campaign: find someone fantastic like Feingold who happens to be on the no fly list. Run the campaign from cars and buses, emphasizing that the candidate isn't allowed to fly for reasons he's not allowed to challenge or understand. Find a hero with civil liberty creds equivalent to McCain's war hero status. I said a lot would have to go right. (wheel, if you're ever interested in checking out some of my writing, go to saltinwound.com. I'm John)

I totally agree that the democrats have not embraced the idea of narratives and to me, this is the main reason they seem so rudderless. However, I wonder what you think about why the media embraces narratives, specifically narratives that fly in the face of facts. I can't figure this out at all. I think this is very important to understand in order for the dems to start pushing their own narrative. One side note, i think the social security fight is one instance where the dems pushed the narrative their way. It wasn't perfect but i think the key difference between many of the dems other failed initiatives and this was the sheer size and constant bombardment of the dem offensive (maybe that's all it really takes). I can't say it seems they've been able or are willing to replicate their success.


Dems won the Social Security fight because voters already know as much as they need to know about SS to reject the GOP drivel. It highlights a winning tactic that Dems use too little--educating the public about the facts and the policies. If people are armed with facts, they don't need to be sold a story (and they're likely to reject a GOP story that doesn't fit the facts).

Voter ignorance is colossal in so many areas it staggers the mind. A December poll by [http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=623 Harris Interactive] is bracing. Even though the level of ignorance has been dipping throughout 2005, the number of people who still think that Hussein was a threat to the U.S., and that he was connected to al Quaeda, is depressingly high. For that matter, it's disturbing that about a quarter of the population still thinks Hussein had WMD and that he was behind the 9/11 attack.

As Bush might say, "Some people would call you ignorant in the extreme, but I call you my base."

There's a lot of blame to spread around for such levels of ignorance. But clearly Dems need to do a lot better job dispelling that ignorance. I don't think people have accepted these fake facts because they were built into a credible narrative. They've accepted bizarre narratives because they'd already swallowed these fake facts...and then, after buying to absurd narratives, cognitive dissonance makes them unwilling to admit that the facts are fake.


I wouldn't be too eager to push Patrick Kennedy forward as spokesman. There've been some embarrassing episodes involving Kennedy, including an altercation with an airport security screener, that Goopers would be sure to hold up as evidence that he's a nut.

Doesn't it seem like the winning narrative for the Democrats, the perfect
fit, is dangling right here before our eyes? What could be more definitive for
an American political party and at the same time appeal to what is most deeply
rooted in the average American's identity than the narrative of protecting cilvil
liberties and civil rights? The success of the Democrats in November and for the future can and should hinge on the balance they strike between being defender's of the Bill of Rights (which is under attack! hammer it in!) and (and with that narrative as the rock) being the conscientious, diplomatic, focused policymakers at home and abroad. If the Democrats can't take the NSA spying flap and turn it into a source of political empowerment, of party definition, of seething disgust at the Republicans, of national mood-shift than we should start running chimps for office. Truly.


The public's knowledge was probably a huge factor. The right definitely had their work cut out for them trying to pull the wool over the public's eyes. But they did pump the media full of their talking points and the media repeated them, right and left. I remember Joe Klein and his story about how ss was outdated. There were 2 differences in this fight. As you cited, the public's knowledge. However, I would still argue the dem pushback put us over the top. Now maybe the pushback would not have happened if the public didn't have the knowledge to light a fire under the dems. But either way, the right pushed their talking points, and for whatever reason, the media spread them. I still don't know what that reason is (or reasons).

with respect to the comments of smintheus above and and my own:

a distinction might be useful.

"narrative" as as a description of an anylytical tool to help dissect and understand persuasive speech


"narrative" as a political "weapon", "tactic", "operation", or some such.

the former is, i would guess, unexceptional. why would you not want to look at how a persuaive political argument was structured and why it appealed using a tool such as "narrative analysis" (if such exists)?

the second use is the problem for me. in part, because in my mind it gets into the region of calculated emotional appeal, an ancient human talent of individuals, but one that is hard for organizations to manufacture convincingly.

that said, so long as it is recognized that the highest goal of political activity is to educate and inform voters about the problems and choices our society faces (yes, higher than winning), then perhaps some notion of "narrative" would be a useful part of the arsenal.

one of the things that bothers me about comments about narrative, metaphor, and media story bias is that these comments seem alwasys seem to be made in the context of admiration or envy at the republican successes of the last two decades. but, to my mind, most of those electoral success have been built on inaccurate and misleading facts, narratives, metaphors, slogan, ads, etc.

were i ever to be involved in a political campaign, i think the most fun part would be political advertising (wouldn't it be nice to have a website that allowed downloading of cogent, funny political ads).

advertising is the neglected area of education in politics. at present political ads are mendacious, misleading, stolid, boring, uninfromative, humorless.

with political advertising, narrative might prove a very useful concept to employ in designing those ads.


I would define narrative differently.

At a technical level, narrative is the telling of stories using plot, character, and (importantly) the manipulation of viewpoints and focalization. Narrative tools make stories compelling or not. To some degree, all narrative is "mendacious" because to gain and hold someone's attention (doesn't matter what medium they watch or what kind of narratives) you need to manipulate them.

I'd also say that there are cognitive scientists who argue that narrative is a critical part of thinking like a human. Perhaps not the only way people think (some have made that argument--I'd argue that'd ignore the value of dialogue and critical reasoning), but one absolutely fundamental to who we are.

Another way to think about it is that successful human societies have organizing narratives. If the people of those societies can buy into the dominant narrative, it goes a long way to achieving harmony. This narrative used to be (and may again be) religion. But nationalism is another narrative. THe US narrative has been different (although not unique) in its investment in other abstract values, distinct from nationalism and religion.

To the degree that a politician's narrative reinforces a succesful national narrative, he will also be successful (JFK was probably the last to do this really well). Bush and Reagan, I think, are actually shifting our national narrative to something different, that of world sheriff rather than harbinger of all that's good.

I promise I'll stop soon, but another area where the GOP seems vulnerable is in the way they've championed stupidity. A big part of Bush's "appeal" is that he's like us, he doesn't read, he makes disparaging statements about lawyers and intellectuals. This plays to the part of the populace that doesn't want a leader who's smarter than they are. And it coincides with a rash of movies starting in the 90s like Forest Gump, Dumb and Dumber, the elevation of the idiot to starring status. In contrast, Kennedy promised the best and the brightest. And a big part of Fitzgerald's charisma stems from his superior intellect. In an increasingly complex world, I prefer to be governed by smart people, preferably much smarter than myself.


thanks for your informative words. it sounds like you're thinking in terms of something akin to political "myths of creation". the thought that we may have changed our narrative in that sense is novel to me and startling.

in your initial post i took you to be talking more concretely, in the here-and-know about improving the showing of candidates (democratic?) in (national?) elections in the present time.

i was reacting not to "narrative" in your larger sense, but to the "selling" of politics in american elections using decades old madison avenue techniques formerly used to sell bread, cars, and beer.

talk about techniques of political salesmanship sometimes turns to using metaphor and narrative (i.e. a script for the candidate to follow) to sell the candidate, party, and policy.

this "selling" in american politics, as opposed to "educating", seems to me largely responsible, over the last 25 years, for manipulating an ignorant and foolish electorate into decisions that are to their individual detriment and that of the nation.

i cannot let go of the notion of a citizenry of well-informed individuals making wise political decisons that lead to successful management of the country's economic, demographic, security problems.

but none of us automatically grow up wise and well-informed. we require the assistance of more experienced and more knowledgeable "teachers".

in human affairs, it seems, we always end up with the two-step communication process - those who know most (and maybe best) pass on knowledge and understanding to those of us who have less.

for this to work well in politics, there has to be, on the part of the "politician/teachers", a certain sincerity of purpose and regard for the collective well-being as well as for individual benefit.

american politics over the last 25 years has largely lacked "teaching" leaders with this sincerity of purpose. in fact, the predominant theme sold to voters has been the antagonism of collective effort and individual effort ("tax and spend liberals") rather than their mutuality.

voters have consistently but narrowly supported a party (republican), its ideology and policies, that they have been told, by that party, are in their interests and that of their nation, but which are, in fact, largely in the interst of very wealthy individuals and large corporations.


No, I was speaking of large myths AND intermediate campaigns. But I was pointing out that narrative is more than just brand imaging, which is what a lot of teh advertising you cite is (although a lot of it RELIES on narrative to create it's images).

The Bush narrative (and Reagan) narrative is that there are big bad evildoers out there and Strong Mr. President will take them on directly and vanquish them. It's easy because it is a very classic narrative, good versus evil, and one that is reinforced in almost every medium.

Bush has maintained that narrative since 9/11 and (less successfully) beforehand. One of the reasons why people believe he's a regular guy, in spite of all the evidence, is because the characters that play strong saviors are so often regular guys. Plain speaking.

A lot of what has been discussed on this thread doesn't take an idea or an image and develop it into a full narrative, which makes it harder to sustain AND harder to retain people's attention.

To go back to the Two Americas idea. The idea is laudable, one that is a relatively common narrative (although no where near as common as the strong evil slayer). But we haven't developed a character appropriate to the narrative (mix Kucinich and Edwards, and you might get there). Nor did Edwards describe the two Americas in terms of narrative conflict. It was "strong rich lawyer is going to save people" as much as it was "damnit, I'm going to lead all of us ordinary people and we're going to fight back against that evil corporate evildoer, just like we did here and here and here."

See the difference?

thanks for taking the time to explain. there's a whole lot more here than i understood there to be.

Just a theory on the bullet point "The 'liberal' media mantra has been so pervasive" and your comment that you don't get it:

We started hearing this "liberal media" crap in the late sixties from the Nixon crew, and we've been hearing it ever since. At the time, it didn't work. BUT...

Repugnicant think tanks had lots of deep pockets, and they hired the best of the public relations and advertising psychologists. (I've been maintaining since 1966 that Americans were the most highly brainwashed nation in the world. They surely were the targets of the largest, most expensive psychological experiments in history, via television advertising.)

I think they discovered this: there are two likely responses to a constant drumbeat that you are "something" (be it liberal or whatever). They also knew you had to be persistent over a long time to succeed. Initially, some of the media people may have rebelled and veered somewhat left of where they were, just as if to say "Don't tell ME what to do. I'LL show you LIBERAL!" If they did, they played right into the slogan.

The other response is also a rebellion, of sorts: "We ARE NOT!!!!" And so you take the greatest of care to root out any possible impluse to be liberal, just to prove them wrong. You bend over backwards to be "fair and balanced", always presenting both sides or all possible sides of any issue, until now we see Intelligent Design treated with equal seriousness to evolution science, stock portfolios treated as just as safe as Social Security. In this way, without intending it journalists can make utterly wacko ideas sound mainstream and serious, and above all simply give them exposure and consideration they would never have had. P. T. Barnum's dictum does the rest.

In any case, it does leave the Right as the actors and the Left as complacent, passive, and unaware. And the Left has a choice: remain passive and get the crap kicked out of us, or fight back hard and smart. We have one thing on our side that the right lacks: reality.

Though the Dems do need to muster better narrative, they shouldn't overworry. The GOP has far more overwhelming problems of its own, and is headed for electoral Armageddon in 2006. As GOP'ers will freely admit, when the mikes are off.

This Armageddon would have occurred in 2004, but our man Kerry lacked a few fundamental vertebrae.

We'll know the Dems have found spine when they begin to take hard direct shots upon the tenets of Neoconservatism. As in, Neoconservatism on the Right AND on the Left.

Could such a thing ever happen? Yes, perhaps, but probably not 'till AFTER the next war. As in -- Iran. Plus Syria.

The only real hope for the Dems (and the GOP, frankly) is complete and total free speech on the Internet. The anti-freespeech crowd has been lobbing its tentacles upon the Internet -- of late -- which is not at all good. We should be on constant red alert on this front.

It's no Luke Skywalker, but what about the character of... the "Transcendentalist"?
The classic Thoreau/Emerson character who is salt of the earth and yet dreams big
through that prism of "America". He probably wouldn't take too kindly to lobbyists and he'd put on one hell of a stump speech. And isn't he, in some way, who both the liberals and the conservatives are at heart (though they each take a seperate path)?
Doesn't the Information Age, more than any other, need a Transcendentalist?
Don't the Democrats?

Jim Hill

You know, I think you're describing these as two separate things: repetition (which may or may not support a narrative) and narrative. In any case, the repretition thing is easy. And it's something we're getting better at, more insistent. Can we put it together with a narrative?


Yeah, I think the GOP is beating itself. But wouldn't it be nice if, instead of this being a story about Native American political donations, it was a story about selling our Federal government to the higest bidder? If we could actually capture the wholesale destruction of the Federal government the Republicans have undertaken in the last 30 years?



I do kind of like that. It'd be tricky, though, since transcenentalists are such inward-focused creatures. Hard to get a campaign rally excited over transcendentalism. But it is the archetypal all-American competent.

Well usually all I have to do is wait and somebody says what I would have said, but this time 'wheel and Orion seem to have glanced off it instead of tackling it directly, so...

The narratives that work are a known quantity. They're all variations and recombinations that have shown up in a thousand guises; ancient myths, folks stories, hollywood extravaganzas, childhood fables, fairy tales... There's a tendancy to think that the to-do list for reclaiming the narrative looks like this:

1) come up with a narrative which is electorally effective
2) substitute that narrative for the current one

I think that's an inefficient way to think about the problem at hand. What we're really talking about here is:

1) choosing and embracing (as opposed to "coming up with") existing narratives
2) casting the roles in a way which is electorally effective

It's choosing and casting that work. Choosing works because "conscientious loner speaks truth to power" (think Mr. Smith goes to Washington) is a terrifically powerful narrative, with an inherently political aspect, but it's not useful electorally. And stuff like "boy meets girl" is more or less useless electorally, even though it's used all the time in commercial advertising (think breath freshener ads). By the same token though, "plucky underdogs prevail against all odds" (think Bad News Bears) is electorally useful because it draws the audience into the narrative in a participatory way. It makes you want to be one of the plucky underdogs. It makes you want to join that tribe.

Casting works because people unavoidably see themselves and others in terms of archetypes. And it's the casting of entities into the archetypal roles -- not the plotline -- that gives a particular version of an old storyline its immediate impact. The Star Wars cycle is one of the most powerful narratives in living memory, but at heart it's shamelessly and deliberately cobbled together from old myths. That's a good thing, not a bad thing. And what gives it its power is the way in which it populates the archetypes. (well okay, that and a truly awesome soundtrack...)

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that there already exists a "Dems save Constitution from evil Republicans" storyline, and that it will gain the most strength not from repeating the storyline but from populating it. In fact, the most effective thing Dems can do right now is to paint themselves, in so many words, as defending the Constitution (or the republic or 2nd amendment rights or whatever) from a menacing GOP. Worrying about the plotline is mostly wasted effort, because the plot itself is going to follow an age-old script no matter what anybody says.

Great points, radish. Unfortunate though to talk about the importance of casting and Star Wars in the same paragraph. Star Wars showed it doesn't matter who you cast. Aside from Harrison Ford, what a shitty bunch of actors.


"Can we put it (repetition) together with narrative?"

I'd argue that the Repugs have adopted simple, resonant narratives that lent themselves to repetition:

"Liberal Media = biased."
"Abortion = murder."
"Taxes = unfair"
"Government = incompetent."
"Welfare = lazy cheating"

We can quibble whether a simple declarative statement is a narrative or not. The story doesn't end there. The Repug narratives/slogans played on fears, especially on fears people don't want to acknowledge. White, blue-collar workers were targeted for their fear of losing their job to a lower-paid black or immigrant person. White, middle-class people were targeted for their fear of losing money to taxes that went to "welfare queens," defined outside the narrative as unmarried black women with too many children who drove Cadillacs.

Or fear of wasting taxes on useless programs: In the late '70's a joke was circulated by right-wing think tanks about OSHA, that said OSHA had put out a letter to ranchers warning that they should be careful of stepping on cow pies because they could slip and fall and hurt themselves. That framed OHSA as a bunch of incompetent bureaucrats who deserved to be unemployed, and ridiculed their mission of workplace safety.

In most cases, I think repetition was a key element. Say it often enough and it becomes true, the old Goebbles treatment.

Narrative has to exist in a "frame" or carry one with it, as in George Lakoff's writings. Democrats have been lousy at this, and utterly lousy at recognizing and responding to frames hung on them by Repugs. I won't try to pass as an expert here, but I've got some opinions. One is that Repugs have had 30 years to craft an overall, integrated set of frames that move seamlessly from Religious Right morality to Fiscal Conservative to Tax "Reform" to Preemptive Empire Defense.

One example is how they have advanced the concept of religion-based morality as a basis for law; hence the arguments that play well both with the Religious Right and with many secular judges, that laws against murder and theft are based in the 10 commandments, which come from God. That's a connection that has always been made in our history, but a wall of separation of church and state had been built through it. But you can reframe it. Morality doesn't depend on God. It arises purely out of the human condition: we are a social species, and we survive and thrive better when we cooperate than when we complete violently. So we make rules that we won't kill each other or steal each other's stuff. God has a right to agree, but the laws aren't based on God's dictum.

Now, that's awkward. (That's why I'm no expert on framing.) But abortion is an example of where the right framed it brilliantly and the left failed utterly to cope: Pro-life vs Pro-choice. If there's a hierarchy here, which one wins without further argument? The hierarchy is implicit in the term "Pro-life," and the first time you refer to one of them as "pro-life" you've lost the argument; you can't EVER use their term. Pro-choice as a response to "pro-life" automatically carries with it the implication of murder commited for selfish ends. NONE of this is true; but it's all conveyed in the simple frame "pro-life".

Somebody like Lakoff - who, incidentally, is a brilliant analyst but is absolutely no Frank Luntz at the art of framing - is essential to this kind of argument. Had I been involved at the time, knowing what I know now, I might have suggested hanging the term "pro-death" or "anti-human" on the anti-abortion people. "We protect the unborn; after birth, you're on your own. God wills it."

Another Repug creation was their resurrection of neoclassical economic dogma, long discredited by the experiences of the 1890's and 1930's depressions. Generally, Americans again believe without question that if you have it, you deserve it. God helps those who help themselves, so Help Yourself, take all you can grab! Greed is good! It helps the Market function perfectly. If you're poor, you deserve it. It's a Crime against the Market to take tax money from the rich and give it to the poor. (Read Thomas Frank's book "One Market Under God" to see how they did it.) It's a frame within which literally hundreds of different "morality play" narratives are possible. And Clinton fell for most of it and pushed it: "End welfare as we know it." On Newt Gingrich's terms.

Republicans have mastered not just narrative, but coordinated, integrated narrative, by mastering framing. It took a long time, a lot of money, and a lot of focus groups to create it. We're not going to do it overnight.

We can learn by studying them. Here is the first lesson: They lie; let's not. Ultimately, the truth when framed properly is much more powerful.

I keep coming back to these comments because there's a sense in them of
being on the brink of something. With the Democratic Party's narrative so gridlocked,
either by being daunted by it's own complexity or too unfocused or too timid, there
is an open oppurtunity to redefine it, redirect it. A few months after the Bush '04
win, I got the chance to see Howard Dean speak on his "Red State" tour as the DNC
chairman. It was at a packed concert hall. The energy in the room prior to the
speech was genuine. People came to the event with the momentum of polictical
awareness and action. They just needed to be told what to do now, having lost the
election. And old Howard comes out and launches into this canned, defeatist, "there
is hope for all if there is hope for one" stump speech, using words like "ostracized" and "marginalized" when referring to Democrats in Red states. Instead of harnessing
the ambtition and energy, he divided it into shout-outs to the cliched factions who would hear their cause and cheaply applaud. The outcome was ostracizing and marginalizing, but to voters within the party. We, as Democrats, were being defined by
our differences. Which is why thinking about the narrative (I should say the "political
narrative") is so instructive. It presumes there is something personal and political which unites us.


Absolutely brilliant. Bingo.

Jim Hill

We can quibble whether a simple declarative statement is a narrative or not.

Technically, a sentence is only considered a narrative if it convey cause and effect. So, no, a declarative sentence, by itself, is not a narrative. "The media is liberal" not a narrative. "The media is liberal so it hurts the country" is a narrative.

That's why I'm so insistent that the liberal bias issue is a separate (but important) issue from the question of narrative. Free-floating declarative sentences are the medium out of which the Republicans have built their narrative. But they're not the narrative. They're no more decisive than paint or film stock or a word. And, really, those free-floating declarative sentences only work within the kind of narrative that radish is talking about.


I think that's an important point. Dems, because of their diversity, too often fall into divisive frames. What we need to do is tell a story that is about strength through diversity.

SaltinWound LOL, yes, point taken. I'm thinking more of the characters than the actors, so please substitute "populated" for cast.

emptywheel, thank you. Coming from you I consider that a big deal...

Another amusing and revealing thing... My sweetie (who is very idealistic but essentially apolitical) said out of the blue this morning that Dems need to market themselves as sexy and virile and paint Repubs as repressed and joyless. She also pointed out that at least in re the presidency the people who have won in recent memory have consistently displayed more sexual charisma and less inhibition, regardless of party affiliation. I responded that I thought of Kerry as pretty damn sexy despite his inhibitions, but being male hetero I was willing to give her opinion extra weight ;-)

In any event, I had to agree that any way you cut it, sex sells. "Dems are hot" is a declarative that really matters, electorally speaking. Furthermore, I would argue that an obscure but significant consequence of the ferment that's developed in the liberal blogosphere over that past few years is that those of us who participate in it have experienced -- for better or worse, both male and female -- the testosterone boost that comes with an enhanced sense of one's own status. The Deborah Howell dustup in particular seems to have shifted a lot of blogizens' ideas about their place in the national pecking order, and the outcome of the Alito filibuster is going to have an effect as well. More liberal testosterone isn't (IMO) an exclusively good thing, but the social feedback loop between enhanced self-esteem and enhanced status is clearly visible now. Which definitely changes the landscape.


I suggest you read David Brock's Noise Machine book.

this post reads too clever by half. Noone is saying its all the medias fault. Even in the quoted posts that is made clear. That's just a strawmen erected and as quickly brought down.

liberal media bias is a narrative in and of itself. don't trust the media; they are biased. They are liberal, and you know what they say about liberals. (insert insult of the week.) it's a huge mobilization, polarization and propoganda tool for the movement conservatives. no bad news for the GOP is ever as bad as the liberal media reports - they're exaggerating, or more probably getting it wrong. similarly, they go out of their way to puff up the Democrats. Stuff like that. And when the news is really bad, they turn out the volume. They shout, they scream, they rant, about anything and everything, trying to change the subject. And usually they succeed. Most of the Democrats that appear on shows are pretty weak.. when they appear.

It's helped them amass a huge network of media pressure groups at every level. It's led to the creation of feeder news services who pass on stories that end up in the mainstream media. media figures are afraid to make independent judgements of facts. they get jumped on.

Also, if you haven't read the Daily Howlers posts on what the media did to Gore, you should!

Truth makes it's own frames, ones that show agitprop frames to be illusions. Try and get the truth on media, then watch what happens. Do you agree that Gore told the truth on M.L. King's Day when he identified the threat Bush poses to Rule of Law? What was sustained coverage like? From near-zero to slightly derisive, if I recall.

Media's structure is feudal, not democratic. The Board hires the executives, who staff. The boards are composed of men [not a reversion to old stereotypes] also on the boards of companies who make profit on war, drugs, chemicals, mass foods, and financial shenanigans.

The executive understands that job security depends on not crossing the Board, by say, pointing out that "Star Wars" is designed to defeat nukes that have been replaced by new generations that do not behave the way the old ones did. In other words, even if we could achieve the impossible and frustrate 1970s nukes, we'd be completely helpless in front of what is now actually deployable.

An executive editor at the NY Times knows that at least one board-member also has an obligation to promote the Carlylse (sp?) Group, who has an interest in "Star Wars."

So you ain't holding a job if you don't push the line. And the line for a cartelized media with monopoly over content, will always be "Power-Grabbers Good, Opponents Bad." no matter what the Democrats "craft."

Their only chance is to actually become alarmed about the precipice the rule of King George the Contemptible has brought our nation to. Stick with this central political truth of our time, dismissing their attacks as diversionary (and cowardly/unprincipled where applicable) and always bringing it back to either BushCo's incompetence, lies, untrustworthiness, cluelessness....

And standing up for what's right and true is where Dems have been failing us. (I'm getting my hopes up a little with this Alito filibuster push...)


Regarding your point about Daou's bullet "The 'liberal' media has been so pervasive" that "This one, I confess, I don't get." I just took it this way: the "myth" of the liberal media implies a de facto conservative media, at least in the aggregate. Daou's statement seems to imply that Democrats have been overwhelmed in the face of it, especially as "Republicans have mastered the art of institutional rage against the media, Democrats have not." I think he's identifying multiple causes here: passive Dems, activist Repugs, and a media that hasn't been seeing things the way we do.

I guess I'm not seeing the point of your writing here. You're not happy with the portrayal of Dems as passive, as failing to act when they should; you ask "Where's the agency here" about Daou's "'Blame the media' feels like a cop-out." But then you say "In fact, "blame the media" does feel like a cop-out to me," which to me could imply some failing or passiveness on the part of Dems. If "blame the media" is a cop-out, that leaves two actors in the story (leaving out readers/viewers): passive Democrats and active Republicans.

At the end of your post, you say "Rather than assessing the problem in such a way that--again--paints us as the passive weakling party, describe what we can actively do about it." I had the impression Daou was trying to highlight and define a problem. I'm an engineer. There's a saying that defining a problem is 90% of solving it. In that sense, Daou has done us a service by defining a problem. If you agree with the definition - and you seem to - what's wrong with just accepting the definition - or tweaking it - and moving on to designing the solution?

I'm all for that; Dems have done a lot of soul-searching, and it's time for some real strategic thinking and planning.

I've read a couple of George Lakoff's books, and I think he's got a start on training Democrats to deal with media. In an earlier comment I mentioned the concept of framing, assuming you - and everyone else here - is familiar with it, and perhaps that was a bad assumption. I'm willing to elaborate, although Lakoff is a far better source than I could be, since he writes the analysis. His books and some writings are available at http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/. If I'm teaching what's already known, I apologize and you can certainly ignore it.

Briefly, an example of framing is the term "tax relief." Here's Lakoff, in Don't Think of an Elephant:

"On the day the George W. Bush arrived in the White house, the phrase tax relief started coming out of the White House...
"Think of the framing for relief. For there to be relief there must be an affliction, an afflicted party, and a reliever who removes the affliction and is therefore a hero. And if people try to stop the hero, those people are villains for trying to prevent relief.
"When the word tax is added to relief, the result is a metaphor: Taxation is an affliction. And the person who takes it away is a hero, and anyone who tries to stop him is a bad guy. This is a frame. It is made up of ideas, like affliction and hero. The language that evokes the frame comes out of the White House, and it goes into press releases, goes to every radio station, every TV station, every newspaper. And soon the New York Times is using tax relief. And it is not only on Fox; it is on CNN, it is on NBC, it is on every station because it is "the president's tax-relief plan." And soon Democrats are using tax relief – and shooting themselves in the foot.
"It is remarkable. I was asked by the Democratic senators to visit their caucus just before the president's tax plan was to come up in the Senate. They had their version of the tax plan, and it was there version of tax relief. They were accepting the conservative frame. The conservatives had set a trap: The words draw you into their worldview.
"That is what framing is about. Framing is about getting language that fits your worldview. It is not just language. The ideas are primary – and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas."

So here you have the "passive Democrats" and the "active Republicans," and the "so-called Liberal media" whom we consider conservative, but who are just using the terminology given them by Frank Luntz and Karl Rove through the propaganda apparatus of the White House.

Remember that Republicans have occupied the White House for 25 of the last 37 years. That's more than a 2 to 1 ratio, and a lot of time to use that considerable propaganda machine. To the extent that mainstream media adopt the terminology handed to them by the White House press office, they will be conservative 2 to 1 over the last 37 years. Statistical margins much slimmer than that create baseball dynasties like the New York Yankees. To the extent the Democrats have accepted that terminology, they are passive, ignorant, and foolish. Part of the strategy is that we have to change that.

Lakoff's book Don't Think of an Elephant comes with an endorsement by Markos: "I don't think I've ever said 'You have to get this book.' But there's always a first time for everything. Lakoff's findings will help rescue the Democratic Party from itself..."

Jim P:

You wrote this, and I'm seeking to understand it: "Truth makes it's own frames, ones that show agitprop frames to be illusions. Try and get the truth on media, then watch what happens."

If you're using "frame" in George Lakoff's sense, then I don't understand it. In his use, a frame is a use of language that "fits your worldview. It is not just language. The ideas are primary – and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas."

Frame is a linguistics concept. It has little to do with truth or lies; it is a vessel that carries one or the other, or something in between.

You go on to rail about the structure of the media. Yes, it's probably feudal. There's probably very little we can do about it, except to understand how it works and find some techniques to exploit it, as the Republicans have.

When the Republicans started out forty years ago, after Lyndon Johnson kicked Barry Goldwater's canteen in 1964's landslide, they didn't have all this good stuff. They had to learn it, invent it.

So do we.

If the media didn't play Gore's speech more, it's probably because he fits a frame that Republicans have been harping on for a long time, one that marginalizes him and makes him not newsworthy in their eyes. What is that frame? I don't know, exactly. I said in an earlier comment I'm no expert on framing, and I say here that I'm not a professor of cognative science and linguistics; Lakoff is. But there's a coherence in what Lakoff is saying that convinces me he's worth studying.

Frames turn up as phrases that you see widely used, and they're probably fed out of rightwing thinktanks to their bloggers and pundits. Overall the propaganda on the right seems tightly coordinated. On the left, it's an utter patchwork. We need to work on what unites us, and how we frame it. Come up with new frames and at the least, the media peoples' interest might get tickled.

Here's a Lakoff/Halpin article called Framing Katrina that gives a good, detailed account of the difference in conservative and progressive use of framing, and some suggestions. Here's a quote:

"Whenever conservatives have their back to the wall, they redouble their efforts and turn disaster -- literally and figuratively -- into ideological and political gain. Right-wing leaders are using this moment as another chance to solidify power by appealing to the general conservative principles that have been developed and disseminated for decades.

"By contrast, progressives for the most part don’t understand deep framing -- framing at the level of values and principles. Progressives are trying to win but they are fighting on the wrong battlefield altogether. They are telling truths -- lots of them, of all kinds. A buckshot load of truths, mostly aimed at Bush."

He goes on to list some of that "buckshot load of truths" and then explains why those truths don't stick, will fade with time, and the conservative framing of the hurricane's tragedy will stay, because they frame it in terms of "values and principles".

Read it. I think you'll reintrepret your statement about truth creating its own frame.

Arf. It's late. I need to go fall down.

Jim Hill,

Yes, I'm familiar with Lakoff (and a lot more academic work that is related). But note, Daou wasn't talking about framing, he was talking about narratives. They're not the same thing (which might explain why you asserted that a declarative sentence could be a narrative; a declarative sentence CAN be a frame, but it can't be a narrative). And the "liberal media" attacks are a third thing, a tactic rather than content.

So if you take your engineer analogy, I'd say, first of all, Daou is conflating two causes of a problem, the liberal media attacks and the narrative problem. As an engineer, I'm sure you can understand how treating two distinct problem as if they are the same problem isn't going to help you fix the problems. If you've got a faulty design and weak bolts, you don't assume the design will be fixed by replacing the bolts.

Now, frankly, I agree with Daou, it's about narrative and not JUST about framing. Because narrative helps someone gain and keep attention on a given frame--it provides the resilience which the Republicans actually have and which we're fighting against. Frames are critically important, but they're going to be much more effective within a larger narrative. (And note, though I strongly disagree with Lakoff's Strong father and nurturing parent binary, he is pointing to one aspect of the larger Republican narrative with the strong father frame.)

I'd also disagree with your statement that If "blame the media" is a cop-out, that leaves two actors in the story (leaving out readers/viewers): passive Democrats and active Republicans. No, it leaves you with passive Dems, active Republicans, and complex media that need to be better understood.

Rather than blaming the media, I'd ask (as a good engineer ought) why is the media more responsive to the Republicans than to Democrats. Daou does point out that Dems have been crappy at providing narrative (and I'd agree). So I think Daou and I agree that the first thing we can do is to get better at delivering narrative. But is there anything else we can do to make the media more responsive? Is there another explanation for WHY even our good ideas (Two Americas) don't get much play?

As soon as you use the phrase "blame the media"--and particularly in an article that places so much emphasis on what the media does rather than what Dems could do--you're moving away from the things we can change. You're encouraging--and replicating--that meme of weak democrats. And you're not doing the analysis that will move you beyond blame to actual solutions about how you can change the situation.

Jim HIll, thanks for your thoughtful and respectful response...

Sorry I was writing late at night and wasn't as clear as I'd like, and now I'm writing early, so might not do better.

You wrote: In [Lakoff's] use, a frame is a use of language that "fits your worldview. It is not just language. The ideas are primary – and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas." Frame is a linguistics concept. It has little to do with truth or lies; it is a vessel that carries one or the other, or something in between..

That's what I was trying to get to with "Truth makes it's own frames." A frame is an artificiality, a crafted device, an invention, to promote one's world-view, and like you say, without regard to truth or falsity. Ideas, however, have an intrinsic relationship to truth and falsity. If your ideas are false, your frames must ignore/skew reality in order to support them. A true idea will automatically generate language which, although having commonalities to mere frames, will also transcend the entire issue of manipulating appearances.

Take Bush's illegal spying, which he frames as "listening in on the terrorists." Then bring out the fact that they were actually listening to US citizen, non-terrorist-connected, anti-war Quakers (for arguments sake: I know it's not yet established re: NSA, but it's to be expected given what other agencies have done).

That truth automatically generates in the mind of the beholder the frames "Bush is a liar," "Bush is subverting American values," 'Bush is acting illegally." Give the facts of the spying even a quarter of the exposure the Bush frame gets, and most people will have these-counter frames in their mind even if they are never explicitly stated. In short, I'm saying that the truth goes straight to conscience, and will trump any artificial construct. The issue is not that Dems need to construct "frames" that project one's worldview, but they need to base their worldview on that which is true, and then simply speak that truth.

The problem is that the media is consciously and intentionally devoted to promoting the frames of the putschists, and excluding truth, and that which flows from it. For example, the treatment of Clinton vs. Bush regarding lying and corrupt practices.

The entire enterprise of falsely, but successfully, framing things rests exclusively on the central reality: the media-as-is acts as collaborators with the Republican spin machine. This cannot be disputed, at least if you are going to use evidence.

There are no frames the Democrats can come up with that will be given sustained exposure. Their only option is to state the truth clearly and forcefully every time they are given a chance to be on media, although not in the scatter-shot method we've had, but focusing on the key alledged strengths of BushCo (trustworthiness, firm, strong defender, etc). A 10-minute dose of truth will have more power than a 10-day barrage of lies. This is how a majority of Americans have come to turn against the Iraq war, even though the media--hell, the Democrats as a party!--has never really promoted turning against it. But truth has leaked out from straight news reports, and what people are hearing from returning troops.

I hope I was clearer.

And I wasn't merely railing against media. I was pointing out that they have a vested interest in preserving and promoting the Bushist agenda, and in stymying it's opposition. The monopoly control of content is the greatest danger to Democracy we face, since all other domestic threats depend upon it for their success.

We do need to blame the media, and we desparately need to begin breaking up the Cartels, so instead of 5 or 6 companies controlling the stream, we have--like we used to--hundreds. Then framing, which depends on pervasive saturation, becomes much less significant, and the truth has a chance to start circulating. It is our failure to address the centrality of media's monopoly of content that is our undoing. In the meantime, we must take every instance to promote what is true, without regard to how it will be taken and treated by the media filter.

jim p

Thanks for bringing up media cartels. I didn't get into what happens when we consider media as a complex problem that needs to be understood rather than just the guilty party. But if we recognize how conglomeration reinforces the same storylines regardless of what the storyline is, we're going to begin to understand other things we can do to combat the problem.


You wrote "...I'm familiar with Lakoff (and a lot more...)" Then you probably know a whole lot more on the subject than I. I'm getting the feeling that there are connotations to the word "narrative" that I'm not familiar with that informs your writing. I'd appreciate it if you can enlighten me or point me at some source reading.

"So if you take your engineer analogy...the bolts." Agreed. Looks like you're working on defining the problem, in my analogy, and that's good.

My understanding of Lakoff's ideas is that you fit a narrative into a frame, to support and extend it. It's all an integrated whole. And I agree that his strong father vs nurturing parent dichotomy needs work. That's why I said Lakoff is not Frank Luntz. Luntz seems to have an innate talent at creating frames and narratives (he's a born liar?), and Lakoff is still pretty awkward about it.

"But is there anything else we can do to make the media more responsive?" I sure don't know what that is, but here's a thought: In the anti-Vietnam war protest era, a movement developed called the Yippies. They did street theater kinds of things, and they got the idea that if you went out and did outrageous things and got the media, you could craft a message and get it out via TV. This worked for a while, and then the media started to pick up on it and used it themselves. (Current reality TV shows are a descendant of this; it doesn't matter what you show, as long as it's outrageous. People prostituting themselves by sucking up to Donald Trump sells. For a while.) The ultimate extension of this kind of thing was Paddy Chayefsky's 1976 film Network where the network gets revolutionaries with machine guns to assassinate Howard Beal live on the show. (Scares me how much current television reflects Chayefsky's dark vision.) My point is that most anti-war demonstrations are still boringly the same as they were, except that they've become a highly ritualized exhibition of coordination between civic bureaucracies and protest leaders, and the news coverage usually deals more with traffic disruption than protest message; i.e., there's no news there if news is what bleeds or explodes.

To me this represents an obvious lack of understanding of how the media work, but the Seattle WTO protesters also demonstrated a lack of understanding of how to get their message through all the media hype. Maybe it can't be done; but the media reported on people smashing windows or turning over cars. That's information about the media and how it works, and the public response to those protests demonstrates that a frame has been built around such events that makes many people see them in a highly negative way. That frame is the "strict father" model Lakoff talks about; these are misbehaving kids who need to be dealt with by that strict father. That's more information about the media and the frame it now presents. The frame may be built-in, that is, caused by consolidated, conservative ownership; it may also be imposed by the likes of Frank Luntz and Karl Rove. Or both. (In either case, I don't see Lakoff's nurturing parent model as a useful counter-frame, in this particular case.)

I think we have to ask about whether the media is even the place to get a message or narrative across. All the life on the left, and a lot of it on the right, center on the internet now. Sometimes it seems that the way to get a message out through the media is to make something happen bigtime in the blogosphere. But if not the media, then what? TV is still where most people in the U. S. get their "news" such as it is.

Anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent here. I think my point is that the frame and the narrative work together as an integrated whole, and that probably the frame is the more fundamental, more important component; the narrative needs to support and extend the frame.

Here's Lakoff from Framing Katrina:

"Whenever conservatives have their back to the wall, they redouble their efforts and turn disaster -- literally and figuratively -- into ideological and political gain. Right-wing leaders are using this moment as another chance to solidify power by appealing to the general conservative principles that have been developed and disseminated for decades.

"By contrast, progressives for the most part don’t understand deep framing -- framing at the level of values and principles. Progressives are trying to win but they are fighting on the wrong battlefield altogether. They are telling truths -- lots of them, of all kinds. A buckshot load of truths, mostly aimed at Bush.

* Bush lacked leadership.
* Bush was told in advance and didn’t respond in time.
* Bush had sent the National Guard to Iraq when its ranks were needed at home.
* Bush loaded the Federal Emergency Management Agency with incompetent political hacks like Michael Brown.
* Bush took money from levee reconstruction and used it for the war and to render tax cuts.
* Bush failed to preserve the wetlands that would have mitigated the storm surge, reversing Clinton policy.
* Bush has refused to address global warming, which contributes to the frequency and severity of hurricanes.

"These truths might temporarily tarnish the Bush administration, perhaps making his ratings go down a few points for a while. But without the power of deep frames to hold them together and back them up, these truths will disappear from the public debate and they will fail to advance the broader truth: that Katrina proves the failure of conservatism."

He goes on with suggestions on how progressives should proceed, and I suggest reading the article I linked to; I won't load NextHurrah up with all of it.

Moving along: You wrote "I'd also disagree ...No, it leaves you with...complex media that need to be better understood." I think we're both pulling the rope in the same direction.

You wrote: "As soon as you use the phrae 'blame the media'....you're moving away from the things we can change." Agree, 100%. Rupert Murdoch can change the media. We can't, at least not directly. We can perhaps change the audience's sensibilities.

Thank you for provoking a lot of thoughtful discussion; let's find ways to turn this stuff into action.


I'm not sure that I agree that a frame is always and necessarily "an artificiality, a crafted device, an invention..." As I've said, I'm not a cognitive science / linguistics specialist; but I thought that one of the fundamental linguistics tenets was that people tend to use language to frame reality, and do it unconsciously and naturally. That's what's supposed to give framing, when it IS artificial and crafted, the power that it has - especially in the hands of a world-class liar like Joseph Goebbels or Frank Luntz or Karl Rove.

Jim, part of the theory is that you can create frames that either make people not see what doesn't fit in the frame, or else that make them warp and twist new information to fit the frame. If you see the world through the "strict father" frame that Lakoff identifies, you'll see the Seattle WTO protests as a bunch of kids in need of fatherly discipline, and you won't see their message that globalization is exploitation and it's immoral. If you see it through an ethical and egalitarian frame, you'll hear the message and ignore the vandalism. Neither frame takes in the whole scene; each of them sees what fits. The frame actually becomes a filter through which you perceive reality.

You've said that truth generates its own frames; I'll counter that "truth" is subjective and depends on the frame; if it doesn't fit the frame, it doesn't get through because it doesn't meet my criteria for "truth". So, if I'm seeing the world from through the "strict father" frame, I see the world as dangerous and needing a strict father, a hero, to protect the children at all costs. And Luntz and Rove have framed Bush as our Father, our hero. When I hear that Bush is doing surveillance, I'll think "That's good! He's protecting us." I won't even see the part that says he's spying on Americans; or, if I do, I'll automatically assume that Father Knows Best.

You may be right that "There are no frames the Democrats can come up with that will be given sustained exposure." But that will be true only if a sufficiently large portion of media writers and producers see the world through the strict father frame. I think the jury's still out, and that's part of the great work of analyzing the media to learn how to get through it with a narrative message. Somewhere in some university, professors and grad students have already done the analysis we need. Somebody needs to turn it into a strategy.

You're absolutely right about our "scattershot method" – see the Lakoff quote in my post above to emptywheel. I believe that the "frames" in your statement "There are no frames the Democrats can come up with..." are not frames in Lakoff's sense, but are the "truths" Lakoff talks about in that article; and they don't fit the strict father frame, so they won't stick for people who operate from that frame.

You wrote "We do need to blame the media and we desperately need to begin breaking up the cartels..." If blaming the media helps focus us on analyzing the problem and correcting it, then I agree; if we simply stand around and wring our hands about it, we accomplish nothing. Yes, we need to break up the cartels, but in this particular political epoch, we're not going to accomplish that. We lack the raw political firepower. Next time we get power, if there is a next time, we will do it. Right now, we're in a battle, and maybe the artillery needs to concentrate someplace else, on identifying the enemy's weaknesses and attacking there.

The good news, according to Lakoff and others, is that you can start to change people's frames. It's a slow process, painstaking and detailed and requiring lots of compassion and communication. I'm still completely incompetent at it, but hoping to improve.


Thank you. I've been posting all over the internet for years now that until we deal with the cartel's monopoly control of content, the general welfare cannot be advanced. Almost no one seems to get this.

Play chess? If you've gotten decent at all, you've learned that you must control the center of the chessboard to win. Then you can mount attacks at your timing, on the part of the board you want, and you can perfect your defenses. Your opponent, on the other hand can only put up scattered offense, and is hampered in their defense.

Right now the media controls the center of the chessboard, and they are not working for us. (is there an emoticon for understatement?) Breaking up the cartels is the first step in reclaiming America. We have boycott, license challenge, and Eminent Domain as three principal tools, and we have the full political spectrum in America seeing Big Media as an enemy, albeit for different reasons. We should be able to do something.

Please check out my website which I created in response to a long conversation with Bill Keller's lying secretary http://www.byethetimes.com/ for a glimpse of what a free press would actually look like.

Jim Hill;

Thanks again for talking sane-talk. Maybe this is a habit here?

Frankly, Lakoff is current, and has decent points, but he comes about two generations after Count Alfred Korzybski's invention of general semantics (which has since morphed into something else). He is most famous for his "the map is not the territory."

One key point for the Count was that people automatically attach labels (symbols) to their experiences (facts) and seldom afterward, if ever, examine their original labelling. If you had a bad experience with strawberries, you label them "bad" and forever afterward whenever offered strawberries, you will automatically have a "semantic reaction" that will play out in the psyche as "strawberries equals bad equals get away."

If you are attached to this reaction, you will even doubt the good judgement of others who love strawberries, and come to regard those who offer them to you as enemies of a sort. This will only change, says the Count, if you consciously reassess the "facts" of strawberries. "Oh, on that day I had also eaten 1/2 pound of cheescake, and 2 chocolate bars right before the strawberries, so maybe it wasn't them." Then strawberries become, "might not be good" which allows a completely different semantic reaction when next mentioned. Further "extensional thinking" (impartial investigation of facts, such as tasting a strawberry, enjoying it, and having no bad reaction) establishes a positive semantic reaction.

The Count was very astute, and in the 1930s pointed out that a large part of totalitarian symbol-making relies on what he called "snarl words." For political propaganda to work, it is indispensible that the target NEVER consciously examine or review phrases that provoke a reaction in themselves. At this point, I ask you to note that the deliberate and conscious participation of the user of language is, well, everything when it comes to framing (establishing semantic reactions).

That's background to answering some of your points: I'll counter that "truth" is subjective and depends on the frame; if it doesn't fit the frame, it doesn't get through because it doesn't meet my criteria for "truth".

If you are talking fundamental "meaning-of-it-all" truth the argument can be made that it's all subjective and what's to pick amongst all the versions. If you are talking about, as Korzybski put it, "energy events in space/time" then the truth is objective and it is what it is irrespective of commentary. A 2x4 bouncing off your head hurts and no one will ever convince you otherwise. When I talk about truth, I'm talking about accurate descriptions of real events in space/time, whose perception is open to any one willing to look or test.

Alright, all very tangent to the point so far. Let's go to If you see the world through the "strict father" frame that Lakoff identifies, you'll see the Seattle WTO protests as a bunch of kids in need of fatherly discipline, and you won't see their message that globalization is exploitation and it's immoral ...The frame actually becomes a filter through which you perceive reality."

Yes, it is the filter through which you perceive reality which affects your evaluations and reactions. But Reality will sooner or later beat the crap out of you if you mis-evaluate it. This is why it is imperative that Dems today state the truth of things as they are. The very fact of counter-information can jar a person into consciously examining their semantic assumptions and gives them a chance to refer to their life-experience wisdom (of whatever quality). Even if they have a well-developed "semantic reaction" to you or your message, if put succinctly and forcefully, it will shake them up enough to begin to question. (1-in-6 people have a predisposition to seek "strict fathers" regardless of culture, according to world-wide studies of fundamentalism. Another 40% tend to go along with whatever it seems the herd is doing.)

Further, even if ridiculed or disdained, when the shit hits the fan, Dems will have established themselves as people who deal with reality, and can foresee how things will develop. The best and strongest frames are those that people arrive at by themselves in consultation with the spirit of truth-seeking. Short-term and long-term it's good to state the truth, and it doesn't need any dressing or sauce.

The other point is: if the WTO protestors had not had violent incidences, practically nobody on earth would have ever heard of them.. Because the media-as-is exists primarily for the purpose of excluding people from participating in their own governance. Violent opponents? Cover it. Reason and fact-based opponents? Let's interview Newt instead.

Get one million Ohio voters to show up on the White House lawn tomorrow, each one with video-tape and a signed statement by the hackers, that their vote was hacked, and I guarantee that you will hear no mention of it whatsoever, unless they are referred to as a "cult" or with other "snarl words."

What I'm trying to get at, (apparently unable to do so with a less than novel-length post) is that the whole Framing thing comes from seeing how the Republicans win by manipulating people into "false-to-fact" evaluations. Dems want to counter this. But any countering of this based on the same approach of manipulating symbols can be counted on to fail. One, the media, which promulgates symbols, is committed to boosting the Rs and supressing the Ds.

Two, we don't need to do much more than constantly repeat succinct and forceful statements of truth to stimulate people to examine the frames they've been given, and to generate discussion based on true-to-experience statements. I had one experience arguing with a rabid Bushbaugh fan at the beginning of the Iraq war who was flaming me because I said it was about oil. When I pointed out to him, with links, the personal involvement of the adminstrations key players in the oil biz, and the financial and strategic worth of Iraqi oil, he came back and admitted "well, maybe oil had something to do with it." Anyone's false frames can be always be undermined by the truth.

Three, the whole notion of "manipulating people" is precisely the moral disease that has brought us to this pass. "First people ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they agree with you" I think that wimp Gandhi said.

A long, long, rant, and I'm not sure I did it very well. But thanks for offering the space, "The Next Hurrah." And thanks for reading it, Jim.

Jim P:

Thanks for your post. I think civility is the norm here on NextHurrah, though I'm a bit new here myself. I, too, occasionally get into it with right-wingers on various blogs. My first experience was on BarlowFriendz several years ago, when it was new, and I got into a long war with a couple of trolls. I didn't make nearly as much progress as you did with your rabid Bushbaugh dialog.

I particularly thank you for this last post, because it gives me a lot more insight into how you're thinking about this stuff. I just got home from a party (a going-away party for a couple of twenty-somethings who are moving from Marin County, CA, to Austin, TX), and I'm not going to try to be intelligent or erudite just now. I'll come back to this, probably, tomorrow evening when I've had a chance to get my brain functioning again.

Just a couple of points, for now:

I remember Korzybski, and "the map is not the territory" pretty well; I remind myself of it frequently.

If I'm trying to change someone's mind, am I attempting to manipulate them?

Reality is subjective, even your two-by-four experience. Consider Oofty Goofty, apparently a real person, who could not feel pain. He made his living on that. For fifty cents, he would let people hit him over the head with a baseball bat. All kinds of things seem real, but seen from different angles or with different nervous systems, come out quite differently. In the end, each of us has only the reality that is the combination of "energy events in space/time" and our own perception of said events. That will never change, I think; human beings will always have different stories for the same "objective" events.

That said, I suspect you and I would agree pretty closely on "objective" reality. Why belabor the point, then? Because I believe it's pointless and a waste of my time to try to change someone else's mind who has an utterly different narrative from mine for the same event. I'll try to find something else to talk about so we can have something in common, especially if the event or fact in question is a "hot-button" issue. I've learned one thing in my 60 years: there isn't a person on the planet - and that includes Dick Cheney - from whom I can't learn something; and I have a far greater chance of changing her/his opinion if we're talking to each other than if we're not.

Well, shoot, that's more than enough for now. My brain is fuzzy. I will come back to your most recent comment and discuss some more tomorrow. Thanks again.

Jim Hill:

I was fuzzier than you last night. I composed a post in response last night, previewed it, and then quit before posting it! Not realizing until just now.

There's an old Sufi/Hassidic story (that happens a lot) that has some tangential but important connection with where I'm coming from (remember this is in a religious "frame"):

There was a teacher who obviously loved one student more than the others, spending private moments with him in conversation and reverie. The other students confront the teacher "Why him, and not us?" Teacher: "When occassion arises I'll demonstrate." At the next meeting the teacher instructs the students to go where no one can see them, and sacrifice a chicken. Next week, everyone gets together. The teachers asks "who sacrificed? Everyone raises their hand, but the beloved student. The teacher says: "Why didn't you do that?" "It was impossible. Where can I go that God will not see me?" The teacher turns to the others: "And this is why he is my favored student."

I reason this way:

Real Democracy can't possibly result from a better-automated people. Democracy, at its root, is a strictly volunteer proposition. Volunteering can only be done by individuals.

Being an individual, conscious that you are surrounded by individuals (at least in potential, and whose true level of individuality is intrinsically unknowable to me--that nervous-system/point-of-view thing again) requires a deliberate act of will.

So even if you could supplant one form of automation with another, generally more beneficial one, that will not fundamentally change the way things play out. Because that "extra something" that only a person making a conscious choice brings is precisely that element which is needed to make Democracy. It is the only thing that can learn from experience, and has no need for "strict guidelines," although free to use them as needed.

And so I pontificate. Further, blah, blah, tra, tra, and forth and so....

Anyway, hope you had a good recovery today, from last night's celebrations.

Jim P:

Back again, less fuzzy.

Let's see. You said Yes, it is the filter through which you perceive reality which affects your evaluations and reactions. But Reality will sooner or later beat the crap out of you if you mis-evaluate it. I'll just say that, while that's true, it sometimes take a VERY long time to happen. An illustration of this is that the people of this country have yet to even get a hint of a jot of a tittle of a clue about the genocide and theft of every square inch of land on this continent from the inhabitants who were here when the Euros arrived. We all benefit from it; it's genocide and theft that made this country what it is today - and I mean that sincerely: Bush is the latest symptom of the sickness that killed and pillaged and robbed from sea to shining sea, and then took the act overseas (about 1893 or so, when Hawaii became a colony - excuse me, a "territory"). And all that time, all these people, including us, have this filter that says "We're a good nation, we believe in freedom and democracy." As long as you're Protestant, male, and white.

"...if the WTO protestors had not had violent incidences, practically nobody on earth would ever have heard of them." Very possibly true, and perhaps a failure to update tactics in light of the changed nature of the media, given that anybody looking in for the last twenty years could figure that violence would be framed as "bad children in need of discipline" in character with the "strict father" model, and there's the Right, pointing the finger at Clinton as being a bad father for not disciplining them, and Clinton for his part dismissed them as "hoopla" while giving a nod to their goals and ignoring his own role in the Uraguay Round of GATT talks that led to WTO.

I'd guess that the reaction of CNN and other mainstream news reporters to the plight of Hurricane Katrina victims tells us something. There are limits. The job of protest organizers is to probe those limits, I think. I'd guess successful tactics - that is, successful at getting their message through the media filters more or less intact - will become more like those Ghandi used: long-term, using mass sit-ins for days, hunger strikes, disruption of traffic and commerce. They will ultimately involved police beatings and some bloodshed, and again reporters will become emotionally agitated on television. Our protests have been short-term - a weekend long at best - with few exceptions.

What I'm trying to get at... is that the whole Framing thing comes from seeing how the Republicans win by manipulating people into "false-to-fact" evaluations. I don't agree, on grounds I've already stated: framing has a specific meaning. It's a thing all people do with language to some extent, and it's a tool that can be used for good or ill. If we're going to fight the Repugs' use of it, we're going to have to learn about it ourselves, if only to understand and analyze what they're doing.

I'm enjoying this exchange, though I have the feeling we're boring everyone else. We can figure out how to exchange emails if you like, and continue off-site. If you're interested, jwilliethehill at yahoo.com gets it to me.

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