Seven Degrees from Normal

Two people, eighteen years of marriage, seven college degrees.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Saving the world, part two

Kevin Drum has a post up summarizing Lakoff's book on framing tactics for liberals. It points up what I think is a pitfall for our framing attempts: liberals have a fixation on the truth that puts us at a disadvantage. And I don't just mean the fixation on facts that Lakoff brings up ("facts don't win arguments"). I mean our belief that the message we come up with must concide with and accurately describe our programs. That's all very nice, but it's not always possible to describe what you're doing, policy-wise, in snappy PR language. And I'm not sure it's always what you need to do anyway. It may work sometimes, but what always works is to float a kick-ass meme and associate it with your product any way you can, and logical connections be damned. Former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman endorses Acme bricks. What does he know about bricks? I can't even begin to imgine. What does his endorsement do to ensure that I am getting a good brick? Less than nothing. But this isn't about the bricks; it's about getting me to choose them when I build a house.

Is that dishonest? I don't think so. I can probably go find out a lot about Acme bricks if I want to - how they are made, if the company has ever been accused of making a sub-standard product. I could hire an expert to test some of their bricks and see if they're any good. I can go out and find people with houses made of Acme bricks and ask them what they think. As long as the bricks are good, and more, fact-based information on them is readily available to those who want it, there's nothing wrong with getting Troy to endorse them.

In case my anaology has wandered too far afield, here's where I'm going with it: if the policies are good, it doesn't matter what the hell kind of slogan you use to sell them. Am I arguing that the end justifies the means? Possibly - if we live in a world where no one is held accountable for bad policy, real information about policy is restricted, and elections aren't free and fair. That kind of sounds like the system those other guys are busy entrenching right now, doesn't it?


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