Lakoff says that liberals talk policy instead of moral narrative, and that's why the Right Wing has taken over.
Upon further reflection, Lakoff's article is deeply disturbing. He's saying that public discourse has effectively been replaced by simplistic moralistic messaging, and progressives need to get with the program. If everyone blares their messages instead of having an actual public discourse we're already in 1984, aren't we?
New Speak... My all time favorite is the Patriot Act
Yeah its a shame nobody commented on this discussion Ruth. Your postscript is right on. The right has got the simplistic moral messaging down pat: "abortion is murder", "homosexuality is sin", "taxes are socialism". That last one should be amended to "taxes on the rich is socialism, taxes on the poor is justice", but of course they wouldn't grant us this. And the messaging on the left is just so long-winded. Obama falls into this trap just as quickly as the rest of them (and really I'm no fan of Obama these days). But imagine the left being honest about their beliefs like the right is. "Abortion is occasionally morally justified", "god really doesn't hate gays", "socialism is good". They don't sound right for a reason - the left's positions are generally more complex and nuanced and well-thought-out, and the right feels no shame in spouting "god hates gays" and other absurdities. My point is, its not a fair fight, because in a race to the bottom, the dirty fighter will win every time. This is why there is no third party to the left of the Democrats, because it is just too easy to turn politics in this country into a race to the bottom, and a party with any real principles would just get creamed. Imagine if Obama decided he didn't want to take corporate money, he wanted to play fair and win honestly and not be beholden to corporate interests like the rest of Washington! Romney would rake in the dough and obliterate him with messaging and ads and everything else money and power bring, and that would quickly bring an end to Obama's chances of getting reelected. Now, if Obama had gotten behind the Occupy movement and waged a full-on verbal assault on the immorality of a system dominated by moneyed interests, he could have led a real movement in this country (I think he could have started one himself if he had just done finance reform in 2008 when he had the chance instead of lousing up healthcare, but once he missed this boat he was already in the pocket of the corporations so no wonder he avoided getting into any real confrontation with Wall St.). So perhaps messaging could help swing the battle somewhat, but with a political system as corrupt as this one is, I'm not so sure that taking on a more moralizing narrative is really going to turn the trick.
Jedi Wanderer, you're so right, unfortunately.
My point is, its not a fair fight, because in a race to the bottom, the dirty fighter will win every time.
Does that mean that the new media environment of TV, twitter and the internet inherently favor the dirty fighter? They do away with the reason-promoting effects of print media. They favor simple minded appeals to emotion over long winded policy debate. Are we doomed?
Or is there a way to use them effectively to communi9cte our own powerful moral narrative?
I see a lot of dangerous trends, but I also see some good ones. The new media environment favors everyone being able to find the answers they are looking for, so everything depends on human nature. If there are too many people looking for the easy, short-sighted, self-centered answers, then these perspectives will overpower the harder, more reasonable and moral perspectives. I was recently (relatively speaking) very encouraged, when I discovered the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC and heard him speaking about the real issues our country is facing, how the wealthy have turned our democracy into a sham; how they can't even help themselves from acting against their long-term interests even when they are aware that their short-term profits will turn into long-term losses, and continue to push for legislation that undermines not even just the whole rest of the country but themselves as well; how skewed our legislation has become on taxes, trade, banking, and all the rest towards the wealthy; how "the poor and middle classes have next to zero influence over their elected officials" (Larry Bartels); and just on and on. I had finally found someone who was on a major network who was finally giving me the answers to questions that nobody else was talking about but which I had long been searching for answers to, and it was encouraging that such a voice out of the mainstream could be heard. Then the Occupy movement began, and here was a guy with a message that was right in line with the movement, and I thought change might be in the air. Well, Occupy fizzled out, Obama upholds the status quo, Romney looks like he might even win, and DR decided to leave his show to find out what he could do to really help change the country, but even he doesn't know what that might be. So, it is possible to effectively communicate "our own powerful moral narrative", but the real issues are so far beyond most people's understanding (even Occupy didn't have a coherent understanding of what could be done, or even what the real problems are) that too few people ever get the message.
I am largely pessimistic about our chances, as a country or a species. But there are still some possible avenues we could take to make some real changes. I've actually been working on a website idea which could bring people together from all over the world in a rational and organized way. The few people I've told of the idea had a generally positive response, but with little time and even less money of my own, I'm struggling to get anything done by myself. If you'd like, I can send you an email with my idea outlined, and you can tell me what you think of its chances for stirring up change, and if you are willing and able to help my idea along.
I wasted three months of my life creating a website. In the end, it was like posting a billboard in the middle of the desert.
Because I agree that "the real issues are so far beyond most people's understanding", I see Democracy as an extinct political form. At least the terrible form of so called democracy we have in the US.
It came to me that the moral narrative communication style chosen by the Republican Party represents a new scale of hypocrisy. I believe it was Newt Gingrich who several years ago instituted the policy by which every party position carried a fundraising requirement. It was called Pay to Play in the article I read (which I've since been unable to locate). So Republicans have institutionalized money as their foundational value. This is structural hypocrisy, institutionalized hypocrisy, for an organization which communicates to its members through moral narrative. As such it deserves a new name. This practice is to hypocrisy as acceleration is to speed.
Here's an example of how the right wing has taken over moral messaging on Climate Change. Explaining why Democrats aren't even discussing Climate Change,
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse faults his own party, saying Democrats have allowed the GOP to intimidate them from talking up the issue.
“I think the Republicans do a very good propaganda job of poisoning certain phrases. And then, rather than fight, we walk a step back, and we use a different phrase,” said the Rhode Island Democrat, who didn’t address questions about Gore specifically. “Once they poison that phrase, we’ll walk back again. So, we say: ‘We won’t talk about climate change anymore. Now we’re going to talk about clean energy.’” [emphasis mine]