Thursday, December 13, 2012

George Lakoff on Michigan's Corporate Servitude Law

Language works so that the conservative name "right to work" evokes the conservative political ideology in the brains of those who hear it without wincing. The more an idea is activated in the brain the stronger it gets. Thus, the use of the conservative name strengthens the conservative ideology in the brains of the public.

The press is not being neutral in using the Republican name for the law. Journalists too, in just using the name, are supporting both the Republican framing of the law and conservative ideology. The press is not being balanced -- which is what journalists typically claim to be. Balance would be to use both the names "corporate servitude law" and "right to work law" and to explain the differences in the progressive and conservative understanding of what the law is and does.

Of course, to do so would change a false view of language that journalists too often internalize, namely, that language is neutral. To see that it isn't, just try speaking or writing of "Michigan's corporate servitude law" and listen to conservatives scream bloody murder over a truth that does fit their view of democracy. And listen to them keep screaming because it is important to keep repeating the true name of the law if the public is to understand what the law really does.
The Huffington Post
Michigan's New Corporate Servitude Law: It Takes Away Worker Rights
George Lakoff | Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley


paul said...

Are we beginning to go on the offense with these meme's? sorry Mike, didn't know what else to call it.

I hope so.

Matt Franko said...

"The more an idea is activated in the brain the stronger it gets."

I definitely see this....

Tom Hickey said...

Right, what happens is that the neural pathway that carries the information including the emotion that accomplies the idea gets opened, where as associated potential pathways remain closed. Following the law of least action, energy flows toward the path of least resistance. Through repeated use, the open pathway becomes a channel of that packet of information that is difficult to deflect into a new pathway. Lakoff contends that conservative framing (policy) has been imposed for years through a very deliberate strategy of creating think tanks, media presence, etc, that feed into the media echo chamber and get reinforced. Countering that is going to be an uphill battle but if we don't start now, when?

I don't believe for a moment that the people behind this are morons. They have a clear policy agenda that is ideologically driven and they have created a successful strategy and deployed tactics successfully to dominate the debate through the framing. The debate is now largely framed in terms of that ideology, which in economics is neoliberalism.