Monday, December 3, 2012

George Lakoff — Why It's Hard to Replace the 'Fiscal Cliff' Metaphor


Apropos Randy's lastest on framing. George Lakoff explains neural circuitry.
Writers on economics have been talking since the election about why the "fiscal cliff" metaphor is misleading. Alternative metaphors have been offered like the fiscal hill, fiscal curb, and fiscal showdown, as if one metaphor could easily be replaced by another that makes more sense of the real situation. But none of the alternatives has stuck, nor has the fiscal cliff metaphor been abandoned. Why? Why do some metaphors have far more staying power than others, even when they give a misleading picture of a crucial national issue?
The Huffington Post
Why It's Hard to Replace the 'Fiscal Cliff' Metaphor
George Lakoff | Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley

7 comments:

Tyler Healey said...

"Great Britain is richer than it has ever been, just as America is, if you count the total wealth of their corporations and citizens. The nations are far from broke, but the requisite money is not in the government's coffers." - Lakoff

Lakoff's understanding of our monetary system is nearly equivalent to that of Peter Schiff.

Matt Franko said...

"Why is it hard to replace...?"

Because the whole thing is FALSE.

We need to be careful to not try to replace one false metaphor with another false metaphor... this is perhaps why Lakoff finds it difficult to come up with a suitable counter metaphor.... I dont think you can fight/counter the false with just using alternative falsehoods... you need to use the TRUTH.

Lakoff I would assume is not in paradigm and therefore he is NOT in truth... Lakoff is probably a deficit dove AT BEST, that is why he finds it difficult...

All he seems to suggest here is that we come up with alternative falsehoods and that will never work.

rsp.

Matt Franko said...

Lakoff in summary: "There are two morals here. First, metaphors cannot be proposed at will and be expected to work, even if they are intended to fit reality better than existing metaphors. Second, when metaphors are tightly integrated, they are going to be hard to replace and we may have to live by them, as misleading as they may be. The national economic debate will most likely continue to be about the misleading fiscal cliff, not the reality that "austerity bomb" is intended to convey. This is a sad scientific truth."

Sounds like he is ready to give up...

Two interesting points in bold that I tend to agree with...

Maybe a solution is to not use metaphor at all or at least not without directly identifying it as such... use of metaphor in general looks very dangerous to me if not used correctly , they apparently possess tremendous potential to deceive... rsp

Tom Hickey said...

Maybe a solution is to not use metaphor at all or at least not without directly identifying it as such... use of metaphor in general looks very dangerous to me if not used correctly , they apparently possess tremendous potential to deceive... rsp

Lakoff is saying that one has to understand how the brain functions and work within those parameters. There are very basic metaphors that underly language use and more complicated metaphors are built on them. Machine language > assembly language precede compiling. In the old days programmers had understand this in detail, but since it is no longer needed, most can bypass it. Similarly we have forgotten how language was built using neural circuitry that involves both thinking (fact) and feeling (norms). These are not separate in the basic metaphors of neural circuitry. Whichever side gets this best, wins. Lakoff's message is that the opposition has hit on it, and we need to learn it and apply it to compete.

Matt Franko said...

" the opposition has hit on it,"

I think you give them too much credit Tom, perhaps if they have it is only by luck...

rsp,

Tom Hickey said...

I think you give them too much credit Tom, perhaps if they have it is only by luck...

The GOP spends a lot of money researching this, Matt. Frank Luntz is their main guy. And don't forget Faux News and Roger Ailes. Fox was founded and run for this purpose really. And don't forget either that Karl Rove got his start in direct mail, and Richard Viguerie is also a big player.

The strategy is to test slogans and then cnvert them into memes by putting them in talking points that get repeated ad nauseam by politicians and think tanks, which are picked up and repeated by Fox, and they enter the MSM echo chamber from there.

Soon this becomes the framing for the debate, with Dems echoing the framing. As Lakoff has observed, even opposing the framing just drives it deeper. One needs a counter-meme, instead. So, for example, it's deficit hawks v. deficit doves, with government debt presumed to be "bad."

Tom Hickey said...

The GOP communications strategy is to motivate people and they use the same buttons that advertising and marketing does. Both the pols and the Madison Ave. types studied cognitive, behavioral and motivational psych to this end.

The Dems try to convine people based on reasoning. They develop no memes and are independent actors without a coherent message, let along the same one.