Donald's Reviews > Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives

Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the De... by George Lakoff
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's review
Jan 25, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: 2000s, male-author, politics
Read in January, 2012

Books on fast-evolving topics expire quickly so I was reluctant to start on Lakoff's 2004 Don't Think of an Elephant. But though the theory has been around for some time, I wonder if the lesson has sunk in yet? For me, the case in point was Australia's Gillard Government trying to establish an emissions trading scheme last year (2011).

The Right, who have shifted even more to the right after announcing their own emissions trading scheme in 2007, responded to Gillard with "great big new tax." This worked very, very well. Like a slowly turning ship our media went from calling the scheme emissions trading, to carbon pricing and finally a carbon tax.

After the media adopted the right's framing the debate become one about a carbon tax. The left used the right's language and people started talking about tax instead of pollution. Even progressive politicians followed suit. I was shocked. I wasn't familiar with Lakoff's techniques but I did understand that the issue in question wasn't tax, but pollution.

Progressives have not learned the lessons in this book.

The models Lakoff propose resonate with me. By necessity any model is going to be a pared away version of the world but it's a handle and it's something we can develop into a powerful tool. This small collection of essays is an accessible primer into Lakoff's thought -- a field guide to framing.
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