Thursday, August 30, 2012

Zombie � The Little Blue Book: Quotations from Chairman Lakoff

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So central is this notion to Lakoff's thesis that his publicist sent out a list of "The 10 Most Important Things Democrats Should Know" with each review copy, and guess what comes in at #1:

"Don't repeat conservative language or ideas, even when arguing against them."

A prime example of Lakoff's ruinous recommendations can be seen in the debate over abortion, which never seems to get resolved despite a trillion words being expended on it every day. The "conservative frame," to use Lakoff's language, is that a fetus is a human being who has not yet been born; thus to "abort" the fetus is to kill it, which means a human being has been killed, which is tantamount to murder. In response to this frame, Lakoff recommends — a recommendation that liberals dutifully follow — that those on the left completely ignore the conservative argument, and instead "reframe" the issue with metaphors like "freedom of choice" and "women's independence" and "reproductive rights." All those positive words — "freedom," "independence," "rights" — recast the entire debate in a different light, allowing liberals to "win" the debate by not acknowledging that the opposing side has even made a statement.
And this is Lakoff's fundamental flaw, which unfortunately exactly coincides with his fundamental thesis (in other words, his thesis doesn't have an error — it is an error). By intentionally refusing to challenge, disprove, understand or even acknowledge the existence of the other side's argument, you allow that argument to grow in strength and win converts.

So the Lakoffites can yap about "freedom of choice" and "women's independence" and "reproductive rights" all day long, yet the listener will think: But you aren't addressing the fundamental question. Is it murder? "Stop thinking in those terms," cries Lakoff. But the public can't stop, because the idea of abortion as murder has already been stated, and the idea of fetus as human existed even long before the modern political debates. Even if there were no Republican party, no conservative movement, a great many people would still have moral compunctions about abortion, because the controversy is rooted in biological realities, and was not fabricated out of thin air by reactionary rabble-rousers.
And this same insuperable problem bedevils every aspect of Lakoff's thesis: Most of the countervailing "conservative" arguments he seeks to suppress are rooted in inescapable economic, biological or physical reality that can't be euphemized out of existence, no matter how hard you try. This brings us to the fundamental difference between "progressivism" and "conservatism": Progressives and their various ideological brethren have a deep belief that human nature and human culture are "constructed," that there is no biological determinism, that mankind is a blank slate, and that human nature and human culture can be molded at will whichever way we want, if we just put our minds to it and manipulate the language cleverly enough; by contrast, conservatives and their various ideological brethren believe (correctly) that human nature is "innate," not fabricated, not random, and arises from genetic realities that willpower cannot dissolve, no matter how hard we try. Furthermore, much of the misery we've experienced in the last century comes from futile attempts to create utopian societies by denying the immutability of human nature and attempting to change it by force.

1 comment:

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