Monday, July 12, 2010


George Lakoff says things like the following which can be found here:

4. The Rationalism Trap. There is a commonplace - and false - theory that reason is completely conscious, literal, (applies directly to the objective world), logical, universal, and unemotional. Cognitive science has shown that every one of these assumptions is false. These assumptions lead progressives into other traps: assuming that hard facts will persuade voters, that voters are "rational" and vote in their self-interest and on the issues, and that negating a frame is an effective way to argue against it.

George Lakoff has been around for a long time. He was a featured speaker at the UU General Assembly the year it was held in Fort Worth. He is well known for his book, "Dont think of an Elephant". The premise being, once told not to think of an elephant, you have no choice but to think, exactly, of an elephant. In like manner, when Richard Nixon proclaimed, "I am not a crook", or when Joe Lieberman proclaimed in his race against Ned Lamont, "I am not George Bush".

Lakoff makes the case that the reason Republicans win the debate and elections is that Democrats allow them to "frame" the debate. Some people, such as myself, would say Democrats lose because that is the sole purpose for their existence, for which they have succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination.

Until now, Lakoff has been a voice crying in the wilderness (thus, proving my point about Democrats). But today an article appears in the Boston Globe (which along with SF Chronicle and the Seattle Post Intelligencer, is one of only three liberal papers left in the land of the free and the home of the brave).

In my opinion, the Boston Globe article is a major step forward, and if not that it has, at least, caused an unusual dust up on the internets, and a backhanded salute to Lakoff. Here is a quote:

If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.

In the end, truth will out. Won’t it?

Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. ...researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

...people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

the way our brains are wired people tend to interpret information with an eye toward reinforcing their preexisting views, once those facts — or “facts” — are internalized, they are very difficult to budge.

In an ideal world, citizens would be able to maintain constant vigilance, monitoring both the information they receive and the way their brains are processing it. But...Our brains are designed to create cognitive shortcuts

This Michigan study has been picked up and expanded on by Crooks and Liars here, and by FireDogLake here.

If there is a way out of the "media manipulation" malaise we suffer under, I think this is probably it. Here's to hoping that progressives learn to talk to America, but here's betting they don't.

In the meantime, in an ideal world, we would monitor both the information we receive and the way our brains are processing it. But keeping atop the news takes time and effort. And relentless self-questioning can be exhausting.. This Boston Globe article ultimately recommends a supply-side approach. Instead of the consumers, focus on the sources. Increase the “reputational costs” of peddling bad info. This is a shame-based solution which will never work because these people are shameless.

However the supply-side approach is good, it just needs to be applied in a different direction. First, SHUT DOWN THE SOURCE. The signal must be shut off at the source. REMEMBER THAT. THE SOURCE is television, in particular, the part called “programs.” The most deadly program to your mental health and well-being is the one labeled “NEWS.” SHUT IT OFF.

Next, you have to take the “redpill” and see how deep the hole goes. The redpill is knowledge; you have to do a little research. Check the sources, the editors, the publishers. Follow the money. Who pays the bills. What do all these people believe. Who do they work for. What is their agenda. What have they accomplished in the past. What have they published in the past. What are they trying to achieve in the future. What information are they trying to repress. Who gets published, who gets reviewed.

E Pluribus Media tool box

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