I am a big fan of George Lakoff. We’ve been posting his work on BFIA for years. I agree with everything he says about language. But having said that, I would like to add that I’ve noticed that he and other pundits sometimes display an annoying habit of pointing to Trump’s lying ways and calling him “brilliant” or “masterful” at manipulating public perception, etc. , or some other admiring word. I would put forth that this is ironically, an example of doing the exact thing Lakoff says we should not be doing, that is, unconsciously adopting Trump’s framing.
There is nothing in what Trump is doing that merits an adjective remotely resembling anything positive, especially any word meaning that he is using the thinking or cognitive part of his brain.
Sometimes I think the punditry class secretly or sub-consciously, admire those who can lie without any self-doubt whatsoever and get away with it. Or maybe they’re just going out of their way to appear fair. The fact remains, Trump isn’t reinventing the wheel here. Liars have been using the exact same methods that Lakoff points to that Trump uses, for a very long time. If Trump is getting away with it better now, it’s not because he’s smart it’s because the way has been paved and we have a severely broken media.
Republicans have been lying to manipulate public perception for decades. Trump didn’t come up with this strategy himself. He has had the training and guidance of The Republican Party since at least Nixon; he has benefited from the previous work of scoundrels like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. He has the propaganda machine with Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Fox News and all the conservative talkers pointing the way, giving him ideas and literally giving him his lines. Some say Fox News is the real president. I tend to agree. So I really wish a certain subset of the punditry class would quit being so admiring of Trump’s “skill” and stop saying that he is “brilliant,” etc.
Having said that, I agree with everything else Lakoff puts forward here.
Lakoff outlines what they do, then explains why and how it works. I have posted an excerpt and you may want to read the entire article at the link and some of his other works, too, available on Amazon. He mentions, Don’t Think of an Elephant in this article. Good place to start.
“…framing – get your understanding of the situation out there. Two, divert attention from things you don’t want people to pay attention to, for example by attacking somebody else. Three, attack the messenger or assign blame to someone else and deflect it away from you, for example the press. Four, launch a trial balloon and say something outrageous, an extreme version of what you believe to see what the reaction is and if it isn’t too bad you are in the clear.”
Language activates an idea and a circuitry in your brain. And the result of that is every time a circuit is activated, its synapses get stronger. So the more you hear certain things, even if you just hear and understand them, the circuitry gets stronger.
I wrote a book called “Don’t think of an elephant” — which makes you think of an elephant. Or when Nixon said “I am not a crook” everybody thought of him as a crook. Why? Because in order to negate something you have to activate it in your brain first which makes it stronger. So every time you deny something overtly using the language of the person you are trying to contradict, you are actually helping that person.
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