Monday, July 9, 2012

The Little Blue Book: a liberal dog whistle and teddybear!

I'll let Zombie introduce this interesting little text that is marketed as an "The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic". It's written as a high level theory and strategy guide for democrats to present and frame their arguments. How does it go... well... not good. Zombie explains pointing to the title itself:

George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at U.C. Berkeley — and highly regarded Democratic tactician — has just released his playbook for the 2012 election. Titled The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic, it purports to be the ultimate insiders’ guide to liberal messaging and left-wing ideology.

Before you even open the book, its sly self-referential gamesmanship leaps off the cover: the very title itself is a wink-wink-nudge-nudge ironic-but-not-really reference to Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, the kind of hidden-meaning secret message that progressives like to call a “dog whistle,” although they insist that only conservatives resort to such underhanded gambits.

Right out the gate Zombie shows the amazing disengenous delusions of this book. Such as how Lakoff apparently thinks best "way to convince undecided and conservative voters is to dazzle them with compliments you got from Van Jones and George Soros."

And Lakeoff is more than some crank. He's, apparently, the brainchild behind a couple ideas you may have heard of:

But Lakoff is not just any intellectual celebrity: he is deemed one of the most important contemporary philosophers of progressive thought. You know how whenever Democrats lose an election, they invariably blame their “poor messaging” and never ever the content of their policies? Lakoff came up with that. Liberals find it very reassuring: We don’t need to rethink our ideas — we just need to express ourselves more clearly.

And yet his new Little Blue Book is supposed to be an instruction manual on how to convert wavering conservatives and undecideds to the liberal worldview — even though insults and mockery are an integral component of that worldview. To summarize Lakoff’s presentation in one sentence, he essentially says, “Hey, you ignorant yet diabolical rubes, shut the hell up and submit to an incessant barrage of our vacuous euphemistic leftist slogans, because you’re too stupid and evil for an honest debate.
Lakoff is also the reason why liberals and conservatives never seem to be able to communicate with each other. This frustrating problem is no accident, nor a natural result of differing ideologies simply not seeing eye to eye. Rather, it’s a conscious behavior explicitly recommended by Lakoff over the years, and one which he hammers home repeatedly in The Little Blue Book. “Never use your opponent’s language….Never repeat ideas that you don’t believe in, even if you are arguing against them.”

Pretty influential. If... asinine.

And go to the link to see the top three of Lakoff's list "The 10 Most Important things a Democrat Should Know."

In short 1: Don't repeat conservative language or ideas, ever even to mock, 2: Moralize, moralize, moralize. Morals are more important than policy. 3: "Facts have no meaning outside of frames, metaphors, and moral narratives."

So yes, he was the big wheel encouraging liberals to continue harping about their "messaging", push moral narratives, ignore facts, never use the other side's terms, and, further, completely ignore their arguments.

And many politicians, pundits and talking heads have taken Lakoff’s recommendation to heart. This is why conservatives and liberals can’t seem to have the simplest conversation: liberals intentionally refuse to address or even acknowledge what conservatives say. Since (as Lakoff notes) conservatives invariably frame their own statements within their own conservative “moral frames,” every time a conservative speaks, his liberal opponent will seemingly ignore what was said and instead come back with a reply literally out of left field.

Thus, he is the progenitor of and primary advocate for the main reason why liberalism fails to win the public debate: Because it never directly confronts, disproves or negates conservative notions — it simply ignores them.

And the delicous part is that this causes liberals to go back to Lakoff to buy the "solution" to the very problem he perpetuates. Because the solution of ignoring the other side's arguments doesn't actually win the debate.

Right out the gate, Lakoff would have the liberals cede considerable ground to their ideological rivals. Its like thinking you've got the better football team because you refused to go on the field.

This isn't to say that the Liberals don't win elections. Promising free ice cream and demonizing your opponents can work quite nicely, which is why it's so common.

Zombie points out that "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." However, Lakoff assumes the exact opposite, that conservative and libertarian ideas would die off if you simply ignored the ideas and concentrated on mocking the candidates.

This would not be true if the other side’s argument were inherently weak or fallacious, which I assume is at the root of Lakoff’s blunder; he must assume that conservatives don’t have valid arguments or positions, but rather nothing more than sneakily effective ways of misrepresenting erroneous or ridiculous beliefs. In Lakoff’s universe, you can extinguish such beliefs by ignoring them completely, thus depriving them of oxygen.

This strategy of Lakoff would work if two things were true: First, that the conservative position really and truly did not have a valid point behind it; and second, that the conservative position did not have enough of a platform to reach the general public. In order to prop up his thesis, Lakoff must pretend (and insist that all his readers also pretend) that the conservative position is beneath contempt, even beneath ridicule. That solves the first potential problem. But the second one is vexatious to the liberal; Lakoff and his ilk simply cannot stand the very fact that conservative ideas are even allowed to be enunciated in public. Giving conservatives a soapbox is dangerous, even if (as Lakoff presumes) conservative arguments are nothing but a pack of lies and psychological disorders; if lies and lunacies are repeated often enough and cleverly enough, then they can successfully win the hearts and minds of the general public.

Emphasis added. Thus we see the liberal arguments for speech codes, Fairness Doctrines, Truth Amendments, hate speech bans, campaign spending limits, and other methods of restricting free speech. And this thesis comes from a book that is named in reference to a book written by Mao.


Now contrast with the Gun Rights side which deliberately spreads the talking points of the Antis with the express purpose of mockery and rebuttal. Which Zombie later on points out is a common tactic of all sorts of opponents to liberals.

"While Lakoff’s foolish insistence that liberals never repeat conservative frames means that conservative notions never get directly rebutted, this insistence backfires in other ways as well. Why? Because conservatives take the diametrically opposite strategy: They seize on every utterance that liberals make, and repeat their “frames” as loudly as possible to demonstrate how deceptive they are. So while liberals studiously avoid analyzing anything conservatives say, conservatives meanwhile are avidly dissecting every single thing liberals say. The end result is that conservatives, to their own satisfaction as least, successfully challenge and de-fang every liberal notion; but liberals never challenge or de-fang conservative notions, instead seeking to snuff them out with a lethal dose of Silent Treatment."

This tactic still flumoxes liberals. For example, Mr. A was confused and annoyed when after coming up with a Constitutional Amendment that would make the First Amendment only apply to reporters and outlets that tell "the truth". I applauded his honesty and proceduralism and encouraged him to spread his idea far and wide.

There reall is a sense of self superiority at work with these folk. A part of them gets very nervous when their supposedly neanderthalic, but oh so cunning, enemies react to their latest brilliant idea by smiling going "Keep talkin' Hoss."

And even worse "it is the very euphemisms and other ludicrous “conceptual metaphors” recommended by Lakoff which give[s] conservatives so much grist for their mill." As Zombie points out, he recommends refusing to fight the conservatives, while also feeding them "further evidence of liberals’ cluelessness or mendacity."

Here's an example that Zombie gives to show how bad this "bury your head in the sand" tactic really is:

And this brings us back to our example: abortion. According to Lakoff, liberals should in no way challenge the claim that abortion is murder; in fact, they shouldn’t even acknowledge that such a claim is being made. (True to form, Lakoff himself never mentions this position in his discussion of abortion.) But here’s the problem for Lakoff: It’s a really really convincing argument. And it’s also a concept that every woman on some gut-instinct level knows is at a minimum somewhat true, if not entirely true. Of course a fetus is human or a near-human; the only valid question (one which Lakoff forbids even asking) is when does it acquire individual human rights? Conception; birth; or somewhere in the middle?

So the Lakoffites can yap about “freedom of choice” and “women’s independence” and “reproductive rights” all day long, yet the listener will think: b/But you aren’t addressing the fundamental question. Is it murder?/b “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.

Emphasis in original.

Now recall Lakoff's preceding declaration that "Facts have no meaning outside of frames, metaphors, and moral narratives." Thus to him, the biological reality is irrelevant and in actuality was fabricated by the reactionaries by attaching it to a moral narrative.

And indeed as Zombie points out Lakoff forbids people from asking the only question Re: Abortion that actually matters and dares not even ask it himself. Way to give your tribe superior rhetorical ammo there champ.

Even more absurd he keeps hawking the "strict father" theory of Conservative. And is too lazy to come up with an example that's less than forty years old

To show just how out of touch Lakoff is, when analyzing core conservative values on pages 50-1 of The Little Blue Book he still cites of all people James Dobson (an evangelical Christian whose political influence peaked thirty years ago in the early ’80s) as a leading conservative philosopher; even worse, to prove his “strict father conservatism” thesis, Lakoff quotes a book that Dobson wrote back in 1970 about disciplining children, as if it was relevant to the 2012 election.

Zombie supposes that Lakoff is amber-like stuck in the very frame he made back in the 80's. And is so stuck that he completely ignores "a masterful maneuver of political akido".

The Nanny State.

Conservatism now stands for freedom from authority, while is it progressivism that seeks to implement the new scolding parent metaphor, now known as the “nanny state.” It’s liberals who want to tell you what to do and what is allowed, not conservatives.

Which side wants to tell you what you can and cannot buy? Which side wants to ban certian foods and drinks? What stance did Mr. A (a self avowed tax and spend Democrat) take on the Baron Bloomberg soda ban? Oh right, he was for it. Saying:

Sure it's paternalistic, but when you've proven that 58% of the target population can't manage not to be giant fatassess, well.. that's when a paternalistic approach is appropriate.

Though Mr. A does have his bouts of angry old man "social conservativism."

Back to the Nanny State reversal. I searched the book. Yes it is on Amazon, you can read the bulk of it for free, and it is fully searchable even the redacted parts.

The word Nanny, does not come up once. Lakoff's supposed master strategy guide does not even address the issue of "Hey, conservatives are now calling us the authoritarian paternalists; what should we do about that?"

Zombie ends with:

The Little Blue Book is being marketed as an “Indispensable Handbook for Democrats” to help them communicate their values more clearly. But I think that the marketing is itself a ploy. The Little Blue Book was not written to help liberals communicate; instead, it was designed as a feel-good mantra, a comforting rectangular teddy bear reassuring the left-wing audience that they are good people. The book’s real underlying message is this: We liberals are morally superior to our nasty and small-minded opponents; if everyone could just see what was in our hearts, we’d be more popular than those mean old conservatives.

That is the conceptual frame Lakoff embeds in The Little Blue Book: We’re better than you. Progressives can position it carefully on their coffee tables and feel righteous

In other words, he's profiting off of the fears and dreams of liberals by selling them snake oil.

No comments: