FDL Book Salon Welcomes George Lakoff, The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Welcome George Lakoff (UC Berkeley) ( and Host Spocko (Spocko’sBrain) (Twitter)

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

The subtitle of the book is “Know your Values and Frame the Debate.” The sub-subtitle is, “The essential progressive guide for the issues that define our future: climate, inequality, immigration, healthcare. and more.”

Just reading the cover overwhelmed me. I stopped thinking about that Elephant and moved to, “Those conservative Republican bastards are making the world worse! How could people vote for them! Why did those jerks in the Democratic party blow the mid-terms! Who do I punish?”

And then, “Why is my life not getting better? Who do I blame? What can I do? Why can’t I do it? Why am I wasting my time on climate or inequality issues when I have no power to change them since the big money and the conservative media will drown out my voice anyway?” And then finally, “Do I have any Dove dark chocolate left in my bag? I’m getting depressed just thinking about this stuff.”

So I stop and bring myself back to what I consider the essential part of the book, Values and Framing.

I read the first edition of George Lakoff’s book when it came out in 2004. Since I train and prepare people to communicate better with different audiences, it tied into what I teach. If my clients understand how the person they are talking to sees the world, what their values are and what they want, they can better satisfy that person’s needs.

Back in 2004 everyone was talking about framing this issue or re-framing that one. But, like a lot of concepts and ideas, it got misunderstood as if it were all about just a clever slogan. Framing isn’t working in an art store, it’s about activating and/or changing the structures of peoples’ brains.

The good news is that some people who read the book did do the hard work of looking at the ideas and values that lead to a progressive frame. Then they linked that to a “ground game” where people starting using the frame and the language that activated it. In the new book Lakoff points to some huge successes, specifically in the acceptance of gay marriage. He points out back in 2004 he stressed love and commitment and the generalization to everyone, not just gays. Look at where we are today vs. 2004. Woo hoo! This stuff works people!

He also talks about successes with politicians. In the preface of the book Lakoff writes:

In the 2008 Election, Barack Obama led a Democratic sweep of the White House and Congress, using far superior framing, as well as superior on-the-ground tactics–besides being a far superior candidate. I had hoped that the superior framing would continue.

It didn’t.

In this edition of the book he asks what happened, why the Democrats have gone back to losing framing wars, and what can be done about it. I can’t jam the answers into this short intro, that’s why you should buy the book and read this version now. He points to a few specific reasons, some are structural some are cultural. [cont’d.]

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