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Book cover for Anat Shenker-Osorio's
Don't Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense about the Economy
By Anat Shenker-Osorio
Hardcover, 256 pages
Public Affairs
September 25, 2012
$24.99
Appealing to where (we think) people are has become the norm among progressives, especially as we’ve become ever-more wedded to the proclamations of pollsters. This is what gives rise and lends credence to unhelpful slogans like “Work hard and play by the rules.” Since people are afraid of terrorists, let’s call our climate change efforts an antiterrorism program. Since people don’t want to shell out for art programs in schools, let’s tout how knowing music correlates to good math performance.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen time and again, evoking our opponents’ worldview in service of our policies only serves to push people further away from our beliefs. And, in turn, makes our policies seem less and less logical.

Strategic communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio has a message for progressives, simple but apparently almost impossible to execute, given the movement's history: Get personal. Get real. And for heaven's sake, quit fighting your opponent on your opponent's terms.

Seems like common sense, but as Shenker-Osorio discusses in her new book, Don't Buy It, she sees progressives make these same mistakes over and over and over again. In particular, the progressive messaging on the economy—especially the metaphors we adopt in discussing it—have contributed to a massive communication failure.

In a nutshell, when we insist on talking about the financial meltdown and its effects in terms of an unstoppable force of nature–like I just did with meltdown, in fact, or as many, many other well-intentioned liberals discuss it in terms of a crash, an earthquake, a "flood of bad mortgages," "the perfect storm" of circumstances—all these terms cry out that we must hunker down and pray instead of actively work for change.

Body metaphors are little better—an "unhealthy economy," a "sluggish recovery"—these too imply outside agency swooping in and destroying us, usually from within, like germs or cancer. But these scenarios are flatly wrong.

The economic crisis was neither an act of God nor a natural disaster, not an attack by microbes or internal organ breakdown. It was the result of choices—bad ones—made by specific human beings who benefitted from human-created policies at the expense of a majority of the population. And if our language does not reflect that this crisis is human-made, it follows that it cannot be human unmade either, which plays into the shrugging, no-fault stance of conservatives:

It's a wild and crazy free market. Whatcha gonna do? It's untameable, man. It's gotta do what it's gotta do. It's cyclical, like the seasons. Has ebbs and flows, like the tides. Has peaks and valleys, ups and downs.

No. Just … no.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

As Shenker-Osorio points out, this is prime-grade bullshit. The free market (which as most progressives realize isn't running very freely at all, but for the benefit of the few at the top) is human-created, and it's up to human beings to change the rules by which it runs to make it serve more human beings better. Conservatives will do everything in their power to hide that simple fact.

So how best to talk about the economy? Vehicles. Journeys. Navigation. Maps. Human-created and human-run metaphors for motion. We can change our maps, rules of the road, get new vehicles to take us where we want to go, change direction. We are, in short in charge of the economy when it breaks down. And we, through our choices, can fix it.

Another part of the solution beyond changing metaphors is in calling out who is responsible—and being passionate enough to even risk being called impolite for going all specific and ballistic on the criminals' asses:

Progressive advocates’ love affair with the passive voice—not naming a person in the subject position of our sentences—has hindered our ability to portray why things are the way they are. And, with it, how things could be different and better....

The polite passive voice we’ve adopted may make us sound reasoned  and neutral—like coolheaded experts or academics. But it obscures the truth and lets guilty parties off the hook.

And you. You, over there. Yeah, you. Shenker-Osorio has a message for you on line 1, flashing red.
I’m not entirely sure why we’ve cut “you” and permutations of it from our public vocabulary. Perhaps progressives have done too many workshops in nonviolent communication and become schooled in making “I” statements. Perhaps the omission is gendered—where masculine-dominated cultures like the Republican Party go to issuing orders, balanced or feminine ones favor airing grievances, opening up possibilities, and not imposing their views.

Whatever the impetus, we need to cut it out. Progressives’ public statements often make us sound too much like academics and too seldom like regular people. Further, as we’re generally fighting about and for issues of fairness, security, livelihood, and well-being for all, we’re long overdue in conveying to audiences that we’re talking to you.

Don't Buy It fits in neatly with the messaging genre of George Lakoff and Drew Westen, but goes more deeply into income inequality issues. Additionally, Shenker-Osorio has a voice that's fun to hang out with: smart, savvy, wry, funny—a shooter from the hip who urges simple, practical, passionate language. "The main topic I've taken up," she writes, "is communicating with deep clarity and effective audacity."

Example: "We would do well to exert less effort saying what we do not believe."

Can we get a hallelujah on that last one? She explains it further, and more clearly, than I've seen anyone explain it yet. We are strategic dopes when we buy the right-wing framing:

We often seem more comfortable crafting language from the underlying beliefs of our opponents than from our own.

In sum, it’s not useful to “meet people where they are” if that place is destructive. We must instead borrow some gumption from our opponents, since as conservatives have proven time and again, it is possible to see where people are capable of going and leading them there.

If we can learn anything from Republican messaging master Frank Luntz, it is to sing our fight songs and never mind about pissing off those who disagree with us. While progressives tread lightly and seek not to offend, conservatives turn the volume full blast on even the most outlandish of their opinions. They do not meet people where they are. They plant a flag where they’d like people to go and start a march there, without food or water, no matter the distance.

Singing our fight songs sounds like a refreshing exercise after decades of trying to meet conservatives on a shrinking middle ground and cowering at their rhetoric. Shenker-Osorio, who's been fighting in the trenches of the word wars for years as a communications consultant to the ACLU, the MS. Foundation, America's Voice and dozens of other progressive groups, knows her stuff. Don't Buy It is a great handbook to start thinking about how to change the conversation, particularly on the economy.

Next Sunday, we'll be publishing an interview with her that focuses on her "taking it to 'em" philosophy in the current electoral climate.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos and Readers and Book Lovers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Er... (32+ / 0-)

    I always thought that Meltdown referred to a nuclear meltdown, which is far from an uncontrollable act of God and is a very human catastrophe, caused by us and preventable by us.

    That said, worth thinking about.

    •  Caused by us (5+ / 0-)

      usually, unless an earthquake or tsunami takes part, but the idea behind meltdown is that it is no longer preventable once begun.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:14:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is very true. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bfbenn

      Referring to the economy as some unknowable, mysterious force does pretty well suit conservatives, especially immediately after they've blown up the economy.  The more unknowable you make a thing, the easier it is to convince people they should just stop talking about it, and stop asking questions about what happened.

      I've seen a lot of that in the last few years.  Conservatives shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Whoops, all that money disappeared."

      Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

      by martianexpatriate on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:57:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  yup (10+ / 0-)

    no magic or invisible hands either

    fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

    by mollyd on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:08:47 PM PDT

  •  Metaphors We Live By (11+ / 0-)

    If you've never read Lakoff and Johnson, give it a whirl sometime, but be prepared to be astounded by how metaphoric language structures our lives and world.

    "The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts and continues long after a war ends." -Julian Assange

    by Pierro Sraffa on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:09:52 PM PDT

    •  "The limits of my language are the limits of my (8+ / 0-)

      world" quote by some non-regular German guy who went to Cambridge

      Don't roof rack me bro', Now the brown's comin' down; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Ensanguining the skies...Falls the remorseful day".政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

      by annieli on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:35:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Also see the 'Sapir-Whorf hypothesis' (0+ / 0-)

        that metaphysics (our understanding of the nature of reality and its limits) proceed from language (what we are capable of expressing is also what we are capable of imagining or using and/or the way in which our language expresses things is also the way in which we imagine or use them, because the human cognitive system uses the same lexical, semantic, and syntactic structures for both communication and cognition).

        -9.63, 0.00
        I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

        by nobody at all on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 07:39:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Reminds me of Orwell, too. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, bartcopfan

        After all, that was the whole point of Newspeak — to limit the language that people could use, and thereby limit the ways they could communicate, and ultimately the ways they could think.

        Also too, “Politics and the English Language.”

        Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
        Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
        Code Monkey like you!

        Formerly known as Jyrinx.

        by Code Monkey on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 08:26:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Hitting the nail on the head with that one. (0+ / 0-)

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:58:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A good point (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cactusgal, Pluto, SYWTSAR, Dude1701, oortdust

    We are so fearful of being seen as extreme or unreasonable that we always end up looking like cowards.  

    Maybe we really are cowards.

    Afraid to fight.
    Afraid to struggle
    Afraid to make others uncomfortable
    Afraid to risk our own comfort

    Yeah,  comfort . . .  Not conflict.  
    Workers of the unite, as long as my cost of living doesn't increase.

    I can’t decide who’s cuter – the dead guy with the arrows in his chest, or the guy in the ditch with the seeping wound. -- Game of Thrones (Heard on Set)

    by prodigal on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:13:01 PM PDT

    •  We need more liberals (13+ / 0-)

      Who are not only unafraid to cause conflict, but actually relish the opportunity to create and take part in conflict, who actually enjoy fighting.

      •  in other words the exact opposite of liberals (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ConfusedSkyes
        We need more liberals who are not only unafraid to cause conflict, but actually relish the opportunity to create and take part in conflict, who actually enjoy fighting.
        For better or for worse, it's pretty much impossible to feel this way and be a liberal.  When our side has long ruled out conflict as a legitimate way of solving problems - never mind getting what we want ... which might be illegitimate in and of itself, because who the hell am I and what makes what I want right? - there's the danger of ending up validating conservatism from the other direction: not their goals, but their methods.  We don't want to become the black bloc, who I'm pretty convinced are undercover police anyway.

        I don't like it, but I can't really see a way out of it.  But then I'm the passive-aggressive type who'd be happy to go and do my own thing, hopefully starving the plutocrats of my labor and patronage, and let the conservatives merrily drive their church bus right off a cliff.

        To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

        by Visceral on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:00:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think it's impossible (0+ / 0-)

          I just think that a lot of liberals are weenies.  I probably lean more towards being a progressive populist rather than a straight-forward liberal.  I think that some liberals are afraid to make a populist appeal because they are afraid of populism on non-economic issues.  I advocate being willing to compromise on those non-economic issues if necessary to rebuild the Democratic Party as a progressive-populist alliance built around economic issues.

          •  but isn't compromise part of the problem? (0+ / 0-)
            I think that some liberals are afraid to make a populist appeal because they are afraid of populism on non-economic issues.  I advocate being willing to compromise on those non-economic issues if necessary to rebuild the Democratic Party as a progressive-populist alliance built around economic issues.
            This sounds a lot like what's being discussed, except to do with non-economic issues: our willingness (or determination) to compromise on issues that should be fundamental to our identity, and then getting rolled by the people we're trying to make a good-faith deal with, because they aren't willing to make a good-faith deal and never were.  What do you think right-leaning blue collar "flyover country" populist types will want from us in exchange for their votes on a progressive economic agenda?  What makes you think they even want to trade something for their votes ... because most of them seem to think that conservative economics is an indispensable part of their broader agenda.  What can we give them without throwing our more reliable constituencies under the bus?

            To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

            by Visceral on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:23:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What issues are fundamental to our identity? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Calamity Jean

              I argue that economic issues of the sort that united the New Deal Coalition should be the ones most fundamental to our identity, but aren't.  This opened the door for neoliberals who were allies on social issues to come in and move the party to the right on economics.  My idea is to embark on a long-term plan to reconfigure ideological alliances that would have the effect of swapping out pro-corporate neoliberals in favor of cultivating a left-leaning economic populist bloc that might not be so liberal on social issues.  If that means causing conflict by throwing people under the bus, well, I embrace conflict.

              •  civil rights broke up the New Deal coalition (0+ / 0-)

                It will be very difficult to appeal to blue-collar whites without having to put a lot of the civil rights platform on the back burner, and many would argue that doing so is basically the same thing as repudiating it completely.  But then the rich people who fund the party don't want to talk about class either.

                We're caught between a rock and a hard place - our funders don't want economic populism, while most of our base doesn't want social/cultural populism.  The only reason we're there at all is because we aim to represent people rather than tell them what's going to happen the way conservatives can.

                To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

                by Visceral on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:48:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  One word: Markos (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify

          Okay, a few more .... I've never seen anyone relish a righteous fight more than he.

        •  FDR, LBJ. (0+ / 0-)

          I guess not liberals according to you

          GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

          by Attorney at Arms on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:00:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  im an angry liberal (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TKO333, Calamity Jean

        who advocates violent beheading of the rich as a solution to our economic problems. (nothing like heads on spikes and a little bronze sign stating "this is what happens to people who screw over the American economy for their own greed" to send a message that will resonate throughout history)  

         i try not to speak up much.

        The Republic has fallen.

        by Dude1701 on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:10:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  While I don't advocate political violence.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FrY10cK

          ....it is worth noting that the powers that be were genuinely afraid of (the generally peaceful) student radical movement in the late 60s and early 70s. That's what helped bring around so many key reforms.

        •  Yup. And in any other diary here you'd get (0+ / 0-)

          hide-rated for that comment. That's the problem. That many people here would hide-rate you.

          Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

          by Flyswatterbanjo on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 10:49:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't have the stomach for this but (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          some people do.

          At some point, I don't when, the tumbrels and guillotines will come out.

          Reaganomics noun pl: belief that unregulated capitalism can produce unlimited goods for unlimited people on a planet with finite resources and we the people can increase revenue by decreasing revenue.

          by FrY10cK on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:31:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not conflict (0+ / 0-)

      Conflict usually just doesn't work, but what we fail to do is CONFRONT.
      Definitions;
      ....to face in hostility or defiance; oppose:  
      .... to present for acknowledgment, contradiction, etc.; set face to face: They confronted him with evidence of his crime.
      .... to stand or come in front of; stand or meet facing:  

      Progressives usually do not stand directly in front the face of the conservative lies, it seems to be for fear of being disliked. This happens so often as a democrat unwilling to make a stand does'nt get elected while the repug. does; voters don't know what the candidate stands for thus won't vote for them.

  •  Maybe we can use this (4+ / 0-)

    stuff in the next election cycle, when we don't have a president who is a self-branded 'nonpartisan.'

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:18:41 PM PDT

    •  He's exhibited a little "eye of the tiger" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wishingwell, Rolling

      ...in recent appearances.

      Always a great campaigner, as far as that goes. Nonetheless -- he's serving a second term and paying the price he must to do so.


      A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

      by Pluto on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:14:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pluto

        Obama might be personally conflict averse, but he's ultra-competitive and he's an excellent campaigner. When Obama fights, he wins. And I'm glad to see him fighting now. Democrats who just sit there and take it, (Dukakis, Kerry) lose.

    •  Fail (0+ / 0-)

      He needs to get elected by the 90,000 persuadables in Florida, Ohio, etc. he did that. Then he legislated more progressive stuff than anyone ever, at least since LBJ, but more than anyone in inflation adjusted dollars.

      And it's not enough?

      GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

      by Attorney at Arms on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:02:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A good point, but an old one (25+ / 0-)

    I have spoken to Democratic politicians, and told them that they should speak the same way to a mixed audience as they do to a known Democratic/Progressive audience.  And been told that this is not a good idea, as it might offend some people.

    Come on!!!  As if those who might be offended by the truth will vote Democratic anyway.  As if Republicans have ever been afraid of giving offense (see:  the entire body of work of Ann Coulter, among many others).  As if the mealy-mouthed maunderings of the Democrats is at all attractive to the 2% of us who still haven't made up their minds.

    But the answer, I'm afraid, to this riddle, is a bit more ominous.  The real reason professional Democratic politicians are so mealy mouthed is the fear of alienating the same class of people who support Republicans -- wealthy corporate lobbyists.

    These are the real audience for most politicians of both parties.  These are the reason that Democrats don't really stand up for reason and common sense.  If they do, the corporate lobbyists take their money elsewhere, and in today's America, money literally talks.

    This is why the so-called Tea Party is still a political force, while Occupy has largely disappeared.  The Tea Party has been co-opted and financed by corporate interests, and Occupy has not.  End of story.

    Nearly every major political issue can be explained in clear, simple terms, but doing so identifies the corporate interests that are doing so much damage, thus threatening their bottom lines, thus threatening their campaign contributions.

    One example:  Where would we get the money to pay for universal health care if the government took it over?  Answer, as John Reed said in the movie Reds:  Profits.

    Think of an issue where that's not the case.

    Our economic difficulties are not the result of the government standing back and letting corporations and the wealthy tip the scales.  They are the result of the government actively tipping the scales to pour wealth from the middle class into the pockets of the wealthy.  The Republicans' policies have nothing to do with "free" enterprise, no more than they do "small" government.

    In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

    by Noziglia on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:28:56 PM PDT

  •  some Progressives are (unfortunately) academics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, Blue Knight

    and need to be role models for those apparent idiots even in DK who for example smoke enough dope to not understand that criminals also traffic it and disrespect the notion that being an organic intellectual is not a bad thing. Being a "regular person" is not unfamiliar considering that some in DL for example hold quite seemingly contradictory views such as the RKBA folks.

    Whatever the impetus, we need to cut it out. Progressives’ public statements often make us sound too much like academics and too seldom like regular people. Further, as we’re generally fighting about and for issues of fairness, security, livelihood, and well-being for all, we’re long overdue in conveying to audiences that we’re talking to you.

    Don't roof rack me bro', Now the brown's comin' down; Präsidentenelf-maßschach; "Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Ensanguining the skies...Falls the remorseful day".政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:33:31 PM PDT

    •  Speaking as a professor, I'm a bit surprised to (11+ / 0-)

      learn that I'm not a "regular person" (whatever that is), but, on the other hand, it probably wouldn't do a candidate much good to sound like me lecturing on differential equations...

      But the root problem is really that too much of politics is driven by emotion and culture rather than by reason and philosophy. I think the reason progressives often lose the messaging wars is because they naively imagine that people actually study and understand issues and therefore will agree with us. We just don't connect with people who keep themselves in the dark about public policy and the state of the nation.

      I believe that in every country the people themselves are more peaceably and liberally inclined than their governments. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by Blue Knight on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:32:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not a solvable problem. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mythatsme

        Expecting human beings to conduct democracy without things being driven by emotion and culture means expecting humans to evolve overnight into Vulcans. We're not, by and large, rational beings, and if we're going to have a democracy, that means fighting on irrational terms.

        (I agree with you that this is the problem. I just get a bit annoyed when people seem to think of the emotionality of politics as something we need to change rather than an immutable fact about the political battleground.)

        Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
        Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
        Code Monkey like you!

        Formerly known as Jyrinx.

        by Code Monkey on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 08:32:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Even very left-brained people are not rational (0+ / 0-)

          The rationality they do achieve is through rigorous testing of hypotheses, and typically through co-operation with others. Much of the rest is rationalization of things they believe for poor reasons or the same ones right-brained people tend to. By rationalization, I mean construction of reasons for something already believed. Everyone can fool themselves. Almost everyone can apply critical thinking, few have the luxury of doing so.

      •  People aren't stupid.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ConfusedSkyes, ebohlman, mythatsme

        ....but they rarely have the time or inclination to study detail-filled policy papers and get all the facts to every issue. Nuance is lost on people who only focus on politics a few months at a time in a four year stretch. So, direct, clear language is key to winning people over and making our case. Otherwise, people just suspect we're another politician trying to bullshit them. Or someone trying to prove how smart they are, rather than how they care about regular people.

      •  Close... (0+ / 0-)

        I don't think liberals are naive about how much or how little most people study the issues. I think the real problem is that many of our policy positions are nearly impossible -- or truly impossible -- to advocate for with a few simple sound bites. For example, I know of no simple argument that could convince a person that we need to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere if that person's intuition tells them falsely that CO2 is not a problem.

        (Notice that, in the above example, I'm not even referring to people who are exposed to the Fox News side of the climate change debate.)

        Let us all have the strength to see the humanity in our enemies, and the courage to let them see the humanity in ourselves.

        by Nowhere Man on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 09:07:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  But, there YOU go! (9+ / 0-)
    It was the result of choices—bad ones—made by specific human beings who benefitted from human-created policies at the expense of a majority of the population.
    This would make it appear that the banker/capital "management" crew just need to be re-educated a bit, and then we can trot back to our TV's knowing that the management of the world is in good hands. "Again?"

    Those weren't bad choices, for the people who made them - they saw a creaky, ailing economy, in which only the top 1/2 of 1% were getting anything at all - and they decided to strip it clean of as many assets as possible, all of it going to them. These were GREAT choices - for them! John Dillinger didn't make a "bad choice" when he robbed a bank, he was an ASSHOLE. You can never, ever, ever re-educate a billionaire - only frighten them.

  •  Messaging .... That word again (4+ / 0-)

    We cede ground to the other side when we let them control the message, and simply react to it.

    They may talk about a "Free market", but it's an illusion.

    A free market doesn't exist and it never has. It is "free" only to the extent that it freely allows corporations to benefit, regardless of their contribution to society.

    In fact, the market is heavily regulated and always has been.

    The regulations need changing, so that we all share the profits that the market can bring.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:53:48 PM PDT

  •  Damn right on one level ... but I hate messaging (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    as an approach.  That implies to me advertising / marketing.  Isn't that exactly what has got us to this bad place?  The constant sales jobs and lying.

    Why not simply tell the truth about what is going on?

    If we are honest about things, I think we'll get much better results.  Sadly, there are people on both sides of aisle that are vested in perpetuating fictions.  That has to stop.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 04:57:16 PM PDT

    •  hmmm that would be truthful messaging? n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roadbear, Leftcenterlibertarian

      "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

      by leema on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:19:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How do you convince people to do (0+ / 0-)

      something that you really want to do? You sell them, right? You probably do it w/o lying.
      Unless you never try to push any of your ideas...which, I think, is most of the problem being discussed.

      -- We are just regular people informed on issues

      by mike101 on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:46:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ah, but when WE try to simply tell the truth (0+ / 0-)

      WE often get shouted down by our OWN side.  So we can't simply tell the truth about Afganistan, or the depression, or the HAMP program, or many other things that we all know to be true, for fear of having our own side yell at us for stepping on the party's message. And being accused of not caring, or worse yet actively helping the other side to win. It is simply not possible today to discuss the failures of the system, or the failures of political candidates without inviting a figurative lynching.  And if we can't honestly discuss problems, we will never reach an honest solution.

    •  Think of it as persuasion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ebohlman

      Marketing/advertising is just persuasion with intent to get you to shell out money. Persuasion is using the same principles and techniques in service of a cause.

      It's a pity that good, old-fashioned, upstanding persuasion has been taking the rap for decades and decades because of Madison Avenue.

      •  Bingo (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        When we refuse to sell our ideas, we come off as arrogant, disdainful snobs. The problem isn't marketing: it's dishonest marketing.

        If you integrate fantasy with reality, you do not instantiate reality. If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse. --Mark Crislip

        by ebohlman on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 11:07:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  We need to tell the truth loudly (0+ / 0-)

      And without shame for our views.

  •  Well, that's for sure: (5+ / 0-)
    Progressive advocates’ love affair with the passive voice—not naming a person in the subject position of our sentences—has hindered our ability to portray why things are the way they are.
    And:
    it obscures the truth and lets guilty parties off the hook.
    Shenker-Osorio offers many really excellent reality-based  insights, including:
    While progressives tread lightly and seek not to offend, conservatives turn the volume full blast on even the most outlandish of their opinions.

    They do not meet people where they are.

    They plant a flag where they’d like people to go and start a march there....

    But, if this is true:
    Shenker-Osorio has been fighting in the trenches of the word wars for years as a communications consultant to the ACLU, the MS. Foundation, America's Voice and dozens of other progressive groups.
    I have a question.

    Why has there been no improvement, whatsoever, in the piss poor messaging coming out of the Democratic party -- from issues surrounding health care to the dismal phony wars we use to destroy our treasure or ship it offshore?

    Are liberals unable to learn how to express themselves effectively?

    Or is there a larger agenda that we are simply not seeing that's actually at work here?


    A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

    by Pluto on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:02:29 PM PDT

    •  Great question! (8+ / 0-)

      Part of the answer (if it's not a breach of etiquette for me to comment on an article about my book) is in some small place there HAS been improvement. On the projects I'm proud to have played a part in seeing from diagnosis of what's not working through new messaging, we have come up with new language that accurately reflects what we actually mean to convey and works. And we've seen shifts in small places (e.g. certain immigration rules, marriage equality, comprehensive sex ed, some local tax measures.) I want to acknowledge being vague here -- this is in deference to the many amazing organizers and activists testing this language out on the ground. For strategy reasons (as well as being fair and supportive of my partners) I can't get more specific.
      Nevertheless, the larger answer -- from my vantage point on the economy in particular, nope not much improvement. And boy has it been frustrating!

      •  I feel your frustration: (0+ / 0-)
        Nevertheless, the larger answer -- from my vantage point on the economy in particular, nope not much improvement. And boy has it been frustrating!
        ...as far as the big picture goes.

        But if you look at that fact dispassionately -- against the backdrop of the facile success of messages that either work against the progressive vision or distract from it with apathy -- I think you have to accept the fact that what is going on is directed by enormous economic forces that are entirely post-political.

        Our strangely retrograde reality is certainly not on you.


        A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

        by Pluto on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 09:34:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Liberals expressing themselves effectively (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, mythatsme

      do so in moral and emotional terms. In anything economically-related, that means socialist terms. For example, it's not just about how everyone should have access to health care, but why they should, in a way that directly attacks corporate power.

      How many Democratic politicians are ever going to do that?

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 09:27:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is key. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Simplify, Calamity Jean

        And I want to point out that what is seen by Americans (self-destructively) as "socialist" -- is embraced by the entire world, modeled after the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Almost all UN member nations have signed on to the Declaration and have rewritten their constitutions to incorporate it.

        The US constitution does not confer human rights onto the people. It was written, with great compromise, to benefit slave owners. Thus, our situation in the 21st century is burdened by a structural flaw from the 18th century. Americans seem unable to deal with the reality of their situation and continue to believe that there is a political solution to a structural problem.


        A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

        by Pluto on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 09:45:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm liking it! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Almost nothing has a name.

    by johanus on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:03:47 PM PDT

  •  “Work hard and play by the rules.” (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, wishingwell

    Wonder how many people have bought that bridge?

    Fuck Big Brother...from now on, WE'RE watching.

    by franklyn on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:03:48 PM PDT

  •  Create targets (3+ / 0-)

    Using the passive voice, as mentioned, fails to create Emmanuel Goldstein-like figures who given a human face to what is wrong so we can rally together in opposition against it.  Creating human targets that we can all hate together doesn't mean that those targets have to be the prime cause of our woes, just that they have symbolic value.  It is easier to run against Newt Gingrich or George W. Bush than against a faceless Republican conspiracy.  We should be vilifying and dehumanizing someone like Mitt Romney and engaging in the politics of personal destruction to make him as hateable as possible.

    •  Just being vocal about the huge downside (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      roadbear

      of what they do would be a vast improvement.

      -- We are just regular people informed on issues

      by mike101 on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:49:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You lose me at "hate" & "dehumanize" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ConfusedSkyes

      No need to vilify.  Need to effectively communicate the policy differences... otherwise democracy becomes (even more) a popularity contest rather than a foundation for governance.

      The center is slipping away and we have low voter turnout because elections look like circuses.  If we are fortunate, people are noticing that congress has screwed us all in a scorched Earth campaign over the last two years.  

      I'm hoping the silent middle might be inclined to vote... but if we make the left look as drastic as the right, I think that's less likely.

      Just sayin'...

      •  Your attitude (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Flyswatterbanjo

        Is the sort of inability to understand the nature of reality that I am critical of.  Some sort of contemplative democracy is a hopelessly romantic dream that is not reality-based.  Using less substantive differences as a proxy for policy differences is a more effective strategy.

        I also don't believe in this centrist obsession with the "silent middle".

  •  I don't buy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto

    the premise that it's "progressives" who have this problem. Gutless Democratic politicians who are corporatists at heart anyway have this problem.

    "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

    by esquimaux on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:16:00 PM PDT

    •  But (gutless Democratic politicians) (0+ / 0-)

      ...have no motive to communicate anything outside of their own self-interest. They've been doing a bang-up job, when you think about it.

      In any event, much of this need for Democrats to dissemble is a structural flaw in the US political system. They live in states where they have to run as sociopaths at the local level to get into Congress, in the first place.


      A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

      by Pluto on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:28:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The message may matter ... (5+ / 0-)

    ... but the bigger problem is that there are very few politicians, including the president, willing to try progressive remedies to solve our economic mess.

    Obama is unwilling to prosecute the crooks who looted the world and is dying to reach a compromise with the Republicans so he can cut Medicare and Social Security benefits to show how responsible he is.

    What we need are politicians who haven't forgotten the economic lessons of the Great Depression. Until we get some, sharpening our rhetoric will do us about as much good as waiving our magic wands.

    •  "progressive remedies" tend to benefit the people (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SYWTSAR

      ...over the ambitions of Our Overlords.

      Our ancient founding documents do not support such a position. The US government was not established to benefit the people, and furthermore, confer no human rights upon them.


      A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

      by Pluto on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:35:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I just ordered it. (0+ / 0-)

    Also, have you read "Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga"? It's about rhetoric. And how Republicans beat us.

    GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

    by gzodik on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 05:27:05 PM PDT

  •  Just don't understand the point of this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bartcopfan

    Maybe an example like, "here's what we say today / here's what we should be saying" could elucidate, but right now I am quite confused.

    Frankly, I think the issue is that generally Democrats tend to accept Republican framing, like "illegal aliens" instead of something like "people without papers". Is THAT what is being touted in the book?

    •  I think the point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whenwego, Calamity Jean

      Is that we should attack individuals in a personal manner rather than the system in an impersonal manner and that we should be willing to do so in a way that offends the individuals that we attack.

      We should also not cling to the ego-boosting desire to appear rational, fair-minded individuals, since that prevents us from going full-bore at Mitt Romney and other enemies of America.

    •  one example (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whenwego, Calamity Jean

      Today we say -- "people lost their houses". I, who am notorious for losing stuff, have never managed to misplace my whole house. We should be saying -- "[name of bank CEO] kicked families out" "[name of mortgage co.] executives made the neighbor who always loaned you eggs homeless"

      To your specific query -- the book doesn't cover immigration but, having worked in that arena, I would reject both labels. While "people without papers" is actually better than "undocumented" as it leads with what they are instead of fixating on what they lack, it still keeps the debate squarely within the confines of status/legality. The terms I'd suggest h/t to the stellar team at America's Voice with whom I worked on this -- "aspiring citizens" and simply "new Americans."

      Thanks for asking! Hope you read and enjoy the book.

    •  We tend to be overly nice and rational (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whenwego, Calamity Jean

      assuming that everyone else is too and that that's how differences get resolved. We're smart enough to know that that's rediculous, but we're kind of wired to think and act that way (when we're not hiding behind that to avoid a fight).

      Also, we tend to take the bait and fight on their terms. Real dumb.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:24:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I have never been able to understand (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    conniptionfit, Calamity Jean

    what the term “free trade’ means.  If there is such a thing as a global economy and free trade, why can’t I buy health insurance from India or a mortgage from China?  Why can’t I load my car trunk with bottles of tequila in Mexico and reenter the U.S. without paying a huge tariff?

  •  it's like the saying: (4+ / 0-)

    when someone asks you for the time, don't tell them how to make a watch.

    democratic politicians (& talking heads) seem to be pretty good at telling voters how to make a watch when all people want is a clear, straight-up answer, & i'll never for the life of me understand why d's rarely have a counter to the snappy rw jibberish the r's use.

    i heard a congresswoman from ohio who does it right, when she said "true the vote" is really "rob the vote" -- that's the way it's done!

  •  Hallelujah (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, Calamity Jean
    If we can learn anything from Republican messaging master Frank Luntz, it is to sing our fight songs and never mind about pissing off those who disagree with us. While progressives tread lightly and seek not to offend, conservatives turn the volume full blast on even the most outlandish of their opinions. They do not meet people where they are. They plant a flag where they’d like people to go and start a march there, without food or water, no matter the distance.
    And Amen.

    Often I have thought we (liberals) have hunkered down when we should have been swinging back.  Perhaps if we less concerned about appearances and let conservatives know how supremely ticked we are at them, they would be walking back from more of their policies to find a middle ground.
     

  •  Who really needs the "message" ? (4+ / 0-)

    Face it - not only is she spot on on, but in reality it's middle of the road voters in about 1/2 a dozen states that need to be brought around.  Good rhetoric is worth lots and lots in post Citizens United money when it becomes the vocabulary repeated in the echo chamber of the modern twitter cycle.  Conservative success had been messaging discipline, up til this cycle.  Just because the big top party has so many dissonent voices in this cycle does NOT mean they don't have some very very smart and effective communicators - they're just being drowned out by the likes of Romney/Akin/Arpaio/fill in the blank ......  Progressives have numerous strikes against regarding consistent messaging and framing - any good lesson is vitaly important.

    •  It's not middle of the road voters who need to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      Be brought around by middle of the road rhetoric, it's liberal voters who need to hear actual liberal messaging and action on that messaging.  Our primary problem is that we leave lots and lots of liberal votes on the table because the Democratic Party hasn't been interested in liberal votes, or liberal policies.  Think about it, the Dem party spends more time trying to convince us that the republicans are worse, and hardly any time at all working to put liberal candidates in office, or liberal policies into action.  And when we do get a liberal policy through, we're supposed to be so grateful about it that we should ignore all the Reublican retread policies enacted that it cost us.  

  •  compulsory voting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    conniptionfit, No Exit

    Yeah, what she said!

    And starting right effing now, every progressive should be talking about the need for mandatory, compulsory, obligatory voting for all citizens over eighteen, with failure to vote punished by a substantial cash fine and a few days jail. Young progressives should shout it from rooftops and in occupied parks, graybeard progressive academics on Sunday talk shows should mellifluously intone that that's what the Founders obviously intended, and to suggest otherwise is to advocate for French socialism.

    Why? Because that's how we fight back against all this goddamn disenfranchisement. We need to demand nothing less that universal compulsory voting.  Because then, the idea that people can register to vote when they get their drivers license and forever after vote on a voluntary basis at a local, well-run, safe, fully-staffed, temporary-child-care-provided, monitored polling place will seem like a center-right compromise.

    •  I'd want to end up with (0+ / 0-)

      Compulsory, government-funded photo ID for everyone.  Every citizen and every non-citizen who is a legal resident should have one.  All citizens are automatically registered to vote and their identity can be checked at the polls through a federal database that has their picture.

    •  That's idiotic (0+ / 0-)

      Punishing someone--with jail time no less--for not voting? Why not put them in those FEMA camps while we're at it?

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:07:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's "idiotic"? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        No Exit

        Why argue for compulsory voting?

        To move the goalposts.  To protect the right for all citizens to vote voluntarily without hurdles and hoops to jump through.  To advocate to move the conversation in the right direction.  To shift the Overton window.  To silence the fraudulent claims of "vote fraud."  To, like, you know, win one for the good guys? Have you been watching us march backwards on abortion for forty years because the GOP will use every tactic they can to shut clinics, from shooting doctors to inspecting the electrical wiring?

        Do you think a fertilized embryo should have a Social Security Number?  No, and neither do they.  But they're using the argument to make banning abortion seem reasonable, so long as we have the rape-and-incest excpetions!

        What's "idiotic" is hand-wringing while they disenfranchise millions of Pennsylvanians. Harrumph.

        •  So the solution to denying people the vote (0+ / 0-)

          is to force everyone to vote? Uhuh.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:32:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am arguing the following (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            No Exit

            proposition:

            "Vigorous advocacy of (truly) compulsory voting, notwithstanding the remote likelihood of it ever becoming law, would have the salutary effect of moving the entire conversation about voting rights toward greater recognition of the value of voting and the shame of disenfranchisement."

            I gave you an empirical example of how the GOP has used this tactic for decades - taking ever-more-extreme positions on abortion rights - positions that most GOP tacticians do not themselves believe - to continuously chip away at abortion rights. They have been extremely successful.  Your response?  To question the merits of my extreme-left position, as if I could impose it instantly by fiat.

            So, no, I would not "force everyone to vote" if I were a magician.  I think voting should be voluntary.  But would I make that argument to improve access to the vote over time? Yes, and so should you.

            •  So a disengenuous policy push (0+ / 0-)

              is how you advocate combating denying people the vote? You want us to sink to their level, rather than just suing them in civil and criminal court?

              Perhaps we should make brushing teeth mandatory to fight the sugar lobby?

              "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

              by kovie on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 09:13:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Exactly! (0+ / 0-)

                Except that the disingenuous advocacy is only a part of the campaign.  99% of it should be the politics of reversing the policy, in the legislatures and in the courts, on the merits.

                Always a pleasure to joust, kovie.  Be well.

          •  yes. We should have mandatory voting by mail (0+ / 0-)

            australia has mandatory voting.  I think there is a fine which is not enforced.  I also seem to recall they have much greater voting rates than we do.

            Voting should be easy and mandatory.

            No System of Justice Can Rise Above the Ethics of Those Who Administer It. (Wickersham Commission 1929)

            by No Exit on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 11:35:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Why not? (0+ / 0-)

        Because Aym Rand wouldn't like it? Are you and your militia going to stop it?

        GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

        by Attorney at Arms on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 06:06:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Furthermore, if the Dems are going to run on (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      The Republican War on Women (TM) then they should be demanding repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and safe, legal accessible abortion on demand.  Instead of just the crappy status quo.

  •  How can you help get the message of the book out? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify

    Lots of agreement on how spot on the book is, so now I'll ask you folks, "How can you get these ideas out to others?"

    I've read the book and I think it is brilliant. I've already started using the language in my own writing, speaking and thinking.

    I'm now telling others about it because I believe it will help our side communicate better.

    I'm recommending the book to people who are talking about the economy all the time. Will they read it, I don't know, but I'm going to start talking about these issues using these metaphors.

     I'm also going to get these books to my favorite comedians, since they are often great with practical application of words in the culture. So specifically I'm going to make sure three of my favorite political comedians get it like Jimmy Dore, (check out the Jimmy Dore showit's hilarious) Frank Coniff and Paul Gilmartin. I'd like them to start pointing out to people how ridiculous it is to talk about the economy as if it was a deity.

    The "invisible hand" is nothing more than a metaphor that has become a faith based idea for some. When others start using that metaphor, challenge them!

    I'd like people to read the book and then engage people on OUR  SIDE when you hear them using these old metaphors. It's not "preaching to the choir" because many aren't singing the right tune. We can all sing from the same page with these better way to talk about the economy.

  •  Wall street corruption (0+ / 0-)

    Call it what it is

    wall Street Casino is the root of the problem. Don't call them banks.

    by timber on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:00:02 PM PDT

  •  Progressives have to stop trying to win (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    metal prophet

    the grad school class discussion they seem to think they're having when in reality they're in an ideological and messaging knife fight with unscrupulous pros. The other side is slicing and dicing us into little pieces and we're trying to maintain our composure and keep things civilized and thoughtful. That's not how this game is played! Certainly we should push on with the progressive agenda and try to not let them hold us back or get us down. But when attacked by the right, we often have to fight back, hard, amd not hand out verbal cucumber sandwiches.

    Many of us continue to be (or perhaps pretend to be, to avoid bruising fights) in massive denial about what we're up against. And enough with the outrage porn. We need to DO something about it and not just wallow in self-pity and rage.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:03:26 PM PDT

    •  I think some progressives do recognize the game (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      metal prophet

      They just spend too much time whining about the rules.  Sometimes, I just want to throw things at liberals who complain that there is not enough substantive policy debate.  The remedy is to engage in more non-substantive, non-policy arguments that push the progressive agenda, not to be a bunch diaper-wetting crybabies.

      •  We face two sets of challenges (0+ / 0-)

        One is political, the other ideological. The political one is brutal and nasty, and must be waged ruthlessly (but also smartly, of course). We kind of suck at that, being in denial about what and who we're up against. We like to pretend that politics is a civilized and rational process, when it's neither. It's war.

        The ideological one is about winning over the broad public to our way of thinking about the issues and what kinds of values we should embrace and country we should be. It's partly moral and philisophical, but mostly, sadly, marketing, no different from selling soap or cars. We kind of suck at that too, relying mostly on imploring the public to be more empathetic and caring. Yeah, like that sells.

        We're bringing nerf bats to a knife fight.

        "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

        by kovie on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:31:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Just got done re-reading (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ebohlman

    Susan Faludi's 1980s feminist classic, "Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women." In this book, she points out, time and again, how free markets, unfettered, would actually have served democratic-humanist, i.e., feminist, aims--whereas reflexive obstruction of the free market perpetuated status-quo thinking about women's proper place in society. Just one example of this was the early cancellation of the 80s TV show "Cagney and Lacy," which depicted strong female leads. Obviously, continuing to run the show would have continued to generate top profits for the network. But the network executives killed the show "for some reason." No better explanation has been expressed than the network executives' own personal dread of strong women characters.

    And so on.

    Free markets, their social effects, and vice-versa, aren't always black-and-white.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:03:45 PM PDT

  •  Gosh -- with the Romm book, that's at least two (0+ / 0-)

    recent books trying to tell progressives how to talk to the rest of us.

    I wait with bated breath for the book that tells y'all how to listen and to understand the rest of us.  At that point, you'll be well-position to take advantage of the first two books.

    Republicans and the faux conservative punditry fling BS by the pound -- stuff that's not really that hard to shoot down -- but they get away with it because they understand the audience. They know our hopes, our wants, and our fears.  They play to us. They even seem to sort of like us  a little bit.

    Progressives call us stupid then wonder why we're not listening.

    Kind of makes you wonder who the stupid ones actually are.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 06:57:54 PM PDT

  •  Yes, finally! (0+ / 0-)

    We all need to use simple, direct language. No sugar coating and no "I understand both sides."

    The LIBOR scheme is ignored because it's too complicated for anyone to explain.  Here are the facts: The people in charge conspired to STEAL taxpayer's money.  Go get your team of high priced lawyers to say otherwise, but we all know in our gut what happened.  They got together and STOLE from the cities who were taking out bonds!

    Enough of the politeness: Governor Romney would YOU invest in a company that only supplied two years worth of tax returns?

    Anything complicated or too egghead in this approach? NO.

    The conservatives play a game of dirty smash-mouth football. When the refs aren't looking, they kick you in the groin and scream, "He kicked me in the groin!"  There's no reasoning with crazies. Simple direct language that everyone understands used like a bat.  They operate in a complete pattern of bullying.  Smash the bully in the nose.  Maybe, then, just maybe though, you can start to work together.
    There is no reasonable dialogue before the punch in the nose.

  •  Good review. thanks n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

    by DJ Rix on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 07:25:30 PM PDT

  •  I've seen a lot of that thinking here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johanus, Calamity Jean

    not just about economics, but about law, public opinion, and in general just about every type of social reality.

    Humans create economies. We can change them.
    Humans create laws. We can change them.
    No one is born with opinions; humans create those, too.

    Marx was the most famous to describe this phenomenon, when talks about the rise of the commodity fetish in the first volume of Capital.

    We make things.
    We make them together.
    It takes a lot of negotiation, work, and cooperation.
    We make them to serve us.

    But once they are made, we tend to sit back and imagine the things to be the real, stable, ideal, unchanging part of the world, and the humans amidst the things we've created to be ephemeral, temporary, nameless, powerless. The economy is real, the players come and go, rather than economies come and go but the players remain the same (i.e. human participants).

    For Marx, the turn of phrase was that we fetishize those things that we create, mistaking the very real relationships between and power amongst the humans of the world for relationships between and power amongst the things of the world—whether those things are consumer goods, corporations, governments, or even "The Law" and "The Economy."

    This fetishization serves the powerful, because we become reliant on those that own and control these things (even though we made them, whether we're talking about goods or economies), forgetting that it was only all of us together that had the power to make them (not the elite who "owns" them according to the rules that we—once again—made ourselves), forgetting just as importantly that we also have the power to unmake both the things and the rules that we've made together through the very same methods.

    -9.63, 0.00
    I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

    by nobody at all on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 07:37:12 PM PDT

    •  I should add that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      this doesn't just apply to recent things (the USA, the iPhone) but also to things that many posters imagine to be eternal (private property as a concept, human freedom as a right, time as a concept).

      We created private property.
      We created freedom and democracy.
      We created the idea of human rights.
      We created time zones, hours, minutes, seconds, and history.

      Contrary to the rhetoric, these things aren't eternal. In each case, there was a time when no human had them. They were ideas that became real through wide-spread adoption and humans acting together as if they were real, by agreement.

      This is what sociologists mean when they refer to "social reality." There are things that become real only by consensus and practice, and only in collectivities.

      Perhaps we wish we could make some of them eternal. But in the end we made them, and continue to maintain (or not) them, and we (or other humans if we're not careful in some cases) can also change them.

      -9.63, 0.00
      I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

      by nobody at all on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 08:16:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We can't endorse this book (5+ / 0-)

    While we greatly respect the effort that Anat is making, and do find areas of agreement, we disagree with the logic she uses to dismiss certain metaphors and endorse certain other ones.

    Though we haven't read the book in its entirety, we've seen excerpts, we've read her memo wherein she shreds venture capitalist Nick Hanauer for using a garden metaphor, and we participated in the webinar her group held regarding both that topic and this book a few weeks ago. Our takeaways:

    The fact that 20 economists she cites use mechanical terminology doesn't make it more correct or more persuasive than the garden metaphor. It also excludes the fact that we aren't addressing progressives to whom the mechanical model appeals, we're addressing conservative thinkers in the middle.

    We understand the perceived value of a mechanistic model for the economy. But there isn't really a conversation we want to have about the economy with persuadable voters where it adds value to explain to them that the economy is a vehicle, and that it responds to external inputs. That voter cares most about how different philosophies of governing the economy affects them. In terms of framing and persuasion, it's far more important to engage the voter with moral values frames. For example, in terms of taxes, why would we want to argue over WHETHER taxes harm the economy, by granting the right wing's version of the mechanism, when OUR frame is about the moral values and patriotic responsibility expressed in fair taxation, to be used so the government can provide the services we want and expect?

    This makes her work nothing at all like either Lakoff or Haidt, with whom she was compared in this review.

    One other really important point about a garden versus an engine: A garden produces things of value. An engine (like a body, in fact) takes us from place to place (our "journey") but it doesn't produce anything, and in fact, it wears out. We think that's a significant difference, and it's one of the reasons we need a new frame for the economy. It's self-evident to us and to people who understand the economy that the way you fix economic problems is that you grow the economy, you create more wealth by doing value-adding tasks. This is the fundamental problem with the zero-sum concepts (like a car)—economies, like gardens, grow if they are well tended and everyone is better off.

    She is definitely right on about "messaging from inevitability," and asking for more than you expect to get—she called it "making audacious asks"; we like that. And she's also spot on when she says "We would do well to exert less effort saying what we do not believe." But we think Anat needs to watch the Peter Sellers movie, "Being There." The entire narrative of the movie depicts how the gardening model resonates as a metaphor for national economies and supports liberal policies.

    Stop the party of Gut & Spend policies that gut our Earned Benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare and spends on tax breaks for the wealthy elite.

    by jillwklausen on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 08:16:42 PM PDT

    •  I don't see where she disagrees that much. (0+ / 0-)

      At least it's not evident in this post. What she objects to about the weather and body metaphors doesn't seem to apply to a garden metaphor. Seems to me it combines the best of the health and mechanics constructions — a garden is a thing that produces things but can get sick, yet it's something that humans are responsible for creating and tending.

      Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
      Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
      Code Monkey like you!

      Formerly known as Jyrinx.

      by Code Monkey on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 08:35:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great comment, Jill, but it's beyond metaphor (0+ / 0-)

      I mean, that's a 19th century conception of how this all works.

    •  thanks for the substantive critique (0+ / 0-)

      I really appreciate the time that's evident in the crafting of this comment; this issue is way to important not to get right and so serious dialogue about how to do so is most welcome.

      "Endorse" is an interesting word. I'm not running for anything.

      Also, I'm not sure how it's possible for you to have seen excerpts -- no one beyond the folks sent an advance copy have access to the book. Perhaps you mean previous reports and articles I've written?

      In my analysis, as I was trained in working with George and other brilliant scholars in the field, I examined the language produced by an array of people to uncover how people actually reason about the economy. Just as you can't follow when I say "things are looking West" or "he was East", because there's no underlying model for good is West/bad is East, we can't invent models from scratch. (Incidentally, as you likely know, good is up/bad is down is the metaphor I'm departing from -- "down in the dumps" "things are looking up.")

      So, first there's the question of whether the garden occurs as a metaphor for the American English speaker. And, a variant of it -- what I'd call a crop, does. Not often, and not by lay folks -- i.e. non-economists. This should give us pause about how well it does at explaining the complex topic we seek to make coherent.

      But your substantive point about whether it transmits all we need it to is far more important.

      In Nick and Eric's book (which I have read as they kindly sent me a copy when it first came out), there seems to be a conflation of the source and target domains of the metaphor for which they advocate. At times, they are looking for ideas and language to resurrect democracy and/or government. At others, the economy is the target domain. Clearly, the same metaphor can't work for both as they each need to be present in the frame of the other.

      Restricting this already too long comment to the economy question alone, then, I would ask what the entailments are of the garden. In so far as it conveys requiring continuous external supervision (tending, as they'd say), it's great. When, however, they veer into "ecosystem" talk I continue to believe that's not helpful. I can't imagine something more self-regulating than an ecosystem -- not a concept we need people to continue to believe about our economy.

      I'm surprised to see the word "shreds" in relation to the memo. This was neither my intent nor is it my perception of how I critiqued their claims. I too embrace many of their points -- and, in fact, cite their brilliant analysis of "government spending" as dangerous misunderstanding of what it means to put money where it's most assuredly needed in the book.

      My book is based on over three years of analysis of language data -- from the media, non-economists discussing financial concerns, pop culture sources (transcripts of film and tv), academic speech and, yes, the 40 expert interviews you mentioned -- among them Nobel laureates and progressive heroes. The idea with this last source was to uncover the unconscious assumptions experts have about the economy that not only allow but help them to reason to decidedly progressive policy preferences. The hypothesis with this is -- if these folks who "get" this topic reason to these conclusions, what is it they assume is true about the economy (how it works, what improves it, etc)? And, how do we activate that reasoning in more people who don't have PhDs in econ?

      Whether this plus the written data analysis was an adequate or correct approach is open to discussion. I would hope all research methods are.

      In fact, we don't actually have to debate about this theoretically. We can test it! And I would love to do so. Recreating a much used priming technique, basically exposing one group to one metaphor and another to the other, and then seeing how this impacts their beliefs and judgments and, most importantly, their policy preferences.

      I would welcome the chance for this. As I said, it's too important not to get right.

      --Anat

      •  The power of metaphors (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jillwklausen

        ... lies in their ability to resonate with existing value frames and produce emotional responses.

        In that sense, it does serve progressive causes to talk about the economy using metaphors of agency and responsibility, to energize the construct of "economy" beyond passivity.

        But it's absurd to suggest that mechanistic models are the best and preferred metaphors, and that organic metaphors, such as gardens, are harmful.

        Jill is absolutely right that we must focus messaging and framing on the persuadable middle. It's completely irrelevant how economists think--it's no surprise that they like mechanistic metaphors: that's how they learn, teach, and write about economies.

        Organic language and metaphors work better: the need to be responsible stewards of the land, to achieve balance in tending gardens, to see interdependencies, and to calibrate responses in recognition of cycles and seasons and external inputs. These all reinforce progressive themes AND they emphasize agency and responsibility. Most of all, they resonate with non-urban America, where the persuadable middle lives.

        Our cause: a More Perfect Union.

        by Roby NJ on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 10:27:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  wtf ?! Why is publication not till end Sept? (0+ / 0-)

    I wanna read it now!

    •  so kind of you! (0+ / 0-)

      You can get it a bit sooner at one of the launch events. of course, I have no idea where you live so apologies if these aren't that useful but the book will be on sale in San Francisco, Oakland and LA at various events. While I will be headed elsewhere for signings, they're after the book is out.

  •  Great diary and so very important subject (0+ / 0-)

    Taxes should be aligned to monopoly power.  Taxes so aligned are compensation to the rest of us, not some "act of generosity" or "burden" grudgingly paid.  Taxes on privileges are necessary to balance the scales of justice.  

    Wanting a sane defense policy is not "being weak".  

    "Free Markets" is a bullshit term without elaboration on the legal and cultural infrastructure.  Mostly what are claimed to be free markets are neither.

    The assault on language goes on relentless from the right with Dems more or less giving in.  The only thing that pisses me off more than right-wing language twisting is watching Dems cooperate in the process.  

    The Long War is not on Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran. It is on the American people.

    by Geonomist on Sun Aug 26, 2012 at 08:54:13 PM PDT

  •  And yet, every single day on Dkos is a lesson (0+ / 0-)

    In everything this book/diary are arguing (sadly, in a negative way).

    I've seen Lakoff viciously attacked on here. The problem is you're challenging people's basic assumptions about "language" and "speech" (which have little to do with "communication" and everything to do with power and action). Even the diary seems to not quite get it: it's not about messaging as rational, or as communicating content. People do not have to believe speech to be effected by it. They just have to hear it and repeat it. In fact, this is why you get people (as a recent diary on abortion pointed out), who passionately support things they don't actually believe (including their own destruction).

    God, I feel like we're on a cliff going off slowly while we wait for the Left to never ever get it!

    •  Yes! You got it. Just read the diarist's phrasing: (0+ / 0-)

      "It was the result of choices—bad ones—made by specific human beings who benefitted from human-created policies at the expense of a majority of the population"

      The analysis is correct, the framing is, well, nonexistent. And before Susan Gardner takes offense, I stipulate that I know this diary is not a political ad, which would have required rigorous framing. Nonetheless, this issue cries out for a short, emotionally-based true restatement of the facts. Here are my poor efforts:

       "Crooks took us to the cleaners"

       "The fox teamed up with the farmer and made off with all the chickens"

      Whatever. THEN follow with the long sentence that has subordinate clauses and hyphenated phrases. But boil it down to essentials first!

  •  Meh (0+ / 0-)
    who's been fighting in the trenches of the word wars for years as a communications consultant to the ACLU
    Oh, that increasingly popular group than hasn't been pigeon-holed for decades? Sounds like heck-of-a-job Brownie writing on earthquake preparedness. I support the ACLU, but has it had gotten any less hated by the right and Broderites?

    This book is part of an even worse progressive and Democratic fault: preparing to fight the last war.

    Nuancing language is so 20 years ago. They just straight up lie now. You can call it global warming or climate change, but just denying it exists--whatever you call it-- totally preemptive this game.

    Dems need to counter that first. They have had trouble at least since the Recovery Act doing so.

    GOP: The Party of Acid rain, Abortion of the American Dream, and Amnesty for Wall Street.

    by Attorney at Arms on Mon Aug 27, 2012 at 05:59:35 PM PDT

    •  Agreed. We can't just nuance language, we must (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roby NJ

      frame our policies from moral positions that resonate with how people feel about the world around them—and do so truthfully. It's completely irrelevant how economists use mechanics to illustrate how an economy works, in the context of convincing persuadable voters why they should embrace Progressive policies instead of Regressive policies.

      Political language isn't about wordsmithing, it's about gut-checking.

      Stop the party of Gut & Spend policies that gut our Earned Benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare and spends on tax breaks for the wealthy elite.

      by jillwklausen on Tue Aug 28, 2012 at 11:16:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Getting the book before Sept 25th (0+ / 0-)

    A whole bunch of people have asked about buying the book early (incredibly lovely requests for an author to get!)

    I spoke to the publisher and it's possible -- but not guaranteed. The book releases from the bindery September 5th; the official on sale date is 3 weeks later to allow for it to get across the country. However, it's very likely most book stores will have it sooner. This is especially true on the East Coast.

    Since it's not embargoed (I'm not exactly JK Rowling, here) -- some sellers will let you have it as soon as it's in stock. You just have to call your local bookstore and ask.

    If you can stomach Amazon, orders from them are also likely to go out early. Same goes with Powell's.

    None of this is set in stone -- just wanted to relay information I got.

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