Berkeley linguist George Lakoff has, for a long time, attempted to help Democrats get elected by suggesting the Democrats change their message.  He recently used his status as a well-regarded linguist to assist a Democrat operative with the latest guidelines for talking points.  Zombie at Pajamas Media has time to read the guidelines, and comment.
Lakoff does something throughout the book which he must think is very clever, but which is completely transparent to the reader, making for a truly cringe-worthy experience. Lakoff has two public personas: First, he is a scientist; and second, he is a partisan political advocate. He understands that when he speaks as a partisan, we the readers necessarily take what he says with a grain of salt; but when he speaks as a scientist, we are expected to accept his statements as objective truth. Throughout the book, he constantly switches back and forth between the two personas: He’ll speak for a paragraph or two as a liberal activist advising Democratic candidates and pundits, then he’ll take off that hat and put on the linguist hat to say something “official”; then switch back to his liberal hat, and so on. I guess the temptation was too great to resist abusing this dual role, because he makes a habit — a career, actually — of putting on his scientist hat and then making partisan statements, which he passes off as impartial facts. I can only imagine that he thinks he’s getting away with it, but the gambit is so glaringly obvious that it makes you almost embarrassed for the guy.
Quite so. More to the point, Zombie suggests, conservative and Republican court intellectuals are quite willing to take the latest frame and mock it.  Or take it seriously.
There’s a new frame in town: The nanny state. In a masterful maneuver of political aikido, conservatives have taken Lakoff’s antediluvian “strict father conservatism” frame and completely reversed it. 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.

And this frame is widely accepted by the general public not simply because of superior conservative messaging, but because there is evidence backing it up. It is mostly liberal politicians, not conservative politicians, who pass laws and regulations telling citizens what they can and cannot do, what they must and must not buy, what they are and are not allowed to say.

Who seeks to impose the “strict parent” paradigm now? Liberals. And everyone knows it. Yet still there’s George Lakoff off by his lonesome still pounding his fists about “strict father conservatives.” All the rhetoric in the world can’t hide the fact that conservatism now stands for unintrusive small government, and that progressivism stands for intrusive big government. The “nanny state” frame is so powerful and self-evidently true that it can’t be ignored away, and can’t be euphemized away.
Nurturant Parents don't let their children buy Big Gulps, q.e.d.

No comments: