Thu Jun 22nd, 2006 at 02:01:03 PM EST
How important, how effective is "framing the debate" in political discourse?
Are Republicans beating up on Democrats in large part because the Democrats are very poor at conceptual framing?
This diary is to pursue an exchange started with Migeru, whose alleged nerdiness seems to be much to his advantage in this discussion, since he has interesting things to say about "framing".
More, for fellow nerds, below the fold.
Your reply, Migeru-san ,is great and very interesting. I'd like to pursue this topic since you know more about it than I do--and if you aren't too bored, you could explain some things to me.
"It's not about catchy slogans,..."
But in everything I see from the Dems, their lead-in to this framing always involves the use of, the search for, the essential importance of slogans--always!
"... it's about an insight from cognitive linguistics that our thinking is not primarily logical but metaphorical."
Okay, that's very interesting; It sounds as though there is some implied conflict between these-- true, in your view?
"If a discussion is not framed in the right conceptual-metaphorical settings, certain things become unspeakable and certain arguments become strained."
Aren't these "right conceptual-metaphorical settings" also or very often the very elements of what is in dispute, at issue, in question--i.e. disagreed over?
In other words, why is it that the elements in dispute are or can be essentially different from the core issues of what is under discussion? Does that question make sense to you?
To take a practical example, there is now hot debate over the need to "frame" the matter of whether to call the conflict in Iraq a "war" (the current standard reference--and) the one supposedly serving Republicans' interests, or, on the other hand, an "occupation", supposedly framing the matter in a way which favors withdrawal--the end sought by the war's or the occupation's opponents.
The argument is that by acceding to the terms of the Republicans in the use of "war" to describe the conflict, the advantages of, the need for, withdrawal is clouded and thinking about it is precluded.
Why? Why is one fashion "logical" and the other "conceptual-metaphorical"?
Why doesn't either term--war or occupation--operate as easily as a logical or a conceptual-metaphorical element? Indeed, why aren't "conceptual-metaphorical" elements of language integral parts of logical mental operations?
Why draw a distinction there?
Also, why--or how--is it that the same person who cannot recognize something conceptually important when it is "framed" in the terms of a "war" can recognize this when the term "occupation" is substituted for "war"? Does that seeming anomaly describe your thinking habits? If not, why should it fairly describe your ideological opponent's?
In other words, the issue seems to me to imply some reasoning deficiencies which occur in one camp but not the other on any given controversy; and that these deficiencies are linked in some important way to what are claimed to be "conceptual framing" terms. But, why should one definable set of disputants consistently see one thing rather than another while another definable set consistently sees its opposite in the same controversy?
This goes against my intuitive notions about people and their behavior. My view has it that in each camp there are essentially the same facts "seen"--no matter the terms in which they are "framed", and that in each "camp", we have people who accept or reject each of the contending opinions--for reasons that are beyond mere "conceptual framing". That means that they'd behave and think in the same manner whether the framing terms were altered or not.
In looking at things this way, both parties to the dispute are assumed to reason and to behave in what are fairly called "logical" or "rational" manners. Though they can arrive at opposing conclusions on the same set of agreed facts. And, further, "conceptual framing" terms do not appreciably change this dynamic nor can they be reliably predicted to have one outcome or another in advance of practical trial and error.
That is, there is no telling necessarily, whether the term "occupation" shall make current "war" supporters more or less inclined to favor earlier withdrawal, as I see it. It could as well be one way as the other, or, indeed, I assume that there would be some cases of each, and these in unpredictable numbers either way.
Uesd in the context of political debate, I think "framing" is a very weak and highly unpredictable tool for manipulating people's thinking and behavior.
I accept as true in part that Republicans have had some marked success in getting large parts of the public to accept their political assumptions and priorities; but not, as I see it, because of some superior art in conceptual framing.
More likely because they have led people to accept the bases of their reasoned propositions--not merely the terms in which these are framed, since, even when Democrats shout out other alternative "conceptual-framing terms" --or, in ordinary parlance, this is known as "disagreeing with one's opponent", the Republicans stubbornly remain fixed on their existing "frames" of rhetorical reference.