Since George Orwell, a few smart people occasionally remind us that politics isn't so much about what you say, but how you say it. Language has always fascinated me, especially in terms of how it is used by progressives and conservatives alike as often to obscure an issue as to elucidate it. Linguist George Lakoff's new book is an excellent tool for understanding how to talk the talk, which progressives desperately need to do if they hope to regain control of the political process.
"Don't Think of an Elephant" is Lakoff's new book, which arrives just in time for the last leg of the United States' presidential race. In clear, concise language, Lakoff reveals how conservatives have wrested control of the public discourse through savvy use of language and imagery. His insight into how conservative minds work, and the way we view our own progressive values (not to mention how we articulate them) are a must-have for progressive changemakers.
I have always been frustrated by the way progressives get bogged down in the boring details, and spend so much time fighting amongst themselves. Meanwhile, conservatives show a unified front, and use clever turns of phrase like "tax relief" (as if taxes were an affliction rather than a means to a mutually desired end), "family values" (as if loving a gay child were not a family value), and "pro-life" (as if those who support abortion rights were "pro-death").
But Lakoff realizes that we can expose the inner workings of the conservative image machine, take the best ideas, and fight fire with fire. It's all about framing the debate. And this book is a manual for doing just that.