don’t think of a rove elephant

Since I can’t decide what to clip, here’s George Lakoff’s entire post as left at Arianna Huffington’s site:

For a while last week, the Democrats were doing better at framing the issues. The poll numbers showed that Bush’s approval rating was down, that around 60% of the voters had turned against the Iraq War, that support for Bush on his handling of 911 and terrorism was lower, but still pretty high.

They correctly recognized in the numbers that the public had begun to separate Iraq from 911, and they recognized the relevance of the Downing Street memo in showing that Bush had betrayed the trust of the American people in sending troops into Iraq on false pretenses. They had begun to form an anti-Iraq-War caucus and to hammer home the consequences of these developments. And even staunch Republicans were listening to their arguments and coming to Bush to suggest withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

In short, the Democrats had begun to use the basics of framing issues in terms of their own values and principles, the lessons arising from research at the Rockridge Institute. Had they continued to argue with unity on the difference between 911 and Iraq, and on the fact that George Bush betrayed our troops and is weakening our country, they might have made it impossible for Bush to once again link Iraq with 911.

Then they lost it. Karl Rove outsmarted the Democrats again. And he used the most basic trick in the book to do it.

The first lesson of framing is not to activate the other guy’s frame. Negating a frame activates it in the minds of hearers, as Richard Nixon found out when he said “I am not a crook” and everybody thought of him as a crook. The very title of my book, Don’t Think of an Elephant makes the point: if you negate a frame, it reinforces the frame.

Rove managed to link Iraq with 911 again, and to delegitimate the Democrats in the process. And he did it with the Democrats’ help.

Rove achieved this brilliantly — in one sentence!

“Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.” [NY Times, 6/23/05]

When the Democrats took the bait, Rove reeled them in. Here’s what he achieved:

1.Rove changed the context of discourse, from Bush’s disaster in Iraq, to support for Bush in the wake of 911.

2.The Democrats had had the Republicans playing defense; Rove put them on offense and the Democrats on defense.

3.With the words “savagery” and “attack”, Rove evoked the frame in which war is the appropriate response. He thus made Bush the heroic Commander-in-Chief in the war frame, while making “liberals” wimps for wanting to deny Bush unlimited war powers.

4.Rove thus evoked the conservative branding of liberals as weak and conservatives as strong.

5.When the Democrats attacked Rove for his remarks and defended themselves, they wound up expressing support for Bush’s going to war after 911, and with it implicit support for Bush’s position in Iraq.

6.Rove made putative Democratic weakness the issue, and by negating the frame, the Democrats played right into his hands.

7.Moreover, using the word “liberal” and not “Democrat”, Rove made it look like any Democrat attacking his remarks was a lily-livered liberal, and that the party had been taken over by weak-kneed chickens — anyone against Bush’s use of the military.

8.This enabled the right-wing message machine to go to work, attacking the Democrats as being controlled by na

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  1. Teddy Glass
    Posted July 1, 2005 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to ruin anyone’s holiday, but I just heard that Sandra Day O’Connor has resigned from the Supreme Court. The shit, my friends, is about to hit the fucking fan.

  2. Posted July 2, 2005 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Damn I love Lakoff. I’ve probably read his book three times now and skim it from time to time to keep the ideas fresh in my brain.

  3. rb
    Posted July 3, 2005 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I thought they should have said that Karl needed therapy…but figured it was just my stupid-self idea…

  4. Posted July 4, 2005 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    This was an amazing analysis and should be required reading for anyone answering Bush’s propaganda machine publicly.

  5. dorothy
    Posted July 4, 2005 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    just heard that rove may be involved in the outing of valarie plame. if this is true, he should be tried for treason. and why the hell hasn’t robert novak been indicted like the other two reporters? did he reveal his source? was it karl rove? wake up people, the facists are taking over the country! FUCK!

  6. mark
    Posted July 4, 2005 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, Dorothy. I’ve heard the same thing… If all goes well, I’ll get some links up on the front page tonight.

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