Sunday, June 11, 2006

Lakoff versus Luntz

Cognitive scientist Georg Lakoff (and Sam Ferguson) have written a short essay explaining the difference between what they do at the Rockridge Institute and what pollster Frank Luntz does. In short, Rockridge frames, Luntz spins. [Blogger's Note - For an introduction to framing, see here.]

The essay contrasts a public paper that Rockridge wrote on framing the immigration debate with a private memo Frank Luntz wrote for Republicans on how to speak about immigration. This illustrates an important distinction between framing a debate honestly, and framing it deceptively.

Luntz’s aim is to unify Republicans by pointing out which frames work to their political advantage — whether or not they serve the truth and whether or not they are moral. We use frame analysis coming from a cognitive science perspective to educate the public and help progressives to better understand and express their deepest values and to better serve the truth.

Luntz creates secretive messaging for political elites (his memo was leaked—all of our papers are public). We empower grassroots progressives by articulating our shared values openly, and hope that political leaders might be listening as well.

Luntz spins and creates slogans to sell right-wing policy to the American public and to keep hidden agendas hidden. We examine and critique political framing to expose implicit values and agendas.

Where Luntz suggests language for manipulating the public, we are interested in authenticity — in helping progressives say what they believe, in advancing traditional progressive values, and in framing important truths so that they can be recognized.

We take an honest look at our own beliefs as well as those of others. Our intentions are explicit and open.

We believe that you can abide by the deepest of democratic values, say what you believe, tell the truth, and win elections — and that deep and honest framing is essential to those ends.

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