Topp on Cherry and Ford (plus)

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jrootham
Topp on Cherry and Ford (plus)

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jrootham

Brian Topp has an article that uses Don Cherry and Ford as a basis to launch into why progressives are politically unsuccessful.

He is using an analysis from the right to make his case.

The primary criticism I have about the accuracy of these writings is that they completely ignore the effects of policy success or failure.  Everything takes place in some kind of perception space where the real world does not intrude.

 

Cueball Cueball's picture

Quote:
Next, we need to find some clear words to point out the fundamental contradiction in the conservative message - a populist message designed to beggar the populi.

And third, we need to scrub off thirty years of impenetrable, internally-focussed, liberal, academic, bureaucratic, entitlement-driven, self-absorbed "progressive" language.

Writing about people in the third person as dolts to be manipulated through a dumbed down "populist message designed to beggar the populi", sounds a lot like "entitlement-driven, self-absorbed "progressive" language" to me.

ottawaobserver

jrootham wrote:

Brian Topp has an article that uses Don Cherry and Ford as a basis to launch into why progressives are politically unsuccessful.

He is using an analysis from the right to make his case.

The primary criticism I have about the accuracy of these writings is that they completely ignore the effects of policy success or failure. Everything takes place in some kind of perception space where the real world does not intrude.

JRootham, could I ask you to explain a little further. The accuracy of which writings: Topp's or Olsen's from the National Review Online at the American Enterprise Institute site?

jrootham

Ok, that wasn't clear.  Thanks for the question.

In retrospect maybe accuracy wasn't quite the right word.  

I am referring to what I see as a failure of analysis, rather than a bad description of fact.  So correctness would be a better word.

It's more explicit in the longer piece he cites, but it is also implicit in his recommendations.  I think the key to generating support for change, especially rapid change, is to deliver things that unequivocally make things better for a lot of people. If you can do that, language loses a lot of its power.

Topp is arguing pretty strictly for language changes in this piece.

 

 

siamdave

jrootham wrote:

....  I think the key to generating support for change, especially rapid change, is to deliver things that unequivocally make things better for a lot of people. If you can do that, language loses a lot of its power. ....

- kind of begs the question - how are you going to deliver these great changes if you're not in power?

Kloch

Correct me if i am wrong, but isn't part of the reason that working class people used to support labour based political movements is that they were part of a broad social movement that provided, amongst other things, political education so that they would not fall for fake populism?

Maybe part of the problem with "progressive" parties, is that we don't actually mean what we say, in so far as what we say is different from what conservatives say.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Kloch has the rights of it - and that's what most of us are talking about (at least in part) when we refer to "reframing."

I disagree with JRootham that Topp is ONLY calling for a change in language.  I think Topp is arguing that PART of what the left needs to do is look at its use of language.  The article is only dealing with that part.

Vansterdam Kid

I think the article was great until it got to solutions.

Quote:
A good place to start is to stop building up our opponents by mocking or demonizing them, as so many progressive people did, self-defeatingly, in the case of both Prime Minister Harper and Mayor Ford.

Why? Conservatives do it all the time in the case of their progressive opponents. Civility is important to an extent. And one shouldn't look unreasonable or like they're foaming at the mouth. But they accuse us of everything from wanting to kill Grandma (see: Death Panels from Palin, Sarah) to getting into bed with the Taliban (see: "Taliban Jack" from the Conservative Party of Canada). Admittedly focusing on Cherry's bad wardrobe, or Ford being fat, isn't going to win any voters because it's irrelevant. But why not call them on their bullshit by mocking and or demonizing them if it's relevant? I'd really like to know the answer to this because it's a strong assertion without any indication of why it would be effective. How is it self-defeating? Where is the evidence.

 

Quote:
Next, we need to find some clear words to point out the fundamental contradiction in the conservative message – a populist message designed to beggar the populi.

And third, we need to scrub off thirty years of impenetrable, internally-focussed, liberal, academic, bureaucratic, entitlement-driven, self-absorbed “progressive” language.

I don't understand how changing our words will make us more effective. Admittedly, people should say what they mean and toss the politician-speak at the door. I.e. they need to sound more genuine and do it more concisely. But I think the progressive obsession with language is a big waste of time.

Quote:
Instead of all that, we need to beat the Conservatives in the race for our own base – and then reverse field on them.

Okay, so he doesn't believe in all of his other solutions then? I'm confused. But yes, obviously left-wing parties need to recruit more support from the working/middle class.

I agree that the left needs to deliver on its promises when in power and stop worrying about compromise, for its own sake, to look like that's somehow a pre-requisite for "governance." I think part of the problem here is that progressives are generally nicer to strangers and seem to care more so what people think of them. Essentially I think progressives are more likely to say the ends don't justify the means whereas conservatives are more likely to say that the ends do justify the means. I think this is reflected in some polling, where a significant majority of the Republican base doesn't want the Republican party to compromise. Whereas the Democrats are more split in their base supporters between those who don't want compromise and those who do.

N.R.KISSED

I will take Chris Hedges analysis over Brian Topps any day. Anyone who attempts to portray Martin, Ignatief and Obama as progressive and Margaret Thatcher as "centre-right" is clueless. It is the liberals/social democrats Chretian,Martin, Ignative, Clinton, Obama and Blair/Brown who left the working class to rot and are now more interested in saving their own skin than representing the middle class. It is also the liberal middle class that saw themselves so superior and distinctive to the working class that are now facing the chopping block.Those who capitulated and allowed the political spectrum to be dragged to the right are now discovering the consequejnces of their actions. I think it is inaccurate to always focus on the working class that support reactionary politics, the impoverished and marginalized who believe in left wing ideals stay at home because there is no political party that represents them.

"The steady impoverishment and misery inflicted by the corporate state on the working class and increasingly the middle class has a terrible logic. It consolidates corporate centers of power. It weakens us morally and politically. The fraud and violence committed by the corporate state become secondary as we scramble to feed our families, find a job and pay our bills and mortgages. Those who cling to insecure, poorly paid jobs and who struggle with crippling credit card debt, those who are mired in long-term unemployment and who know that huge medical bills would bankrupt them, those who owe more on their houses than they are worth and who fear the future, become frightened and timid. They seek only to survive. They accept the pathetic scraps tossed to them by the corporate elite. The internal and external corporate abuse accelerates as we become every day more pliant"

http://www.countercurrents.org/hedges071210.htm

autoworker autoworker's picture

Rob Ford is a winner because he is in the business of selling people what they want (not necessarily what they need).  If voters want to go straight to Hell, he'll gladly, and unabashedly sell them a handbasket-- at a popular price!   

Until Don Cherry successfully opens a chain of haberdasheries, it's safe to say that most people know that Ford's sartorial shill is wearing a clown's costume.  Populism has its limits, and its a mistake to underestimate the intelligence (and fashion sense) of us common folk (ball caps notwithstanding).

If it's true that most people live lives of 'quiet desperation', then Robbie & Donnie provide much needed comic relief to the masses. 

BTW: Get your handbaskets, while supplies last...!

Vansterdam Kid

Quote:
"Those who cling to insecure, poorly paid jobs and who struggle with crippling credit card debt, those who are mired in long-term unemployment and who know that huge medical bills would bankrupt them, those who owe more on their houses than they are worth and who fear the future, become frightened and timid. They seek only to survive. They accept the pathetic scraps tossed to them by the corporate elite. The internal and external corporate abuse accelerates as we become every day more pliant"

So in other words, the masses are supposed to rise up through socialist revolution and if they don't they're responsible for their own lot in life? That's very boring, it seems to imply that the victims are responsible for the crimes committed against them and it borders on socialist cliche.

It's not as if I even disagree with all of the article's factual statements, although the holocaust parables are tacky in the extreme, it's just extremely preachy and very smarmy sounding. It's essentially unreadable, even to the average lefty. No one likes to be told they're shit, even if it's true. It's why religions are in decline in the educated and industrialized world. They focus almost obsessively on pointing out people's faults. In a sense, this is the problem progressives need to avoid. We see the shit in life and want to clean it up. If that shit happens to include things the average person does on a regular basis, or is forced into doing by the system in which they live, then they feel like progressives are saying they're shit. Understandably, they tell us to fuck off.

I'm going to sound like a hypocrite, by focusing on language, but if that 'Happy as a Hangman' piece isn't talking down to people I don't know what is. I suppose I'm going to flip flop on something here by focusing on language, but perhaps it can be important. I don't think language is as important as communication in general though.

As for the cling comment, it reminds me of the big bruhaha over Obama's "they cling to their guns and their religion" comment. I knew what he was saying, as I know what this guy is saying, but it comes across poorly. What they should say is they vote for people who at least fulfil their social view of the world, when their economic view of the world has been sold out. Something like, they vote for candidates who claim to be pro-religion and pro-gun, when no politician is pro-them on economic matters.

Unionist

jrootham wrote:
I think the key to generating support for change, especially rapid change, is to deliver things that unequivocally make things better for a lot of people. If you can do that, language loses a lot of its power.

Bravo. Sounds like what I was trying to say in [url=http://rabble.ca/babble/canadian-politics/ndp-framing-issues]this thread[/url]:

Quote:
What I think is effective in shaping belief is:

- Talking straight (such as: "slash military spending and tax the rich to pay for a new social program")

- Get elected (it happens occasionally)

- Keep your f***ing promise and deliver the goods.

Then people will say: "Well, I was wondering if I heard them right during the campaign, but these folks are really serious. They are not just another washed-out gang of wannabe careerists who only dare to rock the boat while it's in drydock. Gimme more!"

And:

Quote:
I don't want to give working class folk any more information. I want to link arms with them and give them some tangible victories - however small. That's how we do it in the union movement. If we couldn't deliver victories (that is, guide workers to win through their own efforts and smarts), then we would be gone. And trust me when I say that a broken promise has no cure. Once is forever.

And here:

Quote:

1. Elaborate a scheme whereby society expands the necessities that it delivers to people (teeth, home care, you name it).

2. Clearly state the price tag.

3. Firmly pledge that the wealthiest will pay the most - the poor will pay nothing - the majority of those in the middle will on average pay less and receive more than they do now.

4. Elaborate spending cuts that government will implement, so that the full price is not simply made up by redistribution of wealth. Pledge to eliminate useless and wasteful expenditures - subsidies to oil companies; obscene military contracts; and countless other handouts to the already-rich.

5. When in government (or, to the extent possible, when in opposition and making alliances) - KEEP THAT PROMISE. DELIVER THOSE GOODS.

6. Do not do it alone. Do it in partnership with trade unions, women's organizations, church groups, anti-poverty groups, community groups, minority groups, the whole nine yards. Partner with them, even when - no, ESPECIALLY - when you form the government.

7. People will remember you with gratitude - for generations to come - as being honest, practical, strong, and most important - on their side.

8. Then, and only then, will people's ideas start to change. But the change in their ideas will follow - not precede - their changed life experience.

siamdave wrote:
how are you going to deliver these great changes if you're not in power?

1. The NDP has been in power many times. Once there, it says to itself: "Whoa! How did that happen? Better stay in power forever!", then it promptly becomes the wannabe Liberal party, and loses.

2. You don't have to be in power to deliver changes. You can fire your spin doctors and pollsters, and spend your time in the mass movements, which I assume is where you came from in the first place... Then come election time, you can say: "Now, imagine how much more we can deliver if we run the government!"

Brian Topp's article is all about language and perceptions. Follow his advice and lose.

KenS

jrootham wrote:

The primary criticism I have about the accuracy of these writings is that they completely ignore the effects of policy success or failure.  Everything takes place in some kind of perception space where the real world does not intrude.

Policy doesnt enter into the discussion because its a different realm, and a different time frame.

If you dont shift the frame, if you don't prepare the ground of where you are going, thats going to limit the policy you feel safe putting out as much as what you feel you can say in the public space without being penalized [and not just penalized while people 'get used to what you said and continue saying'].

Its certainly not that policy and program development are nothing. More like, weak and needs work as the NDP is on policy, it has policy and works on it. Virtually nothing is done about shifting frames. And we pay the price. Both in limits on success, and what we feel safe saying.

Do you see the Conservatives putting out a program about mixing private care into health care?

No.

Is it because they dont want to, don't think its important, or never expect to feature that?

No way.

Is the Manning Institute working hard on those questions, on many fronts?

You bet.

KenS

For those who did not notice, or did not see the earlier thread, this is a direct continuation of NDP framing of issues

This just repeated by Unionist was in there.

Unionist wrote:

I don't want to give working class folk any more information. I want to link arms with them and give them some tangible victories - however small. That's how we do it in the union movement. If we couldn't deliver victories (that is, guide workers to win through their own efforts and smarts), then we would be gone. And trust me when I say that a broken promise has no cure. Once is forever.

I asked for an explanation of where the NDP fits into this. Didn't find the original quote or my question in the thread. But there was no answer and the thread ended with Unionist raising this again in what I thought was sharper relief.

So I used that as the opening post in Growing a Movement.

Here it is again, just above: "You don't have to be in power to deliver changes...spend your time in the mass movements."

So we have in this thread and its predecessor that this distraction of 'frames' is just spin doctoring. Which couldn't be further from the truth. But thats moot, it isnt just the predictables saying it.

One thing that is agreed, maybe the only thing, is that the starting point of the question is.... what holds the NDP [and the left] back from having more reach- or whatever you want to call it.

So even though the question of what we have not accomplished and why is always about the NDP and the left in general- and no one here offers any kind of argument that the left in general is any less a part of that failure.... the discussion here is always only about the NDP. Because, after all, the problem is all that spin doctoring and other crap... and the movement doesnt do that.

Makes sense. As far as it goes.

While Unionist and others are more explicit with "be with and like the mass movements," its clearly implicit with many more of you.

So the discussion begins with what holds the NDP back. "Spin doctoring and all that crap." And this distraction of talking about "frames" is part of the same thing.

OK then, what is holding back the left in general? Not spin doctoring and all that crap. But we've been flat lined [at best] for 40 years; and as I pointed out in that other opening post, since before the frames of the Right were built and became dominant.

KenS

Unionist wrote:

Brian Topp's article is all about language and perceptions. 

It is not all about language and perception.

It is about the longer haul of preparatory work required before Rob Ford and then Don Cherry can get up and say what they did and reap successful results.

That it is not as people here think, that you just speak clear and those results come. Without the prior work you either get nothing for speaking clear and bold, or you get punished at the ballot box. From the Reform Party in the 90s through Rob Ford, politicians of the Right have succeeded where the ground had been much worked in their favour by deliberate people not in political parties. Like Preston Manning is doing now, but on ground not yet safe enough for the politicians.

Now thats a short article by Topp. So maybe he didnt say all that, or even touch on all of it. But all of it has been said here anumber of times, and the article is clearly in that stream.

Life, the unive...

I hate to be all farmery on people, but I am constantly amazed at how people think you can reap a big crop just by wishing it.  A good crop (a successful result) often begins a year to two before you even plough the field.  You do this by fertilizing the land and making it healthy and ready for the seed you want to plant.  Then you plough.  It has to sit fallow for a bit so that you can control the weeds.  Then you work the soil, and work it again making it smooth and a good seed bed.  Then you plant.  Basically you put the seed into the ground not knowing how it will turn out, but knowing that your work in preparing the ground was essential.  Then you hope for good weather, a lack of pests and weeds.  You can do something to help that along, but basically there is no subsitute for good weather and no way to create it.  It either is or it isn't

THEN you finally get to reap your crop to find out if you were successful.

Those babblers that think it is all so simple.  Just talk some more policy.  Explain things the right way to people and they will come are demonstrating a great deal of ignorance about how any successful action is acheived and as if we lived in a vaccuum.  Topps article isn't perfect, but it desbribes the situation on and in the ground better than most pieces I have seen.

Unionist

Life, the universe, everything wrote:

Those babblers that think it is all so simple.  Just talk some more policy.  Explain things the right way to people and they will come are demonstrating a great deal of ignorance about how any successful action is acheived and as if we lived in a vaccuum. Topps article isn't perfect, but it desbribes the situation on and in the ground better than most pieces I have seen.

1. [drift] Life, I tried to send you a PM a few days ago when you said you actually enjoyed stats class. At that moment, I changed my mind about you and developed a heavy dose of affection. Rabble wouldn't let me send the PM, so I'm doing it publicly. In statistics, that's called taking a chance. Embarassed

2. I agree with your quote above, but not your conclusion (the part about Topps's article). We should not just talk some more policy. We should not "explain things the right way to people". Why should they understand us, let alone trust us? And who says we're "right"?

What matters in my opinion is this: (a) how we act when in the movement or in opposition (if you think about it, it's really the same thing); (b) whether we show by our actions that we are on the same side as the underprivileged of all types; (c) whether we can lead, in the movement and in opposition - and how well we can build coalitions when each oppositional trend is too weak on its own; (d) how far we are honest and keep promises.

Of course that means that we can't make horrendous missteps on "policy" (e.g. support the Afghan mission, or oppose SSM, or support two-tier health care, etc.). But as Life says, elaborating and yapping about some brilliant policy is not the answer. It's not what the right does either.

Why does the right win? Because they are supported by the most economically and politically and militarily powerful forces humanity has ever seen. Not because of their framing and messaging. So, we have nothing to learn from them. We should learn from our natural constituency.

jrootham

The Topp story is effectively focused on the Miller regime in Toronto and the Democratic regime in the US.  Both of those regimes had significant policy failures.  

Garbage and recycling problems, the strike, and construction problems on St. Clair seriously damaged the Miller administration.  The inadequate response to the economic crisis hurt the Democrats.  In my estimation, those failures are far more significant than language in explaining the electoral results.

 

Life, the unive...

By the way I wonder if some of this has to do with where we 'come' from.  My perspectives are coloured by my history.  Something I seem to be storing a lot up of-lol.  So for me my politics did not grow from the labour movement, or the NDP.  Mine come from farm politics -including the old 'line in the dirt' protests and through the Green movement then party.  So now while I support the NDP in my riding of Huron-Bruce it is mostly because I am supporting an NDP candidate who is exceptionally stong on the issues that shaped my personal politics and can go toe to toe with a conservative populist and come out looking both progressive, pratical, down to earth and like a winner. 

So what I guess I am trying to say is that we should cut each other more slack, be a lot less inclined to eat our own, not be so extremist in our dealings with others who generally are traveling the same road and smell the roses from time to time too.  The right has figured this out to some extent and that's where I think Topp is on the money.

ottawaobserver

If this was Facebook, I'd click "Like" on all of LTUAE's posts in this thread. Smile

Life, the unive...

What I see though is those on the hectoring left who are far to willing to eat our own unless we agree to everything that individual believes to the nth degree.  Success often means finding common ground, or well worked soil, not pissing in the same spot over and over.

I also find a great deal of lecturing coming from some elements of the left on what the mass of people should believe and then disdain, fat jokes or redneck comments, you name it, for those who say things like 'well that's all well and good, but right now I am worried about how I am going to pay my credit card, or the heat this month, not some pie in the sky thing that will take years"  Some on the left dismiss any attempt to talk to folks where they live and were they are at as a betrayl of class warfare or some such nonsense.

I rarely see much I disagree with on babble and elsewhere on long term projects the left should be working on.  As I approach 60 I have been working on some of those issues for close to 45 years in some cases.  What I often find myself disagreeing with and frustrated to the nth degree about is the dismissive, sneering condescension some on the left have for working on the small projects that build the soil and make it healthier.  Small things like credit card interest rates, the imposition of the HST on necessities like hydro, talking directly to middle class families and people are all treated like they are great betrayls and indications of some massive move to the right - when all they are attempts to address some practical issues people are dealing with in their day to day lives.

Both the long and short projects are important.  But like harvesting a successful crop I believe you can't get your long term project of say pharmacare or a nice wheat crop unless you have done all of the small steps along the way.  Steps that taken in isolation might seem to make no difference or make little sense, but without them the crop doesn't grow.

I'll finish with my planting analogy.  The last step you take in preparing a seed bed is harrowing.  A workable set of harrows has really not changed all the much in many. many generations.  A harrows is sort of a planting version of retail politics.  It might not be sexy, cool, or big brained, but it makes all the difference.  Only someone who has farmed as long as I have can really see if the harrowing is done well, (and sometimes that means doing it more than usual because of conditions).  After all the big equipment has been run through the field it might not seem like much and nowadays the harrow is often attached to the back of the bigger more "important" equipment and undervalued, but if you don't harrow properly (this small little job) you will not get a very good crop.  And your ride over the field next time won't be very smooth.   After all the seeding is done, you still need to bring the harrows, or a modern replacement called a packer out and smooth the surface again, covering your seed. 

So after all you have done, this little aged implement is used to again smooth over all the work you just went through and make it look like you were never even there.  Life and politics it seems to me is like that, but most refuse to see it.

ETA

Here's an oldie but a goodie just for you Unionist

Q.  Do you like statisticians?

A.  Probably

Ah heck here's another

A statisticiam is a mathematician broken down by age and sex.

 

Unionist

In the workplace, and in the union movement as a whole, we don't scorn workers' day-to-day concerns; we don't lecture to them ever; we don't peddle long-term "solutions" to short-term problems (though we don't forget those either). That's because "we" and "they" are one and the same.

Which is why, Life, I'm really not sure as to which people you're talking about when you say "dismissive, sneering condescension". The issues I deal with every day are far more mundane - and yet, far more achievable - than solving the problem of the average family's indebtedness. The reason I personally scorn the NDP's promises to limit credit card interest rates and bank service charges is because they will involve a war with the biggest financiers in exchange for the smallest possible return - peanuts - compared to what working people really need. Oh, and don't worry, they'll break that promise if they ever achieve power - why? Because provincial NDP governments have every constitutional jurisdictional power to legislate in the domain of loans and debts, but they don't do so.

So, OO, while sharing and understanding Life's concerns and experiences, I'll still click "Like" next to all of jrootham's posts here.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Jrootham, I suggest that PART of the reason the policy failures you mention were so devastating for Miller and for the Democrats is because they fed so consveniently into the dominant frames.

KenS

You arent sure what or who Lfe is referring to about dismissive sneering condesencion?

Oh well.

Anyway, I second OO just above.

And for what its worth, you and I Life are the same age and have been at this as long. While I'm a country boy, and ended up back there for most of my adult life, where I have cut my teeth in politics, and even still, my experience would have much more in common with Unionist. So I don't know how much that has to do with the different basic outlook.

Whatever.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Unionist wrote:

Why does the right win? Because they are supported by the most economically and politically and militarily powerful forces humanity has ever seen. Not because of their framing and messaging. So, we have nothing to learn from them. We should learn from our natural constituency.

 

Here's the thing, Unionist:  I don't think any of us have any confusion about why the right is supported by "the most economically and politically and militarily powerful forces humanity has ever seen."  The question is, why does the right garner significant support - and frequently majority support - from the very people who are ill served by their policies.

As this circular discussion keeps circling, that's what seems to be missing.  Your approach will work very well with a relatively small core of activists who have not fallen for the siren song of the right.  But even is every single one of those people voted NDP, the Tories would still be the government.

Personally, I'd like to expand the base a bit.

And yes, Topp's article IS "all about language and perceptions."  I'd like you to explain why you bizarrely assume that Brian Topp cannot possibly have a single idea in his head that isn't in this article?  Crimony, I'm sure you have thoughts that aren't in your most recent post.  NOBODY is arguing that the solution for the left is JUST about language and perceptions.

But there a lot of us who think it's mindnumbingly stupid to ignore language and perceptions as though they don't matter.

Tell me, Unionist.  Why is it that significant pluralities of trade union members believe that the Harper Conservatives are "on their side?"  Why they may not perceive the NDP as "on their side" (while a thoroughly worthwhile discussion) is not the first problem.  Why do so many working class folk believe that Stephen Harper more closely reflects their values and their interests than Jack Layton, Jaggi Singh, Naomi Klein, Malcolm or Unionist?  Surely it's not a problem about perception! ;-)

KenS

Unionist wrote:

So, OO, while sharing and understanding Life's concerns and experiences, I'll still click "Like" next to all of jrootham's posts here.

We'll see where Jim ends up on this.

KenS

Life, the universe, everything wrote:

Those babblers that think it is all so simple.  .... Topp's article isn't perfect, but it desbribes the situation on and in the ground better than most pieces I have seen.

Unionist wrote:

1. In statistics, that's called taking a chance. Embarassed

2. I agree with your quote above, but not your conclusion (the part about Topps's article). We should not just talk some more policy. We should not "explain things the right way to people". Why should they understand us, let alone trust us? And who says we're "right"?

What matters in my opinion is this: (a) how we act when in the movement or in opposition (if you think about it, it's really the same thing); (b) whether we show by our actions that we are on the same side as the underprivileged of all types; (c) whether we can lead, in the movement and in opposition - and how well we can build coalitions when each oppositional trend is too weak on its own; (d) how far we are honest and keep promises.

Of course that means that we can't make horrendous missteps on "policy" (e.g. support the Afghan mission, or oppose SSM, or support two-tier health care, etc.). But as Life says, elaborating and yapping about some brilliant policy is not the answer. It's not what the right does either.

Why does the right win? Because they are supported by the most economically and politically and militarily powerful forces humanity has ever seen. Not because of their framing and messaging. So, we have nothing to learn from them. We should learn from our natural constituency.

 

Where's the 'taking a chance' in what you advocate. We've been doing this for 40 plus years. And we are where? Which you have yet to comment on.

All those criteria you have mentioned in 2.]- are there some of them on which the movement(s) have failed? What would we be doing different? That we are not doing that accounts for being flat-lined [or worse] for 40 years?

Your last paragraph is a dogmatic assertion. You've never offered an argument to support that the Rights success is not because of having prepared the ground so well.

Life, the unive...

I was more saying what has coloured my experiences.  Other experiences will colour other people in different ways.  The older I get the more I realize the less I understand people.  They are just a big complex ball of inability to fit into neat colums and assumptions.  That's why I am never surpised by the strong union supporter who votes Conservative.  

What it tells me though is that we on the left have not done a very good job of adressing that person's day to day hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities, but the right has.  That I think is Topp's essential point.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Topp's article would be better if he did what he proposes in the article, as opposed to proposing that it be done.

Unionist

Malcolm wrote:
The question is, why does the right garner significant support - and frequently majority support - from the very people who are ill served by their policies.

Because "we" don't work with people in their daily lives (the movement), and we betray their trust when elected (too often). So why would anyone vote for such a party?

So, answer me, please. Why didn't the NDP legislate limits on credit card interest and bank service charges in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, during their decades in power? I'm raising that example not because I think it's important (I don't), but because you seem to. Or anti-scab legislation? The PQ enacted it here in 1977, and even though the Liberals have been in power for 7 years, the National Assembly is now considering a bill to strengthen it.

I need an explanation. My explanation has to do with doing what you say, being honest, being practical. It has absolutely nothing to do with spouting policy or philosophy. And when the best talkers break their promises, their natural base stays home or tries something else at election time.

Quote:
And yes, Topp's article IS "all about language and perceptions."  I'd like you to explain why you bizarrely assume that Brian Topp cannot possibly have a single idea in his head that isn't in this article?

This thread is about Topp's article, not Topp. And I'm not so much criticizing Topp. I really liked his role in coalition-building in 2008 (at least, from his account of what happened). I'm really pounding away at those of us who think his article is some shining light showing the way forward. They're the ones who seem intent on using Topp as proof that we have to shift frames before we shift reality. I'm into shifting reality, and I agree with you, that if you asked Topp, he'd likely say that this article of his represents only a tiny part of what needs to be done.

Quote:

But there a lot of us who think it's mindnumbingly stupid to ignore language and perceptions as though they don't matter.

And I have stated, on too many occasions, that I must hang around in different circles. The very ordinary not-high-paid workers that I have spent my life with do not (for the most part) complain about taxes or vote Liberal provincially or federally, and they'd drop dead before voting for Harper. Maybe social democrats in Québec have done a better job of not breaking promises when in power... maybe it has to do with some concrete achievements we see here (QPIP, pharmacare, anti-scab laws, first Rand formula province, first province to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, $7.00 child care, prohibition on advertising aimed at under-13 kids, privacy rights embedded in the Québec Charter, lowest postsecondary tuition by far in Canada, ...) - and yeah, the highest taxes!

Yet no government of whatever stripe lightly touches these achievements. When Charest tried in 2005 with bursaries, he had to retreat. Now he's trying again, and also on health care.

Why? I don't know. Maybe the mass movement is stronger here. Certainly the rate of unionization is the highest in North America. Certainly students come out in their hundreds of thousands. Certainly our anti-Iraq-war demos were the biggest (125,000 in one march in February 2003). So even when the social democrats are out of power, what they have delivered is hard to roll back.

Why are they out of power right now? Same disease as the NDP. Right-wing envy. Forgotten where they came from. Overestimating the uncritical loyalty of their "base". Fatal diseases.

Quote:
Why is it that significant pluralities of trade union members believe that the Harper Conservatives are "on their side?" 

Ummm, not true. False. Show me your studies. Maybe in your home town? Maybe in Oshawa a couple of times? Maybe in some places where NDP governments betrayed them so royally that the loyalists decided to stay home, another section said "might as well vote for someone different" - who knows. But I still want to see your stats. I repeat - around here, nobody would dream of voting for such lowlifes as Harper.

 

KenS

Cueball wrote:

Topp's article would be better if he did what he proposes in the article, as opposed to proposing that it be done.

Do you mean by that: Topp is proposing what the NDP should by his own analysis have been doing all along, and since he was there, whats the story? Something like that.

I agree. In fairness, he has only been involved in campaigns and this is about longer range stuff. BUT, he is definitely a person of broader influence in the party than just the work he did. So it's still a fair point.

Well, better late than never. Except that just because Brian Topp is talking about it does not mean these concerns are getting serious treatment in the NDP. ["Being aware" doesnt mean much in my books either.] And there is always the possibility that Brian Topp is saying this now because he is outside of the actively close circle- that he is more or less saying it from the outside like the rest of us. Bottom line anyway, since he is at least less outside than we are.

Mind you, I still think its a fair point made to the left in general. Even if especially coming from Brian it leads to the understandable response: "you think the left in general should be doing what the NDP itself does not practice?"

ottawaobserver

Brian Topp is the co-chair of the Platform Committee for the next campaign.

Cueball Cueball's picture

KenS wrote:

Cueball wrote:

Topp's article would be better if he did what he proposes in the article, as opposed to proposing that it be done.

Do you mean by that: Topp is proposing what the NDP should by his own analysis have been doing all along, and since he was there, whats the story? Something like that.

I am saying that he talks up this line about messaging, but at the end there is no message other than the idea that the NDP needs different "messaging". His time would be better spent delivering the new "message" as opposed to talking ephemerally about ways that the NDP might be able to fool voters into voting for them, like the right does.

adma

Just as a reminder, the little-guy solar plexus they hit

is not so unlike the little-guy solar plexus he hits

Not saying they're hitting it from the same angle--but, they're hitting it.

Brian Topp Brian Topp's picture

Could it be that there are limits to how many issues can be addressed in a single article in the Globe and Mail, comrades? In this article, I set out to discuss what Mr. Cherry's appearance at Mayor Ford's inauguration really means. What was up with that? I think the underpinnings of that event were about more than a clown show. The basic message ("time for some blue collar people", says the millionaire) made me think of that article on the American Enterprise Institute website, notably the bit quoting one of Prime Minister Harper's strategists. At the end I sketched out a few conclusions and I hold to them, as far as they go. If we want to persuade working and middle class Canadians not to vote Conservative, and if we want them to vote for us instead, then we need to understand them and speak to their concerns in terms they identify with and will support. That's what the conservatives are trying to do, with distressing success in some jurisdictions. I know -- no doubt less well than some of the posters above -- that this is a tall order. New Democrats have made some progress, as measured in their growing success at the federal level. But there is work left to do. Many good people are thinking about it and talking about it, here at rabble and elsewhere. All the best, Brian Topp

Unionist

Whew, I'm glad I said this:

Quote:
This thread is about Topp's article, not Topp. And I'm not so much criticizing Topp. I really liked his role in coalition-building in 2008 (at least, from his account of what happened). I'm really pounding away at those of us who think his article is some shining light showing the way forward. They're the ones who seem intent on using Topp as proof that we have to shift frames before we shift reality. I'm into shifting reality, and I agree with you, that if you asked Topp, he'd likely say that this article of his represents only a tiny part of what needs to be done.

Thanks for the prompt intervention, Brian! And keep provoking discussion, please.

 

wage zombie

I'm excited about the way this topic is going.  Often on babble  There is a gulf between two or more sides that doesn't allow for the chance of much agreement.  But I am pretty optimistic that we can come to a lot of agreement here.

I say this because I agree with almost everything being said.  I agree that we need less spin (not more).  I agree 100% with Unionist about his campaign strategies (and I think he's using some smart framing in there, ie. using the word necessities rather than services in 1.).  I agree that the NDP record in provincial governments has been inadequate and disinspiring.  I agree that the Democratic losses in the USA were because of a failure to deliver, as well as a failure to lead (ie. even try to deliver), rather than a communication failure.  It doesn't matter how you tell it if you don't show it.

I think people are using frame/framing to mean a number of different things in this and the previous thread, and so it has been somewhat of a circular discussion.  I think those trying to communicate what framing is about have not been successful, and I think those who are adverse to the pitched notions of framing do not quite understand what it's about.

The strategy outlined in #12 could be called "keeping it real".  Framing works hand in hand with keeping it real.  Framing is about telling the truth, bringing movements together, and pitching bold progressive policies on the issues.  If it's done well then it could provide enough political capital to ensure delivery of said progressive agenda.

Framing is natural and we think in frames.  That's why it's tough to explain.  To the extent that people are getting it it's not really new or novel.  Framing is about semantics, and I suppose some regard semantics as significant and some don't.

Fidel

The Liberals are also guilty of lying when it comes to criticizing federal NDP tax policies. They are part of the right wing disinformation campaign, too.

wage zombie

An association has been made between framing and spin.  Framing is not spin.  To demonstrate, waybe it would be helpful if we could agree on the notion of spin.

Spin is about taking a real world occurence or measurement and misrepresenting its meaning.  Spin passes off capitulation as reasonable compromise.  Spin excuses silence.  Spin puts the end above the means.

There is a lot of pro NDP spinning on babble.  It is unfortunate.  Polls favourable to the NDP get breathlessly trumpeted.  Polls unfavourable to the NDP get written off as inaccurate or biased.  Not all NDP supporters on babble do this.  I notice that the most enthusiastic NDP spinners have not posted to this thread--they do not seem to have much interest in the idea of framing.

In addition to blatant spinning, there is a grey area of subtle spin.  Politics involves negotiation and accountability, and as such, decisions will always be analysed.  Partisans want to highlight their achievements as well as convince others that the party is worth support.  For some non-partisans, this is spin.  I don't know the way to bridge this gap.  I think mostly the partisans are giving their honest opinion--after all, they believe the party is worthy of their support.

I think most of us feel we can tell the difference between an honest political argument and spin.  But, I think there would be a lot of variability in terms how people make the distinction.

I think the traditional media plays up the significance of spin.  And with this adversarial system, I'm not sure spin is going anywhere.

Spin is dishonest and smarmy, and it makes us feel cynical.  Another danger of spin is that inevitably the spinners end up believing their own bullshit.

Most importantly, we will never get results by talking about pretend results.

Spin is about deception, and is implicitly immoral.  Framing is about righteous truth telling, and is explicitly moral.

KenS

I'm going to have to disagree with that. In the spirit that we are getting somewhere. But disagreement nonetheless.

Spinning is ammoral. If it is held there is no difference between ammoral and immoral.... that the former always becomes the latter... I'm not going to argue with that. If for no other reason: makes sense to the phiolosophical pragmatist.

But "framing is truth telling, and is moral". How so? The framing or the Right that Brian Topp talks about- that is truth telling and moral?

I think it may well be that left framing has to be truthful and moral. But I'm not sure that is inherently true. Should be- yes.

A hunch has occured to me that it is easier for the left to be truthful and moral in framing. That as Brian describes it, the Right has to convince people that up is down. But I haven't thought that one through, let alone tested it in discussion.

But here is what I think I know.

The essential difference between spinning and framing is length of time required, and the 'depth' of the communication.

By nature, moral and truthful spinning is an oxymoron. Particular spin may be wholly thruthful- but I think maybe that is essentially a sort of a coincidence.

Framing by nature at least might be truthful. I dont see that there is even a possible benefit to engaging in a mirror image of the kind of gross manipulation the Right engages in. But I still dont see how frame building is supposed to be inherently moral and truthful.

KenS

wage zombie wrote:

I'm excited about the way this topic is going.  Often on babble  There is a gulf between two or more sides that doesn't allow for the chance of much agreement.  But I am pretty optimistic that we can come to a lot of agreement here.

I have the same sense. Except that I feel kind of lost trying to keep up with all the different threads, and almost any part of some of them.

wage zombie wrote:

I say this because I agree with almost everything being said.  I agree that we need less spin (not more).  I agree 100% with Unionist about his campaign strategies (and I think he's using some smart framing in there, ie. using the word necessities rather than services in

Despite the shared interest and enthusiasm... being in agreement with almost everything said is incomprehensible to me. Granted, I did say that I'm kind of struggling to follow... and of course you cant agree with what you are not following. But there is plenty that I do follow and fundamental disagreements with.

Anyway, Unionist has said a lot of different things. I'd like to hear what campaign strategies you are 100% in agreement with, and something about why. Most particular, how you think they would fit in with shifting frames.

Because if you can do that, while Unionist is saying this framing stuff is bunk and an excuse so that people dont have to 'do something'... then we are getting somewhere.

KenS

Cueball is off the mark that Topps article is just about messaging [post#33].

Because the bulk of the article is about themes or narratives that Ford and Cherry use and play into.

But after that Brian does say this at the end:

 

Brian Topp wrote:

Next, we need to find some clear words to point out the fundamental contradiction in the conservative message - a populist message designed to beggar the populi.

And third, we need to scrub off thirty years of impenetrable, internally-focussed, liberal, academic, bureaucratic, entitlement-driven, self-absorbed "progressive" language.

 

Good start, but off track there.

What the Right does well is develop and then use well themes and narratives. To which all of us relate to like we do movies.

Movies- theme and narrative- work. Didactic sucks.

And didactic is what the left does. Does not matter if it is in plain language instead of academic- didactic is didactic.

The problem with "pointing out the fundamental contradiction in the conservative message" is two fold. First and most deadly is that you cannot do it without affirming the opponents dominant frame. Second problem even if that did not kill it already: didactic does not work.

 

KenS

The right in the US started shifting the dominant frame in the late 60s and early 70s. And it was people in think tanks, not political parties.

The dominant frame they inherited was the broad popularity of the welfare state and of services for the masses that were new to the adult generations born in the 1930s or earlier. Most emblematic was the new attainability of a university education for everyone's children- the baby boom kids whose parents even if they were bright and appreciative of the education they had received, often did not even graduate from high school.

Brian Topp is saying we should do and are not doing now is "pointing out the fundamental contradiction in the conservative message."

The equivalent for the Right in the 60s and 70s would have been for them to say "the welfare state really sucks, and here are the reasons why."

But of course they did not do that. They figured out what values and themes they wanted in play, and set about building them.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Unionist wrote:

Malcolm wrote:
The question is, why does the right garner significant support - and frequently majority support - from the very people who are ill served by their policies.

Because "we" don't work with people in their daily lives (the movement), and we betray their trust when elected (too often). So why would anyone vote for such a party?

So, answer me, please. Why didn't the NDP legislate limits on credit card interest and bank service charges in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, during their decades in power? I'm raising that example not because I think it's important (I don't), but because you seem to. Or anti-scab legislation? The PQ enacted it here in 1977, and even though the Liberals have been in power for 7 years, the National Assembly is now considering a bill to strengthen it.

I need an explanation. My explanation has to do with doing what you say, being honest, being practical. It has absolutely nothing to do with spouting policy or philosophy. And when the best talkers break their promises, their natural base stays home or tries something else at election time.

Quote:
And yes, Topp's article IS "all about language and perceptions."  I'd like you to explain why you bizarrely assume that Brian Topp cannot possibly have a single idea in his head that isn't in this article?

This thread is about Topp's article, not Topp. And I'm not so much criticizing Topp. I really liked his role in coalition-building in 2008 (at least, from his account of what happened). I'm really pounding away at those of us who think his article is some shining light showing the way forward. They're the ones who seem intent on using Topp as proof that we have to shift frames before we shift reality. I'm into shifting reality, and I agree with you, that if you asked Topp, he'd likely say that this article of his represents only a tiny part of what needs to be done.

Quote:

But there a lot of us who think it's mindnumbingly stupid to ignore language and perceptions as though they don't matter.

And I have stated, on too many occasions, that I must hang around in different circles. The very ordinary not-high-paid workers that I have spent my life with do not (for the most part) complain about taxes or vote Liberal provincially or federally, and they'd drop dead before voting for Harper. Maybe social democrats in Québec have done a better job of not breaking promises when in power... maybe it has to do with some concrete achievements we see here (QPIP, pharmacare, anti-scab laws, first Rand formula province, first province to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, $7.00 child care, prohibition on advertising aimed at under-13 kids, privacy rights embedded in the Québec Charter, lowest postsecondary tuition by far in Canada, ...) - and yeah, the highest taxes!

Yet no government of whatever stripe lightly touches these achievements. When Charest tried in 2005 with bursaries, he had to retreat. Now he's trying again, and also on health care.

Why? I don't know. Maybe the mass movement is stronger here. Certainly the rate of unionization is the highest in North America. Certainly students come out in their hundreds of thousands. Certainly our anti-Iraq-war demos were the biggest (125,000 in one march in February 2003). So even when the social democrats are out of power, what they have delivered is hard to roll back.

Why are they out of power right now? Same disease as the NDP. Right-wing envy. Forgotten where they came from. Overestimating the uncritical loyalty of their "base". Fatal diseases.

Quote:
Why is it that significant pluralities of trade union members believe that the Harper Conservatives are "on their side?" 

Ummm, not true. False. Show me your studies. Maybe in your home town? Maybe in Oshawa a couple of times? Maybe in some places where NDP governments betrayed them so royally that the loyalists decided to stay home, another section said "might as well vote for someone different" - who knows. But I still want to see your stats. I repeat - around here, nobody would dream of voting for such lowlifes as Harper.

Lot's of meat there, Unionist.  Let me try to respond point by point.

1. Your first point may well explain why some people who would be well served by progressive policies may not vote NDP.  You have failed to address why so many of them vote Conservative.  Unless your argument is that they vote Conservative because the NDP isn't left wing enough.  You'd have to admit that's a bit counterintuitive.

2. I've never said a damned word about bank charges on babble, so I don't know where you got the idea it's a priority with me.  I do see that it could have the advantage of delivering an immediate and tangible benefit to ordinary folk which would nicely reinforce support while we concurrently work on some policy initiatives that might not bear immediate fruit.  The Manitoba NDP did take on the pay-day loan parasites, though I seem to recall that ran into some legal difficulties.

3. I'm not sure who thinks that Brian has given us a "shining light."  Ken and I think that he has said some useful things about ONE ASPECT of what the left needs to do to sieze back the initiative from the right.  At least you are prepared to talk about the ideas.  Cueball seems to be saying that any talk about messaging and narrative is a waste of time.

4. Well, you do live in Quebec, where the trade union movement has, frankly, done a better job on a number of fronts in terms of political education and in terms of advocating for the interests of working class and similar folk as opposed to only looking to the immediate interests of their own membership.  As a result, its entirely possible that workers in Quebec actually are, in general, more politically sophisticated than in the rest of Canada.  But one must also note, Unionist, that even the most progressive of us do tend to have our most serious intellectual interactions with people who are most like us.  The group you hang out with is self-selecting (both by you and by others in the group).  It would surprise me if those you routinely interact with were absolutely representative of the political sophistication of Quebec trade unionists across the board.  If I go to a meeting of the Regina Trades and Labour Council Political Education Committee, I'm liable to find a different level of political discourse than if I head out to whatever pub the Steelworkers from Evraz go to after shift.

5. Again, Unionist, Montreal is not typical of Canada.  If, for the purposes of discussion, lumps together the Bloc and the NDP as social democratic parties, that probably changes the math.  But the fact of the matter is that the NDP has never come close to carrying a majority of the trade union vote in Canada, and has rarely even won a plurality.  Of late, it has been the Conservatives making significant inroads among urban and rural working class folk.  While it may not be true in Quebec, my understanding is that the Conservatives have won a narrow plurality of working class vote in the last two elections.  (I did misspeak when I said specifically trade union members - although a significant minority of trade unionists feel that the Conservatives represent their values more than the NDP.)

wage zombie

 

KenS wrote:

Spinning is ammoral. If it is held there is no difference between ammoral and immoral.... that the former always becomes the latter... I'm not going to argue with that. If for no other reason: makes sense to the phiolosophical pragmatist.

I had written amoral and then changed it.  Maybe amoral is more appropriate.  Spin is not about ethics (ie. what's right), it's about polemic and zingers and persuading or distracting people.  "Good" spin is spin that successfully manipulates people in the desired way.  The reason why I switched it to immoral is that perhaps its focus on ends over means actually subverts moral arguments or the moral domain.  I have no attachment to either word and perhaps antimoral would work as well.

Quote:

But "framing is truth telling, and is moral". How so? The framing or the Right that Brian Topp talks about- that is truth telling and moral?

I will try to flesh out over the next few posts for framing is truth telling.  The short answer for why framing is moral is that framing operates in the moral rather than the intellectual domain.  Framing uses moral arguments.  Even the framing of the right uses moral arguments.  That's how they've done it--they've convinced people that it's not right for the government to take taxes.

The arguments of the right are moral arguments across the board.  They make other arguments too--for example, they say that tax cuts create jobs, which is not a moral (nor sound) argument.  But, the real arguments they have against tax cuts are moral.  Corporate tax cuts too.  It's wrong for the government to act as parasites and tax companies that employ American workers.  It is a moral argument, in that the strength of the argument is an appeal to morality.

Whether I'd say right wing framing is truth telling?  I don't know if I'd say that.  I think it's true that Toronto is a wonderfully diverse place, and I also think it's true that some people are uncomfortable with diversity.  I don't know.

Quote:

I think it may well be that left framing has to be truthful and moral. But I'm not sure that is inherently true. Should be- yes.

I think for the left truth telling is the only effective framing.

Quote:

The essential difference between spinning and framing is length of time required, and the 'depth' of the communication.

Spinning is about taking a real world event--a debate, a poll, an election, a speech, a statistical study, a protest--and manipulating the meaning that people assign to it.  Whatever happens, spinners are adamant that it means great things for their partisan affiliation.

Spinning is about how we interpret real world events.  Framing is about how we talk about policy.

Quote:

Framing by nature at least might be truthful. I dont see that there is even a possible benefit to engaging in a mirror image of the kind of gross manipulation the Right engages in. But I still dont see how frame building is supposed to be inherently moral and truthful.

Framing appeals to people's moral sense, and it relies on them having a particular understanding of the issues.  I will post more about framing and truth.

siamdave

Maybe 'framing' is just another neocon invention to enclose our world in a 'frame' they control - because there are things they do not want people thinking or doing that can be left outside their 'frame'. Like a box. Like a field to keep the sheep in.

Like they've done to useful things like food - modern farmers don't sell eggs or corn - they all now sell 'product'. The cheapest most useless crap at the discount store is 'product', the fresh bread at the farmer's market is 'product' - no difference in essence between them (in the modern capitalist 'market rules' frame), just things used to transfer money from 'consumer' to 'service provider'. (not to me, I'm a holdout, I buy bread not product - but to all modern businesspeople, all 'product' - including many people who otherwise seem 'progressive', playing the capitalist game, which they have no chance of winning ... )

Like when you go to the doctor - you're not a patient anymore, you're just another impersonal 'client' or, even worse, 'customer'. Like going to a loan shark or the same discount store - 'clients' or 'customers'. All nice and impersonal, only about money going from one person to another, client to 'service provider'. (again, I'm one of an evidently dying breed of holdouts, still thinking 'doctor' and 'patient')
It's a dismal robot world they are creating - and the more 'we' adopt their rules, the closer the inevitability of that world becomes.

Framing is the same - it excludes 'value judgements' like, oh, 'truth' or 'morality' - we just (if we play along with the neocon game) judge things on who 'sells' them the most effectively, who creates the best superficial 'frame'. 'Truth' to the corporate mind is only about what they can make you believe. If they 'frame' something so that you believe them rather than somebody else, then they have 'created' truth. As long as it serves to keep money flowing in their direction, nothing else matters.

This is all 'framing', and anyone who cares about trying to take our world back from these people and creating a caring, intelligent society of real human beings with real human values (compassion, sharing, fairness, honesty, that kind of thing) and feelings and emotions should be rejecting this crap like they should be rejecting pretty much everything the neocons are doing or trying to sell - not trying to play with these people on their field, which they control completely and you can never win against them. This is a truism in my world - if the neocons want it, I don't. If it's good for Stephen Harper and the bankster-gangsters he serves - it is very probably not good for me.

We don't need to 'frame' or 'spin' anything - we just need to tell the truth - and the truth means not accepting the framing of the neocons which has the primary purpose of excluding inconvenient truths any way they can manage to do that. Fairness, compassion, sharing, truth - these things don't need framing. The neocon society - based on greed, lies, corruption, elitism, masters and serfs - obviously they need to do a hell of a job of framing there to get people to accept it. We don't need to figure out how to 'frame' our own story better - we need to figure out how to expose the neocon frame for the evil poison it is.

When the marks let the experienced cons control the game, and write the rules, and try to compete under those rules - they lose. And that's not framing - that's the truth.

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

"Framing" is an inherent part of human communication.  All communication occurs within social constructs of shared narrative.  If you don't like the neocon frame, then change the narrative.  If all you want to do is lecture people, then the current narrative remains unchallenged.

SiamDave, the first part of your piece (minus the opening sentence) is the best explanation of the need for reframing I've read on this board.  Since you've so effectively made the case for reframing yet claimed we don't need to reframe, it's obvious that, despite all the bandwidth, expended, you still don't get what we're talking about.

siamdave

Malcolm wrote:

..... you still don't get what we're talking about.

- or vice versa, of course .... when you're trapped in a frame, it's hard to recognize it.

wage zombie

I think as well as spin some people are confusing framing with branding.  Framing is not branding.  Branding is also a word that is used to mean a variety of things.

I think some babblers are wary of notions of branding.  Partly it's that the language of marketing is unappealing, and partly it's that we've seen terrible executions of "rebranding".

Branding is about the party, the leader, and perhaps the candidates.  It's how the party presents itself, what the party does, and how voters feel about it.  The brand is what the party (could be a personal brand) is about, and the strength of the brand is how strongly voters associate those ideas with the party.  I think branding is important, but I agree with most here about how poorly attempts to "rebrand" work.

So I think what people object to is transparent attempts by the NDP to REbrand.  This turns people off because it seems like the party thinks it can succeed by changing the packaging.  Babblers rightly feel that changing the packaging is an empty action, perhaps a bit insulting even, and that what needs to change is how the party acts.  There are regularly calls to change the name, but what a pointless distraction that is.

Because the NDP has been cautious to a fault, attempts to "rebrand" have often involved "sanitizing" the party rhetoric in an attempt to be more competitive with the Liberals.  The result of that is that at times, the rhetoric loses bold progressive statements that could potentially inspire, and becomes generally vague so as not to offend.  The "Get Orange" campaign in the last Ontario provincial election comes to mind.  The "friendly to business" tag is probably being pushed within provincial sections across the country.

On one level these rebranding attempts have been vacuous.  And on another level, they have been very disinspiring.

So that sanitizing of anything that could be seen as controversial, rather than speaking boldly to a progressive agenda, I think that's what people here think of when they hear of "rebranding."  It's a dead end.

This is not what we're talking about with "framing".  Framing is not "rebranding."  I think the association is stronger because Malcolm has been using the word "reframing."  I think "reframing" being so close to "rebranding" is causing the association.  I'd also say that "reframing" confuses the concept of frames a bit.

The other notion of branding, the kind of branding that I think is important, is also not framing.  It is, as I mentioned before, about the party, about the leader, and about the candidates.  It's not just about how they talk, it's about what they do, and whether people think that the walk matches the talk.  Being conscious about branding is not about repackaging.

I don't think a good branding consultant would say that you can fake it.  You can't just tell it, you have to actually show it and be it.  A snow job is not going to work--being aware of the brand is being aware of what the organization is actually about.

So, that means--if your brand is to be the party of the people, then you ALWAYS have to be the party of the people.  If your brand is the party that does what it says, then you ALWAYS have to follow through.  The worst worst worst thing you could do for your brand is to act in opposition to it.  The brand is not just how you talk and how you act, it is what people think of you.  Act against your brand and your stock plumets.  This is one reason why the Liberals can get away with all kinds of right wing policies and keep getting elected while people hold a grudge against the NDP for not delivering.  Being for the social good is central to the NDP brand, whereas it is not central to the Liberal brand.  So the Liberals do not damage their brand with these policies.

I know, people dislike the marketing speak.  But, the NDP brand gets discussed so often on Babble, just not with those words.  When you don't deliver on your agenda, you damage your brand.  The provincial NDP governments, by not pushing for bold policies, have damaged the NDP brand.  This is to say, what Unionist is talking about in #12, a lot of his prescriptions are about building brand strength.  Walk the talk, and listen to people.  You can't fake it.

So, framing isn't spin.  Spin is about manipulating the perceived meaning of real world events.

Framing isn't branding, or rebranding.  Branding is about the overall impression people have of the party, the leader and the candidates.

Framing is about how we talk about policy.

wage zombie

I'm not so interested in talking about spin or branding but it seemed worthwhile to define them a bit in order to better explain notions of framing.  It's not spin and it's not branding, as described above.  My use of those terms may be off to some extent--I only wrote all that to talk about what framing is not.

Another idea of frames that some have expressed here is that frames are like "mindsets".  So, to continue with our example, popular notions about taxes include the frame of tax cut/relief/burden.  So that when people think about paying taxes, they are wanting to pay less.  And what that means is that, people think tax cuts are a good thing, both personally, and generally.  Because they are in the mindset of "tax relief", they will favour tax cuts regardless of whether it's in their economic interest.

People interested in tax cuts are not just the rich.  This minset of 'tax relief' seems to affect everyone.

For example, when I do my taxes, at the start, I look at my receipts.  And I look at the year before, and I try to make a quick estimate of how much it might be that I have to pay, or get back.  And then I have a range in mind, and I might hope that it's going to come to under a certain amount that I have to pay.  Or that it might be above a certain amount on my return.  I think taxes should be increased (progressively), and I want to pay my fair share.  But certainly as I'm filling my form out, I'm actively hoping to come out at least as well or better than I might have expected.  And certainly, if there are deductions that I'm entitled to make, I'm making them.  I doubt this is uncommon.

What I'm saying is, I think most people, all things considered are looking to pay less taxes (even while they may be happy to pay their share).  I don't know anyone who's ever been disappointed to get a bigger return than they were expecting.

So, to some extent, people are not so inclined to think positively about taxes.  From what I understand, taxes have been around for a while and they've often been unpopular.

But, in the 60s, government was generally making things happen, taxes were high (relative to now), services were expanding, and the economy was growing.  I don't think people had really been conditioned to the tax cut/relief frame.  People must've been happy to pay taxes then, or maybe the standard rate was just so much higher then.

The organized Right has spent decades developing this frame of tax relief, and now there's a certain way that people approach the notion of tax cuts.

Compare the mindset experienced after eating in a yummy restaurant with friends and the bill comes.  When I'm in that situation, I never notice anyone talking about "bill relief" or wanting a "bill cut".  Generally when I'm in that situation with friends people are very happy to chip in their fair share if they can, as well as leave a healthy tip, again, if they can.  And in my experience when people are inadvertently short, other people are happy enough to make up the difference.

There are probably a bunch of reasons for this cooperative attitude.  First, people meeting for dinner together likely get along.  Second, people have enjoyed good food, they are full, and maybe they have had a few drinks.  So generally feeling pleasant.  Third, the bill contains an itemized list of the dishes that came, and people clearly understand the value for their money.  And fourth, everyone knows that if the group is short on the bill that the server will have to make up the difference out of hir pocket.

So, the mindset around "paying the dinner bill" is more of a "pay your fair share".  How can we "reframe" taxes so that when people think of taxes they don't think about tax cuts or tax relieft, or paying as little as they can.  We want to reframe things so that when people think of taxes, they think of "pay your fair share".  And if we could reframe it further, it would be "pay your fair share so that we can all live in a bountiful society".

And this notion, that we can "reframe" taxes, at least from how I understand Lakoff's model, is wrong, wrong, wrong.  This, too, is not what we're talking about when we're talking about frames.  Frames are not mindsets.  Or at least, not mindsets the way I've been using the term in this post.

Please stay with me here.  This is not a shaggy dog joke and believe me it's taken me longer to write than it's taken you to read.  If you're unclear on what framing is, it helps to understand what it isn't.

Trying to 'reframe' taxes as being about "paying your fair share" and "for the social good" is what the left has been trying to do unsuccessfully for decades.  It hasn't worked very well.

I have been using "reframe" here because I think that this is how the word confuses people.  Reframing implies taking a word, or a concept, and somehow changing the way people feel about it.  Reframe taxes so that people see taxes as necessary investments, rather than a burden.  This is not what we're talking about with frames and framing.

So framing is not spin, or branding.

Framing is not about reclaiming words, redefining their meaning, or changing the way people think about words.

Framing is about how we talk about policy and how well people understand the issues.

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