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Words to win: George Lakoff frames progressive values and language to win the federal election

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rabble.ca and our partners Canadian Dimension Magazine are excited to announce what will be a landmark event toward a progressive victory in the 2015 federal election.

Renowned cognitive linguist and author of the groundbreaking Don't Think of an Elephant, George Lakoff will be in Toronto to provide a unique training at the Centre for Social Innovation on April 18. Limited to only 100 participants, a few spots are still available. See details here.

Globally we are witnessing a time dominated by trends of growing inequality runaway wealth to the wealthy, runaway climate warming and the the runaway privatization of public resources. Lakoff will engage in an intimate Q&A session withe Trish Hennessy, founding director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' (CCPA) Ontario office on these and other issues progressive Canadians have been fighting to imprint on the public consciousness for nine years of Stephen Harper's Conservative government.

Around the world, and in Canada, progressives are fighting simply to hang on to hard-fought wins, while struggling to communicate progressive values in a political sphere largely dominated by successful conservative messages.

Why are conservatives so successful in communicating their messages? What do progressives need to do to communicate their values to large populations?

It's a big year for Canadian politics and electorally the stakes have never been higher.

Lets make a new stand for the most important election in Canada's recent history and beyond, by framing progressive values to win for the long term.

Join George Lakoff for a unique opportunity to learn about the next winnable political frames -- whether you are concerned about climate change, income inequality and privatization -- or on how to in the next federal election the leading expert on political framing.

 

George Lakoff: Activism, Elections and Beyond
April 18, 2015
Doors: 7:00 p.m., Event 7:30 p.m.

Bloor United Church -- 300 Bloor St W, Toronto

 

About George Lakoff

George Lakoff is an American cognitive linguist, best known for his thesis that lives of individuals are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use to explain complex phenomena.

Lakoff has publicly expressed both ideas about the conceptual structures that he views as central to understanding the political process, and some of his particular political views. He almost always discusses the latter in terms of the former.

Moral Politics (1996, revisited in 2002) gives book-length consideration to the conceptual metaphors that Lakoff sees as present in the minds of American "liberals" and "conservatives." The book is a blend of cognitive science and political analysis. Lakoff makes an attempt to keep his personal views confined to the last third of the book, where he explicitly argues for the superiority of the liberal vision.

Lakoff argues that the differences in opinions between liberals and conservatives follow from the fact that they subscribe with different strength to two different central metaphors about the relationship of the state to its citizens. Both, he claims, see governance through metaphors of the family. Conservatives would subscribe more strongly and more often to a model that he calls the "strict father model" and has a family structured around a strong, dominant "father" (government), and assumes that the "children" (citizens) need to be disciplined to be made into responsible "adults" (morality, self-financing). Once the "children" are "adults", though, the "father" should not interfere with their lives: the government should stay out of the business of those in society who have proved their responsibility. In contrast, Lakoff argues that liberals place more support in a model of the family, which he calls the "nurturant parent model," based on "nurturant values", where both "mothers" and "fathers" work to keep the essentially good "children" away from "corrupting influences" (pollution, social injustice, poverty, etc.). Lakoff says that most people have a blend of both metaphors applied at different times, and that political speech works primarily by invoking these metaphors and urging the subscription of one over the other.

Lakoff further argues that one of the reasons liberals have had difficulty since the 1980s is that they have not been as aware of their own guiding metaphors, and have too often accepted conservative terminology framed in a way to promote the strict father metaphor. Lakoff insists that liberals must cease using terms like partial birth abortion and tax relief because they are manufactured specifically to allow the possibilities of only certain types of opinions. Tax relief for example, implies explicitly that taxes are an affliction, something someone would want "relief" from. To use the terms of another metaphoric worldview, Lakoff insists, is to unconsciously support it. Liberals must support linguistic think tanks in the same way that conservatives do if they are going to succeed in appealing to those in the country who share their metaphors.

Between 2003 and 2008, Lakoff was involved with a progressive think tank, the Rockridge Institute, an involvement that follows in part from his recommendations in Moral Politics. Among his activities with the Institute, which concentrates in part on helping liberal candidates and politicians with re-framing political metaphors, Lakoff has given numerous public lectures and written accounts of his message from Moral Politics. In 2008, Lakoff joined Fenton Communications, the nation's largest public interest communications firm, as a Senior Consultant.

One of his political works, Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, self-labeled as "the Essential Guide for Progressives," was published in September 2004 and features a foreword by former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. An updated version was published in 2015.


For more information email inspire@rabble.ca

 

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