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Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2006

    Truth Alone does not Suffice

    George Lakoff presents some interesting ideas from his background as a cognitive linguist about what American progressives should do to win elections. His theory is that human thoughts and behavior are constrained by cognitive frames formed by physiologic patterns in the brain. Language is the main way (perhaps to Lakoff, the only way) we modify and interact with the frame. I am intensly interested in this idea and would have benefited from more in-depth explanation including footnotes and citations. The idea reminds me of 18th century philosopher Emanuel Kant with a focus on the limitations of knowledge. I wonder if there are cultural differences in cognition that could have been discussed in light of the red state-blue state electoral division in America. Lakoff explicitly reduces differences between progressives and conservatives to the desire among them for either a 'nurturing parent' or 'stern father' model of a prototype parent-child metaphore characterizing the government to citizen relationship. He gives a number of intriguing examples drawn from recent presidential addresses and policy statements. Progressives desire, according to Lakoff, a nurturing, caring, indulgent parental model of government whereas conservatives want the tough, sink or swim model for government. The book would be a much more interesting if the ideas were presented in reference to historical and cultural factors. I think Lakoff is a reductionist who has given a frankly simplistic explanation with a possibly undeserved pretense of originality. His claim is that progressives do not pay attention to the use of the appropriate language needed to frame political debate in terms that are agreeable to the majority of Americans. In contrast, he says that conservatives consistently use language to skew ideas in their favor and so succeed politically. He has a list of 11 recommendations for how progressives can re-frame political discourse and persuade the majority. Among those recommendations, is his claim that truth alone will not suffice. Although he doesn't intend it quite this way, it leaves the unavoidable impression that progressives must say something other than 'the truth' to win politically. The examples of 'truth' in his book are all arguable and are from a decidedly extreme leftist, counter-conservative orientation. On the other hand, Lakoff's book is, by its own premise, not a book about any particular liberal or progressive ideology. In his book, progressive 'truth' is just truth--not a question for debate. The book is really about how we win arguments--which does not seem to be the same thing as discovering truth.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2012

    Essential reading for political junkies

    Democrats need a new narrative, and I know I'm not the only one who thinks so. George Lakoff appears to have been slightly ahead of his time in trying to get the Democratic Party to focus on this important task. I wish that were not so. But whenever Democrats wake up, this book and other works by Lakoff will be pivotal resources.

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Why Beliefs Are More Important Than Stats

    Shows how progressives can communicate on issues that affect everyone by appealing to voter's belief systems instead of inundating them with often confusing, usually forgettable statistics. Very enlightening.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Political psych-ops

    Although, this book is a good read for anyone who seeks an introduction to linguistics and how it affects how we think. The particine political dogma contained within cannot be ignored.

    Professor Lakoff possesses a brilliant mind, but chooses to use his knowledege for his own ideological self-interest, and the self-interest of cultural elites who share his world view.

    I found his use of framing citizens as children, Conservatives as "strict Fathers", and Democrats as "nurturing parents", to be highly presumptuous and condescending.

    Note how carefully he objectively frames the strict "Father" while being carefull not to objectively frame the nurturing "parent" as the nurturing "Mother". Could this be due to the conventional metaphorical framing that most people have in regards to the over-nurturing nature and passiveness of their Mother's?

    If you are looking for ideological dogma to reinforce your beliefs, or looking to arm yourself against political psych-ops, then this book is for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2009

    There is a reason why this only has a few reviews

    because any logical person can punch huge holes in the self-hating American that the secular progressives are. The S-P's onder why people like Bill O'Reilly and Mark Levin sell more books and are listened to more. It is not that they are always right it's that their arguments are based on facts and reason where the S-P's live in a world that is unrealistic a phony utopia and that is why they are always defeated.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

    Excellent reading for the progressive who needs good ammunition

    This is the second book that I've read by George Lakoff, and I must say that his work has really opened my eyes. I've always been aware of what I called the conservative "propaganda engine," but I couldn't fully characterize it during conversations. "Don't Think of an Elephant" provides excellent ideas on how to reframe arguments to make them balanced and provides detailed nuggets to backup my points once they have been reframed. I am so grateful for this work and recommends it to all of my fellow political junkies. I want to create an army of well-prepared progressive commentators.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2007

    Good read

    I highly recommend this book. Once you read it you finally get 'it'. It helps make sense of so many issues. You will learn that the way something is framed is almost all that matters. Quick and easy read too!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2006

    A reviewer

    This book was so leans more than the Tower of Pisa. Although Lakoff is a good writer, he seems to have stumbled through this book leaving major holes in his facts, conviniently leaving out parts that would damage the SP cause.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2006

    A Must Read for the 21st Century Progressive

    'Don't Think of an Elephant' gives you exactly what the subtitle promises. It is the essential handbook for communicating the progressive message effectively. This book is fascinating, insightful, and well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2005

    So simple, so obvious

    So right in front of us that we couldn't see the forest for the trees. This is a must read for all Democrats and'll finally 'get it'.

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    How to effectively contest conservative political dialogue

    Lakoff uses his background as a cognitive linguist with the U. of California to give guidance on how to counter conservatives' very effective shaping of the national dialogue on politics, cultural issues, environmental questions, and most other topics of national concern. The foundation of Lakoff's guidance is distinguishing conservatives as adhering to a 'strict father' mode, whereas progressives can be seen as adhering to a 'nurturant parent' mode. This timely political/social activist handbook outlines a program of communication, public relations, and activism not only for progressives, but for any individuals and groups opposing the agenda, direction, and values of the conservatives who are currently dominating politics and political dialogue so as to undermine serious consideration of any other points of view.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2012

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    Posted October 12, 2010

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    Posted September 1, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2008

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