The All New Don't Think of An Elephant!

The All New Don't Think of An Elephant!

Know your Values and Frame the Debate

Paperback - 2014
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Ten years after writing the definitive, international bestselling book on political debate and messaging, George Lakoff returns with new strategies about how to frame today's essential issues.

Called the "father of framing" by The New York Times, Lakoff explains how framing is about ideas--ideas that come before policy, ideas that make sense of facts, ideas that are proactive not reactive, positive not negative, ideas that need to be communicated out loud every day in public.

The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant! picks up where the original book left off--delving deeper into how framing works, how framing has evolved in the past decade, how to speak to people who harbor elements of both progressive and conservative worldviews, how to counter propaganda and slogans, and more.

In this updated and expanded edition, Lakoff, urges progressives to go beyond the typical laundry list of facts, policies, and programs and present a clear moral vision to the country--one that is traditionally American and can become a guidepost for developing compassionate, effective policy that upholds citizens' well-being and freedom.

Alternative Title: Don't think of an elephant!
Publisher: White River Junction, Vermont : Chelsea Green Publishing, [2014]
ISBN: 9781603585941
Branch Call Number: 320.5130973
Characteristics: xv, 168 pages ; 22 cm


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May 31, 2018

I read the first edition of this book shortly after it came out in 2004. I don't know if I forgot or didn't notice then what a partisan shill Lakoff is. It's also possible that this aspect of him only came to the fore in the revised edition.

In any case, I am without a doubt a "progressive" by Lakoff's criteria (pp. 12-13) and I suppose that's why I find so much of what he says so objectionable. For example, the implicit suggestion that Bill Clinton was a progressive on "welfare reform" (p. 19) is absurd. Moreover, Clinton help greatly expand America's prison population while making it easier to execute convicts and strip them of their habeas corpus rights. Then there's NAFTA, which Clinton spearheaded. I could go on but I won't.

Lakoff's metaphor (p. 23) favorably comparing taxes to country club dues is nothing short of absurd. It would only be apt if we were assigned at birth to compulsory country club membership that most of us would never be able to afford to buy our way out of. And if you did have the means to bribe your way out of the country club then you'd be required to join another one structured on the same compulsory principles. If all the country clubs claimed to have the right to appropriate their members' wealth at the point of a gun, as needed or desired, then sure it would be an apt metaphor.

And Lakoff's fairy tale of American history at the beginning of chap. 6 would be greeted derisively by progressives if it came from a conservative and deservedly so. As a progressive, I would like to add that Lakoff's pernicious, unsupportable stereotypes of conservatives are counterproductive and only feed the lamentable political polarization that characterizes the current political and cultural moment.

Finally, I will say on a positive note that the basic concepts of framing and reflexivity discussed in the book are valid and useful. However, as Lakoff admits, that work did not originate with Lakoff. Readers would be advised to seek better sources than Lakoff.


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