The truth will set you free….

6 04 2014

George_LakoffI had never heard of George Lakoff, until he got a mention in an AIMN article about the so called “pink batts fiasco”.  Lakoff, according to wikipedia, 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 described right-wing voters as being influenced by “strict father model” as central metaphor for such a complex phenomenon as the state and left-wing voters as being influenced by “nurturant parent model” as folk psychological metaphor for this complex phenomenon.  So is it any wonder that “the left” and “the right” don’t see eye to eye?  It even explains our right wing government calling asylum seekers “illegals”.  It also proves that their opposite Labor Party is just as right wing…….. and might explain why they are on the nose with the electorate who is now finding it difficult to differentiate between the two!

The reason I am now writing this post is that, having followed some of the links above, it has become obvious (belatedly?) just how critical language is when discussing political issues, especially ones dear to my heart like Climate Change……

As George Lakoff explains in his book ‘Don’t think of an elephant’ , progressives need to get over the myth of ‘Enlightenment’:

“The truth will set us free. If we just tell people the facts, since people are basically rational beings, they’ll all reach the right conclusions”.

I think it is stating the bleeding obvious that our government doesn’t listen to the truth.  But then, one person’s truth is another’s bullshit.  Therefore the solution to turning the bullshit into the truth is communications……  something my physicist son had drummed into him at University, and which he constantly tells me I am hopeless at!

don't think elephantIn Don’t think of an elephant  (which I have not read yet – I am now relying on what others are saying about the book until I do) Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. He outlines in detail the traditional American values that progressives hold, but seem unable to articulate.  Lakoff also breaks down the ways in which conservatives have framed the issues, and provides examples of how progressives can reframe the debate.

Lakoff’s years of research and work with environmental and political leaders have been distilled into this essential guide, which shows progressives how to think in terms of values instead of programs, and why people vote, not truly understanding  their values and identities, and often against their best interests.

Don’t Think of An Elephant! is the antidote to the last forty years of conservative strategising and the right wing’s stranglehold on political dialogue in the United States, and I expect, Australia…..

Then we have this from the Guardian…:

The release of the latest report (PDF) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is yet another sober warning on the perils humanity faces from global warming.

The threats seem written from the dystopian blockbuster Hunger Games: global food-stocks are at risk, melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, dying coral reefs, heat waves, mega-rains, and a death toll amongst the poor, weak and elderly. Except for one thing. The effects of climate change are happening now.

As Graham Readfern writes, we’ve heard it all before.


While we’re hurtling towards the worst case scenario, and recognising that the latest IPCC report just confirms what we’ve known since the first Assessment Report back in 1990, it’s worth asking whether the reports are helping or hindering action on climate change.

Recently, David Grimes wrote in The Guardian that “denying climate change isn’t scepticism – it’s motivated reasoning“. Describing the “boomerang effect” in an academic article by P. Hart and Erik Nisbet, the academics say that motivated reasoning explains why simply providing more and better facts based on science can actually increase polarisation on issues like climate change.

So there you have it.  The truth can only set you free, if you’re a left winger!  The fundamental tragedy about the twenty five years of IPCC warnings, and countless others from the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and hundreds of other respected scientific institutions is that they’ve been ignored.  Facts simply aren’t enough, but they’re all that scientists can give us.



6 responses

6 04 2014

yep can agree with the sentiment the truth will set you free. we found the truth in the bible a history and life book 5k years in the writing, yep we are truly free

7 04 2014

Nice post Mike. Lackoff nails it with this… “how to think in terms of values instead of programs”. very much inline with Daniel Quinn’s views – “If the world is saved, it will not be saved by old minds with new programs but by new minds with no programs at all.”

And Bev – your comment left me befuddled, and I think you’ve effectively confirmed the myth of enlightenment. If you are truly a rational being, you would not be getting your facts from the bible. Read some Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or Daneil Dennett for the truth! 🙂

7 04 2014

I was kind of hoping Bev was being sarcastic there…..!

6 04 2014
Tony Dickson

I agree with the observations above.
After nearly forty-five years of environmental activism, I have learned a number of lessons:
*That cognitive dissonance is what determines most peoples perspectives, rather than data or reasoning.
*That the best way to change most peoples perspective is indeed, by way of a well chosen metaphor or analogy.
*That the best way to frame an argument, particularly against an idalogical position, is to use the language of that ideology.
Thus, when promoting an environmental issue, I frame it in terms of economic rationalism and fiscal conservatism, rather than aesthetics or ethical responsibilities.
The reality is that the inherent contradictions within all ideologies make it relatively easy to subvert them.
Unfortunately, the convictions borne of self interest and the need for simple “truths” that demand little intellectual effort, are usually proof against all devices.,

6 04 2014

The truth will make you free, depending on your voting patterns!
If you vote Liberal, you know there is no climate problem and can ignore all the scientific babble.
If you vote Labor, you aren’t sure about the climate problem but it probably won’t matter.
If you vote Greens, you know there is a problem, and what to do about it but you won’t be taken seriously!

6 04 2014
Mulga Mumblebrain

Rightwing denialism, of everything, ecological crises, resource depletion, the truth concerning innumerable geo-political debacles and the inherent unfairness, cruelty and destructiveness of capitalism, can be explained by a number of factors. in my opinion.
First, naturally, is individual psychology. That of the Rightist, particularly the hardcore type we see in power and utterly dominating the MSM, is basically that of the psychopath, absent human empathy, compassion and fellow feeling, and heavily laden with egomania, greed, manipulativeness, unscrupulousness etc. When faced with a choice between the lives of others, even billions of them, and their own advantage, they choose the latter. There is, moreover, a strong tribalistic element that overwhelms rationality, even direct experience. To go against the tribe, to fraternise with the viscerally detested ‘Left’, is psychologically impossible.
Secondly there is intelligence, however measured. By definition 50% fall below the median, a majority reservoir of Dunning-Krugerite wannabes and ‘couldabeens’, who value their precious ‘opinions’ more than a science they are not equipped to understand, hence reject out of spite, and nothing much more.
And last you have the baleful, in my opinion quite evil, influence of the Rightwing MSM, in this country led by News Corpse. Their denialism, brutish, fanatical and, stupefyingly, actually denied (denial squared?)has brainwashed susceptible idiots and moral cripples, all to the advantage of the Right, with Tony Abbott the main beneficiary. If Abbott really is an intellect sufficient to receive a Rhodes Scholarship as a sign of some intelligence, then he has either suffered a catastrophic decline in the years since, or he is acting in a most sinister manner, directly contrary to the interests of all our children, his own daughters not excluded.

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