Talking Dog Talks to George Lakoff

The Talking Dog interviewed George Lakeoff. Here’s a couple of the questions:

The Talking Dog: How would you reframe the “war on terror”, and in particular, WHAT WOULD YOU CALL IT, for one thing? Am I correct that in your view the fastest way to frame the Iraq war is to frame it as THE IRAQ OCCUPATION, to wit, when flight-suit-wearing Presisdent Bush gave his “mission accomplished” speech on the carrier Lincoln, we had, in fact, already won “the war”, and left us with “the occupation”?

George Lakoff: There is no question that the occupation is and has been a disaster. Our troops were not trained for it. While a civil war was not predicted, it should have been, and the situation is now impossible for our troops, who have been regularly cut down ever since while being placed in the midst of it. It was the grossest of irresponsibility to think that we could have a quickie war and occupation– a gross irresponsibility, to our troops, to the Iraqis and everybody else.

We also have to get a handle on definitions. You can’t have a “war on terror”. Terror is an emotion– it is not an army who fights to control territory– the definition of a party that you have a “war” against. That’s not what terrorism is about… (Israel’s current war with Hezbollah may be a bit different, as Hezbollah does appear to control territory, making it a more classic war- though still very different.)

Terrorism is more like organized crime. Indeed, immediately after 9-11, Colin Powell suggested that the 9-11 attacks be treated as a crime, and responded to as a crime, albeit a huge one. When we’ve been most successful against terrorism, it’s been when we’ve treated it like organized crime — combating it with spies, infiltrators, and with international police and intelligence cooperation. This is not an issue of war… it is more like busting a syndicate.

The Talking Dog:Would we be well-advised to consult the wit and wisdom of Frank Luntz in advance to see what talking points will be coming at us? And on that note, you’ve pointed out that on most frames, right-wingers are “sincere”– that is, they truly believe in strict-father morality, personal discipline and such (why for example Arnold Schwarzennegger is an ideal candidate, having literally played a character ready made for this role). They are not sincere in their framing on issues where they are peculiarly weak, such as the environment, where they revert to Orwellian terms like “clean skies initiative” to permit greater pollution, or “healthy forest initiatives” to permit more clear-cutting, and your suggestion is that on these areas in particular, the terms and the policies can be more vigorously debated as literally a question of dishonesty. Can you comment on this?

George Lakoff: When I teach a class on this, I always tell my students they should read Luntz, and indeed, all progressives would be well-advised to read and understand what the other side is doing. I point out the difference between honest arguments that are consistent with their worldview and outright lies. Luntz seamlessly weaves them together. He uses various techniques, among them, lying with language. Luntz is a mixed bag. Progressives definitely need to read the other side.

Other topics discussed include Joe Lieberman, and the differences between progressive and conservative organizations.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    kj says:

    Shoot, that means I really shoulda oughta read Luntz. Sigh.

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