Framing Rules: God is Father, Father knows Best, Markets know Best…Market is God

Rank speculation from The Errant follows.  Going with the flow to discover my unconscious frames.

Do you know why GWB and BHO enacted financial policies design to funnel tax dollars into the vaults of “failed” banks?  To block the prospect of democracy breaking out in the USA.  In a democracy, especially a “direct democracy” where there is no mediation or intervention by fallacy of “representation”, the people, you and I, would decide the fate of those banks and their acts of fraudulence.   My guess is that there would be many folks with starched white collars in the torture boxes (see “Hellhole” by Atul Gawande) at the SuperMax in Colorado.

A massive failure of “banking” and attendant monopoly capital structures would require a serious change of frame for the population.  Dad’s way or the highway had just about gone over the cliff.  But, Wile E. Coyote-style, he’s back behind the wheel of our destined-to-crash-again economic system

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George Lakoff (linguist) has argued in books and lectures (like this one, “Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century Politics with an 18th-Century Brain”), that to the right-wing “Market” is synonymous with “Father”.  And Father knows best.

Above, I referenced a metaphor of a way to live as a “highway” where I’m responsible as the driver once I’m off “dad’s way”;  I also appealed to your own experience of growing up in an authoritarian home with Dad making all the rules and doling out punishments.  In our toddler brains we apparently map neural paths based on these metaphorical linguistics and any attendant actions as they offer us pleasure and/or pain.  Dad’s way might be “framed” for us early as “just” and “fair” even benign in punishment, i.e., for our own good.  OR it might be “unjust” and vindictive with no purpose other than the exercise of domination.  How we imprint said metaphorical frame will lead to our mental conceptions in politics as well as life generally.  Saying “yes” to dad yields a particular kind of citizen who will adhere to an authoritarian world view; saying “no” to dad seems to lead one towards a liberal worldview.  Lakoff says the GOP has understood this and used it for 40 plus years.  He says liberals don’t.  And that is why the world is at it is.

This metaphorical frame of “Father knows best” seems relevant to why there are so many out there working hard to make religious texts into economics texts promoting “free markets”.  In other words, again, according to Lakoff, if the Market must be the supreme authority (and so de facto “just” or “good” or “right”) then it must be aligned with the “highest” idea of ORDER and authority…God, the Father.  In this way there is no contradiction when the God of Love devastates your pension.

This allows the Market, like the actions of God, to “passeth understanding”, which is of course troubling to some because one must allow that an omnipotent, omniscient being is beyond comprehension; it’s rather difficult to think one should allow a creation of human will that same mystery and power.  In this same frame one is also encouraged to believe that what is seen as a “bad” act by Our Market is plausibly a good act that can’t be understood, and/or, what’s bad here may be good there.  Again, human designations such as “good” and “bad” are relative in human terms but are meaningless if applied to a Supreme Deity whose workings evade the puny reach of our pea brains.

Also, there’s the strain of Christianity called Prosperity Theology (Joel Osteen Ministries might be a good example, but you might also remember Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Bakker) that allows that Jesus, that Son of a Market, is a proponent of amassing wealth.  A primary text, which I’ve referenced before in “A Talent for Business”, is Jesus’s Parable of the Talents.

Obeisance to The Market (to the Father, to God) allows one to think of amassing wealth as a kind of morality.  And one must admit, as again Lakoff makes clear, that it IS a moral world view regardless of disagreement with the content or consequences assessed by those that don’t hold those views.  If the Market can be seen as always “leveling” towards the “overall” good of all then any action taken within that framework of inherent goodness must also be good.  This was Smith’s “hidden hand” fable as well.  That’s a “triple play” frame!

To try to be more precise: a “frame” isn’t only the single metaphor or single belief in that metaphor; the frame provides the generative structure that we then go on to “build up” over our mental and physical development so that by the time we’re “grown up” we’ve built a pretty solid house from that original frame.  This is architectural and it’s deeply rooted in the physical development or our minds.

So, now a “morality” need not be true or good but it should be useful.  It is just a “frame” and some frames are stronger than others.  Nietzsche likely would agree.  As might Freud.  But what Lakoff points out is that these frames are embedded and therefore lead to a kind of “automatic” response from listeners of political speeches or viewers of TV advertising, or, we might confess, readers of blogs.  We are automatically partisan.

His suggestion to liberals who have not spent the last 40 years on talk radio and in think tanks honing these messaging tactics?  Better start throwing the sames kinds of punches because you’re getting your asses kicked all over the ring.  (Metaphoric Pugilism!)

Messages need not be “false” but only framed in a way that elicits the appropriate frame emotion and response.  And then repeated, and repeated, and repeated without deviation.  He claims that when the President, who is ostensibly a Democrat, says things like “We do not propose to enable a Nanny State mentality…” what he’s doing is reinforcing the very thing he says he doesn’t want.  Just saying Nanny State reinforces the idea that the government IS a nanny state.  As a liberal you should never use the terms of art you are trying to combat even as you aim to negate them.  The liberal problem with adhering to this tactic?  A belief that REASON should trump “propaganda” and emotional responses–in other words, “if the facts are laid out and the case is clearly made then people will have to agree,” says the liberal.  Lakoff says, Wrong!

The frame will trump reason.

So, unless progressives can find their way to say the words “Public Education is Freedom” and mean it…and keep saying it, and saying why it is without qualifications, in as clear a way as possible…

God will be in his heaven.  And all will be Right-wing in the world.




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