Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

“ . . . repeat conservative language or ideas, even when arguing against them.”

So saith George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at U.C. Berkeley, the most prominent advocate for the view, that so many hard-core liberals and professional Democrats seem to buy into, that politics is all about “narrative framing” and such. It is an utterly impoverished viewpoint, both intellectually and morally, beginning with its quite literally Manichean view of inherently authoritarian conservatives and inherently egalitarian liberals. That is no exaggeration, as this must-read review from Zombie establishes, a review much more charitable to Lakoff than he deserves, and makes good arguments for why his approach hurts Democrats.  The “ironic” title that Lakoff gives his new book, The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic , co-authored by Elisbeth Wheling, displays his basic shamelessness.

What a miserable mental world to live in. At least guys like Lenin really believed in something grand when they played their language games. Wheling and Lakoff advise Democrats to refuse to discuss politics straightforwardly with two-thirds of their fellow citizens, and for what? To preserve policies like Obamacare?

I utterly reject, incidentally, the notion that being realistic about unavoidable role that rhetoric will play in politics, and to a lesser degree in life generally, gets one to such notions.

Anyhow, liberals, prove the man’s debased estimate of human nature and of your own intellectual abilities wrong: learn conservative arguments, and lay them out fulsomely before attacking them.

And a tip to conservative politicians and intellectuals—when confronted by obtuse mis-characterization of your views in an interview or on a panel, maybe that’s when it’s time to turn the tables and ask them about whether they repudiate the views of George Lakoff or not.

More on: Democrats

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles