Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives – 50 Book Challenge


Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives
Lakoff, George

This slim book was Lakoff’s effort to demonstrate the importance (and ultimate success) of efforts by “conservatives” to frame important policy debates in language and thought favorable to their goals. Lakoff’s point essentially is that the “facts” never speak for themselves, but depend on how they are framed and positioned. Frames tend to be set up in a “have you stopped beating your wife” kind of way so that however you respond to questions you reinforce the underlying frame. For example, if you let the argument over taxation get framed rhetorically as “tax relief,” then no matter how you argue your case you are endorsing the notion that taxation in and of itself is bad.

A series of essays on particular topics such as taxes or family values, the book suffers from a good deal of repetition across chapters. Moreover, this is a more polemical book than Lakoff typically writes. Understandable given its topic and timing, but I found it wearing after a while despite agreeing with Lakoff’s arguments and analysis. I’ve certainly bought into some of the frames that Lakoff identifies a lot more uncritically than I care to acknowledge.

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