Your Brain On Politics

Trumputin Spins Words Into Weapons As The Press Unwittingly Helps Him Win The Linguistic War

From ‘spygate’ to ‘fake news’, Trump spins language to frame – and win – debates. And the press meekly acts as his marketing agency. By George Lakoff & Gil Duran The Guardian (6/13/18) Donald Trump has been a salesman for nearly half a century. He is now selling himself, his worldview and his self-serving views of the law and the truth. His principal tools are language and the media. By faithfully transmitting Trump’s words and ideas, the press helps him to attack, and thereby control, the press itself. Trump knows the press has a strong instinct to repeat his most outrageous…

Read More

Trump Mind Virus: America’s Normalization Of The Grotesque

  By Gary Younge The Guardian (6/8/18) During the presidential election the Huffington Post’s US site carried the following editor’s note at the end of every story about the Republican nominee: “Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion members of an entire religion – from entering the US.” Shortly before 6am on that long election night – in between Trump’s winning Iowa and being declared the victor in Pennsylvania – the Washington bureau chief announced that the note would…


American Far Right Propaganda & Imagery Draws From German Nazis

By Michael Tymkiw The Conversation (5/29/18) For many people, events such as the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, with its torchlight parade, eagle-emblazoned shields and Nazi flags, bring with them uncomfortable reminders of fascist visual culture from the 1920s to 1945. While individuals and organisations associated with the far right have long appropriated elements from fascist visual culture, the sheer brazenness with which symbols and images were appropriated in Charlottesville, the ensuing violence and the proliferation of photographs and videos depicting these events made the spectre of fascism seem disconcertingly close. If we wish to understand how the far right…


WATCH YOUR MOUTH! You May Hate Him, But Here Is How You Help Trump Every Day

  By George Lakoff George Lakoff Blog (12/16/18) Without knowing it, many Democrats, progressives and members of the news media help Donald Trump every day. The way they help him is simple: they spread his message. Think about it: every time Trump issues a mean tweet or utters a shocking statement, millions of people begin to obsess over his words. Reporters make it the top headline. Cable TV panels talk about it for hours. Horrified Democrats and progressives share the stories online, making sure to repeat the nastiest statements in order to refute them. While this response is understandable, it…


Be Alert! Trump’s Primary Tactic Of Defining Deviancy Downward Is Designed To Leave You Feeling Exhausted, Numb & Inactive

“In 1993, New York’s Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former social scientist, made an incisive observation: Humans have a limited ability to cope with people behaving in ways that depart from shared standards. When unwritten rules are violated over and over, Moynihan observed, societies have a tendency to “define deviancy down” — to shift the standard. What was once seen as abnormal becomes normal. “Moynihan applies this insight, controversially, to America’s growing social tolerance for single-parent families, high murder rates, and mental illness. Today it can be applied to American democracy. Although political deviance — the violation of unwritten…


Down The Memory Hole: Dismantling Democracy, One Word At A Time

“The secret of propaganda [is to] permeate the person it aims to grasp without his even noticing that he is being permeated.” — Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for Hitler’s Nazi Party By Karen Greenberg TomDispatch.org (5/17/18) Consider us officially in an Orwellian world, though we only half realize it. While we were barely looking, significant parts of an American language long familiar to us quite literally, and in a remarkably coherent way, went down the equivalent of George Orwell’s infamous Memory Hole. This hit me in a personal way recently. I was asked to give a talk at an annual…


How The Republican Party Has Betrayed American Democracy

  “Put simply, political parties are democracy’s gatekeepers.” “We know that extremist demagogues emerge from time to time in all societies, even in healthy democracies. The United States has had it share of them, including Henry Ford, Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, and George Wallace. An essential test for democracies is not whether such figures emerge but whether political leaders, and especially political parties, work to prevent them from gaining power in the first place — by keeping them off the mainstream party tickets, refusing to endorse or align with them, and when necessary, making common cause with rivals in support…


Strictly Speaking, Trump Is Actually Quite Easy To Understand

  “Men grow accustomed to poison by degrees.” — Victor Hugo, Les Travailleurs de la Mer   By Mark L. Taylor The Commoner Call (4/23/18) As a political junkie and psychotherapist I get a lot of people asking me to explain just what the hell is going on with Donald Trump and his gang of misfit appointees and rabid fans. They want to know: Why does he say that?; Don’t his supporters realize he is going to make things worse for them?; I can’t believe what he just tweeted!; Why would anyone think that way?; He’s gonna’ change, right?” I…


‘Connection-Speech’ — I Was A Liberal At Fox News. Here’s What That Taught Me About Communicating With Right Wing Folks

  Connection-speech offers a ray of hope in the dark storm cloud that is internet vitriol, and vitriol in general. Because the fact is, we all say we don’t like this crap. By Sally Kohn TIME (4/10/18) It may seem surprising for a liberal commentator like myself, but from 2010 to 2013, I worked in the most prominent den of American conservatism: Fox News. During my time at the network I came to realize how condescending I’d been in my views about not only the people who worked at Fox News but the people watching at home. And condescension is just…


WisDems May Be On The Verge Of (Once Again) Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

  By Scott Wittkopf Frame For The Future (4/11/18) After the election of Rebecca Dallett to the Supreme  Court of Wisconsin, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin kicked its messaging machine into high gear. They had a very focused message – the “blue wave” is inevitable. Dallett’s win can be contributed to a number of factors – most of which had a lot to do with the candidate herself, and the campaign she ran. Another important aspect was the fact that her opponent was weak, and fell back on a very ineffective style of campaign – just attack your opponent. Now,…


Trump Is Still The Most Unpopular President Since Polls Have Been Kept; But It May Not Matter In 2018 Or 2020

By John Atcheson Common Dreams (4/7/18) Trump recently bragged that his approval ratings were higher than “Cheatin Obama” at this point in his Presidency.  As it turns out, only Rasmussen – a right wing polling organization that has consistently put Trump’s approval ratings above those of other polling organizations – had Trump approaching a 50 percent approval.  The rest put him somewhere well below that, with two placing his rating below 40 percent. As a Party, the democrats are completely devoid of a set of coherent policies based on values.  But to anyone who navigates through the world using facts, reason, and critical…


Your Brain On Politics: Trump Voters Value Power Over Others, Wealth & Conformity

  (Editor’s Note: This story is on how voting decisions are made which is not on the basis of facts, talking points and wonky position papers, but on the basis of values and emotional identification and rejection. The right wing has known and honed this insight for 50 years. The left — especially the democrats — have only lately begun to grasp the reality, but, as we see with the state and national dem leadership, they are fighting that bit of psychological reality every inch of the way. -Mark L. Taylor)  By Eric Dolan PsyPost (3/18/18) People with similar values…


A Former Evangelical Explains How To Talk With Christian Fundamentalists

  By Nelle Smith The Raw Story (4/2/18) One of the biggest questions I received after writing about Trump, evangelicals, and the end of the world for RD was this: how do we talk to people who see the world as collateral damage in the pursuit of the Heavenly Kingdom? Is it even worth trying to nudge people out of that worldview? My post-evangelical advice? Be very, very gentle—you don’t know what you’re asking. Here’s an exhibit. When I was twenty-one years old, someone finally knocked it through my thick head that the earth was old. I was halfway through Geology 100…


Don’t Equate Trump’s Linguistic Slip-ups With Stupidity

  By Mary Pipher The Toronto Star (2/1/18) I don’t know about you, but one of the ways I’ve been coping with the Trumpian horror-show to the south is watching late-night American comedy. A regular dose of the acerbic and principled witticisms of Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee helps release some of the terrifying tension doled out daily by President Trump & Co. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear different versions of the same jokes about pathetic crowd-size fixation, dangerous dictator-worship, or the entitled vapidity of Ivanka+Jared (Jarvanka?) — I laugh because I need relief from…


Watch Your (Political) Language: Never Say Tax ‘Reform’, Say ‘Fairness’ To Be Accurate … And Effective

  (Editor’s Note: This article is from September, during the midst of the debate over the Republican tax giveaway to the wealthy 1%. The reason this article is still relevant is that the radical right has been devastatingly effective at twisting the language to its own ends. The left has been slow to the art. One of the words that has been distorted the most is “reform”, as in” Social Security reform” — which is all about just cutting hard-earned and deserved benefits. We on the left need to begin using the English language as the powerfully persuasive tool that…


For Walker, It’s All About Self-Interest: What He Does, Not What He Says He “will do”

By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.com (3/12/18)   Since his state of the state address, Scott Walker has been attacked by Democrats as “stealing their best ideas” in an effort to “buy votes.” Wisconsin Democrats’ continued adherence to outdated political strategies are resulting in a critical failure that could again cost them votes in November. Because most of the Democratic strategists in Wisconsin view politics only through the narrow lenses of issues, personal identity, and celebrity, they are actually helping Walker by claiming that he is “stealing their ideas” on issues. Instead of focusing on who says what about which issue, they ought to focus…


Protecting Language Makes All The Difference In Political Debate: Regulations Are Really Essential Protections

  By George Lakoff georgelakoff.com (1/28/17) The American Majority got 2.8 million more votes in the 2016 election than the Loser President. That puts the majority in a position to change American political discourse and how Americans understand and think about politics. As a start, what is needed is a change of viewpoint. Here is a typical example. Minority President Trump has said that he intends to get rid of 75% of government regulations. What is a “regulation”? The term “regulation” is framed from the viewpoint of corporations and other businesses. From their viewpoint, “regulations” are limitations on their freedom…


Understanding The Values That Keep Trumputin Supporters Loyal

They’re standing by their man, even as he fails to live up to his promises. By Paul Buchheit AlterNet (2/18/18) It’s incomprehensible to many of us that people could support a president who, in Bernie Sanders’ words, “is compulsively dishonest, who is a bully, who actively represents the interests of the billionaire class, who is anti-science, and who is trying to divide us up based on the color of our skin, our nation of origin, our religion, our gender, or our sexual orientation.” Based on various trusted sources and a dab of cognitive science, it’s fair to conclude that there are three main…


Robert Reich: Morality & The Common Good Must Be At Center Of Fighting Trump’s Economic Agenda

  Democracy Now! (2/20/18) As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump made a promise to the American people: There would be no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Well, the promise has not been kept. Under his new budget, President Trump proposes a massive increase in Pentagon spending while cutting funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Trump’s budget would also slash or completely eliminate core anti-poverty programs that form the heart of the U.S. social safety net, from childhood nutrition to care for the elderly and job training. This comes after President Trump and Republican lawmakers pushed through a…


How Undiluted Dishonest I.C.E. Propaganda Makes Its Way Onto Your Local News

  On the Media (2/16/18) This week, the Senate failed to pass a bipartisan immigration bill that would have put up funding for President Trump’s wall and extended protections for the so-called ‘Dreamers,’ beneficiaries of an Obama-era program offering temporary residency to undocumented immigrants brought to the US as kids. Meanwhile, the threat of deportation remains a fact of daily life for undocumented Americans, especially since the Trump administration beefed up Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations last year. But the public has been left largely in the dark about who is being rounded up, because much of the press has…


A Modest Proposal For Rescuing America: #ProtectTheTruth

  By George Lakoff GeorgeLakoff.com (1/13/18) America’s tweeter-in-chief plans to attack the free press next week. He desperately needs your help to succeed. You can help him by repeating his words and lies. You can help him by focusing outraged attention on his antics. Or we can work together to redirect the energy, counteract rather than react, and reframe the conversation. Here’s a way: rather than argue against him directly or waste time refuting his attacks, let’s ignore his antics and make a positive, proactive argument. While he assails the free press, let’s use our voices to honor the essential work…


Donald Trump Is Worming His Way Deep Into Your Brain, Linguist Warns. SAD!

  By Mary Papenfuss The HuffPost (1/22/18) President Donald Trump is colonizing our brains with his drumbeat of repetitive words and phrases, an American linguist warns. According to George Lakoff, an emeritus professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, constant repetitions actually create physical changes in our brains by forging stronger connections in our neural pathways, “Language activates an idea and a circuitry in your brain. Every time a circuit is activated, its synapses get stronger,” Lakoff told Deutsche-Welle in an interview published Sunday. In other words, the more you hear things — and say things — the stronger the…


Progressive Principles Can Be The Source For Successful Democratic Campaigns — If The Dems Are Willing To Change

  By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.com (1/24/18) Let’s look into the future. There will come a time when progressives and Democrats begin to acknowledge more recent (than the 17th Century) developments in the science of thought. Political communication will account for the importance of unconscious emotion in motivating our actions, and how language can effectively frame ideas so that people not only hear, but actually accept fundamental truths about the world around them. How powerful WOULD it be if all the candidates were focused on a new, better strategy – based on science? This vision of a better, more effective strategy is nothing…


Take It From Tech Insiders: Silicon Valley Is Eating Your Soul & Society

  By John Harris The Guardian (1/1/18) One source of angst came close to being 2017’s signature subject: how the internet and the tiny handful of companies that dominate it are affecting both individual minds and the present and future of the planet. The old idea of the online world as a burgeoning utopia looks to have peaked around the time of the Arab spring, and is in retreat. If you want a sense of how much has changed, picture the president of the US tweeting his latest provocation in the small hours, and consider an array of words and…


George Lakoff: The Power Of Positive Persistence

  By George Lakoff George Lakoff’s Website (1/24.18) Like some foreign dictator, the Republican in the White House will launch a planned attack on the free press today. But he’s been in an ongoing campaign against the truth since Day One. It’s alarming because presidents don’t act this way. Dictators do. And there’s evidence to suggest that the Republican president’s constant attacks on the news media have encouraged dictators in other countries to continue their repression of journalists. There’s a place for angry response and outrage. That’s only human. But we also need strategic action to make sure every passing day fuels…


Listen Up Dems! Patty Schachtner Campaign Message Has Important Lessons For Future Progressive Wins

  By Scott Wittkopf Frame For The Future (1/18/18) The “surprise” win for Patty Schachtner in Wisconsin’s 10th Senate District continues to be analyzed, as Democrats in Wisconsin see it as a harbinger of things to come in the fall. While there were so many volunteers and organizations that contributed boots on the ground and campaign outreach, the most important lesson for progressives is the candidate herself – and the values and message she herself embodies. It is true that the campaign had a great organizational effort, and that is not to be diminished. However, it is in Patty herself,…


Your Brain On Politics: Trump Uses Twitter To Effectively Manipulate Us All. Here’s How To Stop Falling For His Con

By George Lakoff & Gil Duran Sacrament0 Bee (1/4/18) President Donald Trump’s use of social media has radically transformed presidential communications. His short bursts of text move markets, disrupt diplomacy and inflame political anxiety almost daily. His smartphone has become one of the most powerful weapons in political history. As a result, there’s a growing pressure campaign by many Democrats to force Twitter to ban him. But kicking Trump off of Twitter would fail to address the real problem. For one thing, Trump also uses Facebook. And if Facebook banned him, he’d simply jump to another social media platform like…


Perverting The Language: How The Media Protects A Man Unfit For Office

  By Robert Reich Robert Reich’s Blog (1/12/18) Now that Trump has been president for almost a year, it’s time the media called his behavior for what it is rather than try to normalize it. Here are the six most misleading media euphemisms for conduct unbecoming a president: 1. Calling Trump’s tweets “presidential “statements” or “press releases.” “The President is the President of the United States, so they’re considered official statements by the President of the United States,” Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, said last June when asked during his daily briefing how his tweets should be characterized Wrong. Trump’s tweets are…


Sure, Trump May Be Stupid, Incurious & Lazy But There Is One Way He Is An Absolute Genius

  By Robert Reich RobertReich.org (1/6/18) For more than a year now, I’ve been hearing from people in the inner circles of official Washington – GOP lobbyists, Republican pundits, even a few Republican members of Congress – that Donald Trump is remarkably stupid. I figured they couldn’t be right because really stupid people don’t become presidents of the United States. Even George W. Bush was smart enough to hire smart people to run his campaign and then his White House. Several months back when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “f—king moron,” I discounted it. I know firsthand how frustrating…


Republicans Twist Language When They Say ‘Reforms’ But Really Mean ‘Cuts’

By Jared Bernstein The Washington Post (12/29/17) I have a simple request to journalists, columnist, pundits, and others writing about forthcoming efforts of Republicans to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the anti-poverty programs that make up our safety net. Call such efforts “cuts.” Do not call them “reforms,” “changes,” “overhauls,” “fixes,” “reshaping,” “modernizing,” or any other euphemism that could easily be misconstrued. At least, do not do so without also clearly defining what they really are, which is cuts. While D.C. insiders speak the unique creole of our swamp, there’s no reason to expect general readers to intuitively understand…


Hey, Dems: Your ‘Trump, Bad. Send Cash’ Pitch Is Not Enough

  By Mark L. Taylor The Commoner Call (1/1/18) In a Thursday [12/28] Morning Edition interview with National Public Radio’s David Greene, Jess O’Connell, CEO of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), addressed concerns that the party coffers are down to about $6 million while the Republican National Committee has banked some $40 million. Greene asked about that money gap and how much of an obstacle that is for the dems running strong in 2018 mid-term elections. Acknowledging the money issue was real, O’Connell gave an upbeat assessment of the “Democratic ecosphere”, pointing to recent election results in Virginia and Alabama. Putting…


Message For The New Year: This Is How To Be Your Own Light In The Dark Age Of Trump

  (Editor’s Note: This warning was written right after last year’s election. The author, Sarah Kendzior, is an authority on totalitarian regimes. Now, one year into the Trump era, much of what she warned about last November is true and accelerating. Her advice to each of us is central to maintaining our personal integrity and freedom. As tough as 2017 was, 2018 promises to be an even bigger challenge. This is an important read for the New Year and the years to come. – Mark L. Taylor)  By Sarah Kendzior, Flyover Country Correspondent The Correspondent (11/18/16) My fellow Americans, I…


A Bad Deal: Swapping Out Democracy For A State Of Perpetual American Fear

‘Scairdy Cat Nation By Ray Suarez NPR (12/17/17) Historian Elaine Tyler May says that ever since the Cold War, fear has crept into American life and created apathy toward democracy. During that time, the government and media gave Americans constant warning about nuclear war and communism — adults were encouraged to build shelters, children practiced hiding under their desks to prepare for a possible nuclear attack. “Basically, the message was the bomb could drop at any time,” she says. “Each person was responsible for their own safety. There’s really nothing the government or the leaders of the country can do…


Dunderhead: Rewiring The Dull, Primitive, Slumbering, Antiscientific Democratic Party Brain With George Lakoff

By Melissa Batchelor Warnke San Francisco Magazine (12/1/17) “Democrats are basically science deniers,” George Lakoff says. “They’re denying the truth discovered in neuroscience and cognitive science.” Harsh words, coming from a lifelong liberal Democrat. But the famed UC Berkeley cognitive linguist thinks his party desperately needs a wake-up call. If they’d listened to him, he says, Donald Trump would not be president. As the election approached, Lakoff was looking forward to retirement. He’d been a professor at Berkeley for the better part of 50 years; he’d published countless peer-reviewed papers; he’d written or coauthored a dozen books. And he’d made a mark…


Daily Dose: Time To Restore Humanity, Civility & Heartfelt Communication To Politics? Here’s How

  By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.org (10/31/17) In my last blog, I discussed the reasons (based on the most current research in cognitive science and political psychology) that strategies based on rationality, facts, and issues are so ineffective. This blog will begin a discussion about how to effectively connect and communicate with people in a way that bridges our deep political divides. Thanks to a friend and colleague who called my attention to a recent article in The Atlanticonline. “On Safari in Trump’s America” was written by a reporter who travelled around Western Wisconsin with “researchers” from a Third Wave Democrat think tank, conducting post-election…


‘Our minds can be hijacked’: Growing Number Of Tech Insiders Fear A Smothering Smartphone, Social Media Dystopia

  Your brain on social media. By Paul Lewis The Guardian (10/6/17) Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies. Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps. He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he…


Daily Dose: Why Rational Arguments, Charts n’ Facts Still Won’t Win Elections

By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.com (10/24/17) All it takes to see a deeply flawed political strategy in practice is look at any recent press release from most Democratic candidates for governor, in this case, Andy Gronik: “We already know that even under the rosiest projections taxpayers won’t begin to be repaid from Foxconn for 25 years. If Scott Walker and WEDC make a $3 billion mistake with Foxconn, it will be even longer before the taxpayers are made whole. That’s just a bad deal for the taxpayers and will serve as an anchor around the neck of our state for years to come.” First,…


Daily Dose: Justin Trudeau’s UN Speech Used Progressive Values To Effectively Undermine Trump

By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.com (9/21/17) A big thanks to Steve Arnold, who texted me from Canada this afternoon, bringing Justin Trudeau’s United Nations speech today to my attention. After hearing it, I was so struck by the ideas, language, and effective evoking of empathy, that I set aside the original topic for today. Trudeau’s speech provides a unique opportunity. Unique because virtually no one in the US communicates a progressive message like Trudeau.  This speech emphasizes the effectiveness of really good framing to both provide a positive, hopeful message for people to believe in; while at the same time undermining an opponent…


Daily Dose: What Trump Said And Did (and didn’t do) About Puerto Rico Requires Moral Response

www.Frame4Future.com By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.com (10/4/17) Even an op-ed from one of the USA Today’s Board of Editorial Director’s noted the lack of empathy from Donald Trump. The severe lack of caring about anyone but himself should be the red flag that provides a values disconnect from the vast majority of people. But the lack of empathy needs to be highlighted at all times, and an example of what empathy looks like must be reinforced as much as possible. Instead, in too many cases, as cognitive science informs us, it is far too easy for authoritarian ideas and values to be…


How Privatization Divides & Weakens Us, While Public Institutions Make Us A Better People

For the 1%. By Paul Buchheit Nation of Change (9/25/17) Most people looking to make big money are eager to disparage public systems as inefficient, wasteful, inferior. Many of those people are in a position to starve the public systems of funding, thereby making them less functional, and making the private options look more appealing. But privatization is not the solution, it is the problem. Properly supported public systems serve more people in a more efficient and less costly way. We might begin by looking at FEMA, the underfunded disaster relief program much maligned for its response to Hurricane Katrina in…