Your Brain On Politics

Rethuglicans Follow An Old Model: Fear, Anger & Simple (Minded) Slogans

“All propaganda should be popular and should adapt it intellectual level to the receptive ability of the least intellectual of those whom it is desired to address. Thus it must sink its mental elevation deeper in proportion to the numbers of the mass who i has to grip. …The receptivity ability of the masses is very limited, and their understanding small; on the other hand, they have a great power of forgetting. This being so, all effective propaganda must be confined to very few points which must be brought out in the form of slogans.” — Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf…

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Dictionary.com’s Word Of The Year Is … ‘Misinformation’

Dictionary.com (11/26/18) The rampant spread of misinformation poses new challenges for navigating life in 2018. As a dictionary, we believe understanding the concept is vital to identifying misinformation in the wild, and ultimately curbing its impact. But what does misinformation mean? Dictionary.com defines it as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” The recent explosion of misinformation and the growing vocabulary we use to understand it have come up again and again in the work of our lexicographers. Over the last couple of years, Dictionary.com has been defining words and updating terms related to the evolving…


When It Comes To The War Over Words Republicans Easily Defeat The Democrats

  By Ralph Nader Common Dreams (11/15/18) The Republican Party lost ground in the Congressional and state elections earlier this month, but they continue to triumph in the all-important contests over words. Republicans have been winning the “war over words” for years. First, the hard core political right wingers symbolically claimed the Bible and the American flag, turning them upside down. To them the Bible meant anything but the Golden Rule and compassion for the “poor,” so frequently noted in the Scriptures. They brandished the flag as a patriotic symbol to gag dissent, as a bandanna for waging war crimes, and…


Two Years In, Trump Can Still Count On News Media To Mindlessly Do His Bidding

By George Lakoff George Lakoff’s Facebook Page (10/28/18) Two years in, Trump and the right wing can still count on the news media to do their bidding. Constant repetition of their lies and language help spread it far and wide. They know that constant repetition of lies – even to debunk them – only makes them more sticky. Here are their tactics in use: 1. Frame first, meaning get your understanding of the situation out there. 2. Divert attention from things you don’t want people to pay attention to, for example by attacking somebody else. 3. Attack the messenger or…


Has The Dark Side Of American Conservatism Taken Over, Or Has Its Mask Simply Fallen Away?

By George Lakoff George Lakoff’s Facebook Page (10/14/18) Some lifelong Republicans are having sudden realizations about what conservatives really believe. Max Boot, who is leaving the Republican Party and wishes “ill fortune” on its candidates, writes: “It would be nice to think that Donald Trump is an anomaly who came out of nowhere to take over an otherwise sane and sober movement. But it just isn’t so. Upon closer examination, it’s obvious that the history of modern conservative is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, isolationism and know-nothingism.” But conservative bigotry goes beyond racism. It extends to every aspect of social life….


Trump’s Comments About Murdered Saudi Journalist Is Perfect Example Of Trump’s Tricks To Distract, Confuse, Lie & Get His Way

In just 20 seconds, Trump hit a trifecta of phrasing and logic he comes back to frequently. First, when an ally or someone he’s inclined to believe denies something, he defers to the denial. By Tamara Keith Morning Edition / NPR (10/16/18) Secretary of State Pompeo is in Riyadh to address the disappearance of a Saudi journalist. President Trump’s response to the disappearance illustrates how he responds to other difficult questions. Link to transcript and 3+-Minute Audio (Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )  


How Democrats Could Win With Moral & Emotionally Wise Political Communication

    “People vote their values.” Robert Reich interviews neurolingist George Lakoff on how the republicans have mastered the moral hierarchy of political messaging — emotional framing — and what the democrats and progressives need to learn, understand and do it they want any chance of winning elections. Opposing Trump, making dismissive jokes about Scott Walker or name-calling republicans will not be enough. It never has been and never will be. If they are interested in winning elections and changing the public debate it is essential for progressives to find their language and speak to the moral reasoning, values and…


Some Much-Needed Coaching For Dems On How To Talk Politics

 Michael Avenatti Calls On Democrats To ‘fight fire with fire’ As He Considers Presidential Run “When they go low, I say, we hit harder.” By Ben Jacobs The Guardian (8/11/18) Michael Avenatti could become the second person to go from cable news fixture to president. Speaking to a crowd of activists at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding event, Avenatti left the room electrified. The lawyer, who is exploring a potential presidential bid, turned what has been a sleepy presidential pre-season so far upside down. The lawyer for Stormy Daniels has become a national sensation with his ever-constant appearances on cable news advocating for…


Trump Resorts To ‘Pure 1984 Totalitarian Gaslighting,’ Telling Supporters To Ignore News Coverage Of His Policies

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” — George Orwell, 1984. By Julia Conley Common Dreams (7/25/18) Hours before President Donald Trump’s former lawyer released an audio recording of Trump discussing a hush-money payment to a former Playboy model, the president uttered a phrase that critics said seemed ripped from the pages of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984. “It’s all working out,” Trump told a gathering of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Kansas City, Missouri. “Just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”…


Say What? A Handy Guide To Political Jargon

  By Briana Bierschbach MPR (7/16/18) After months of stumping on the campaign trail, the incumbent candidate made a substantial fundraising haul, filling their coffers in a critical battleground race. Get all that? Don’t worry, us either. Many of those words are some of the worst examples of political jargon, or terms that are rarely heard uttered outside of Capitols, campaign headquarters or newsrooms. Unfortunately, election season is here, meaning this kind of insider political code is spilling out into everyone else’s world via campaign ads, articles and the politicians themselves. To help you translate it all, here’s a guide to…


Sen. Paul Wellstone’s Words Provide A Powerful Standard For Today’s Democratic Candidates

  One of the true progressive leaders of he Democratic party was Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone. He had a unique ability to connect with voters by bringing a humane, aspirational message to his politics. The following are a few Wellstone quotes you can use as  a comparison measure to the candidates vying for your vote this election season. The issue is not whether a particular candidate mimics Wellstone’s words and sentiments, but do they embody a genuine progressive message of humane and inclusive, positive vision and values. — Mark L. Taylor **** “This is no time for timidity.” ***** “The…


Beyond Logic & Reason: Historian Explains How Donald Trump And The Far Right Weaponized ‘Chaos Magic’ — Just Like The Occult

  [Editor’s Note: This is an insightful explanation from a different perspective of what the Trump movement is all about and how it seems impervious to the blunders, blatant lies and immorality of it’s leader. Excellent read. — Mark L. Taylor] By Chauncey DeVega Salon (7/16/18) Almost two years after Donald Trump’s once-unthinkable election victory, social scientists and other researchers have reached some clear conclusions about how and why it happened. Racism, sexism, nativism and social-dominance behavior were key factors in Trump’s support among white voters. Christian nationalism, along with the fear that white people will soon lose demographic power…


Let’s Get Honest With Our Language, Folks: What Is Happening To Immigrant Children Is Not ‘Separation’ — It Is Governmental Kidnapping

  “Trump’s statement that immigrants will ‘infest our country’ probably sounds better in the original German.” — Conservative journalist Bill Kristol.   By Mark L. Taylor The Commoner Call (6/21/18) What we have seen in the southwest this week is not a law enforcement “separation”; it is government child abuse and kidnapping, which is in step with the oily history and brutal traditions of all totalitarian regimes. Wake up folks, if you think this couldn’t happen to your own families you are living a dream. In fact, this is already part of the story of what this nation has done…


Larry Lessing: Our Democracy No Longer Represents The People. Here’s How We Fix It

TED Talk (10/20/15) Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig makes the case that our democracy has become corrupt with money, leading to inequality that means only 0.02% of the United States population actually determines who’s in power. Lessig says that this fundamental breakdown of the democratic system must be fixed before we will ever be able to address major challenges like climate change, social security, and student debt. This is not the most important problem, it’s just the first problem. Lawrence Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, former director of the Edmond J….


A ‘Commoner’ Writes: Don’t Repeat You-Know-Who

For a long time now, one thought has gnawed at me regarding media coverage of the present administration.  George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science, helped  me a great deal with an article he wrote. “When you repeat Trump, you help Trump”, he writes.  That is why Trump has chosen tweets  to reach the masses.  Every time he tweets something, no matter how outrageous, we obsess over those words.  Through them, he controls the cable news panels, the newspapers, and all of us.  We do exactly what he intends: We spread his message of divide and conquer. What Dr.Lakoff said bears…


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…


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…