Your Brain On Politics

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…

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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…


George Lakoff: The Mass Marketing & Normalizing Of Hate

Spokesman By George Lakoff George Lakoff’s Website (/18/17) I have been asked what hate speech is. It is not exactly hard to detect. Hate speech defames, belittles, or dehumanizes a class of people on the basis of certain inherent properties — typically race, ethnicity, gender, or religion. The most dangerous form of hate speech comes from the government itself when the President excuses racist violence and supports the oppressive use of governmental force. Hate speech attributes to that class of people certain highly negative qualities taken to be inherent in members of the class. Typical examples are immorality, intellectual inferiority,…


Daily Dose: What Is Healthcare Really About? It’s About Freedom Over Fear

  By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.com (9/19/17) Take a look at every email you get from your Democratic representatives about the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act. More importantly, look beyond the issue, beyond the fundraising “ask”, and look at the words and ideas. Here’s an example at one I received recently – they all use the same language: “ALERT: MILLIONS will lose coverage… I’ll put it bluntly: Senate Republicans are CLOSER than ever before to repealing the Affordable Care Act.  The newest plan — supported by Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — would leave millions of Americans without…


Daily Dose: Why Are Trump’s Lies So Effective – And Democratic Efforts To Counter Them So Ineffective?

www.frame4future.com By Scott Wittkopf Frame4Future.com (9/12/17) The fact checkers have been all over Donald Trump since before he officially announced his candidacy. The New York Times even has an entire online page that documents every “outright lie” he told since taking the oath of office. According to Politifact, nearly 60% of Trump’s statements fact-checked by the media organization have been some level of false. Contrary to what some media commentators have suggested, Trump does not lie because he thinks people are stupid. He lies because he knows that it will strengthen his message. He also knows that his opponents are currently incapable of providing an effective counter to…


George Lakoff: Why Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech

  By George Lakoff GeorgeLakoff.com (9/8/17) Freedom in a free society is supposed to be for all. Therefore, freedom rules out imposing on the freedom of others. You are free to walk down the street, but not to keep others from doing so. The imposition on the freedom of others can come in overt, immediate physical form — thugs coming to attack with weapons. Violence may be a kind of expression, but it certainly is not “free speech.” Like violence, hate speech can also be a physical imposition on the freedom of others. That is because language has a psychological…


Daily Dose: The Dream Act Is About Our Morals & Beliefs As A Nation & People

www.frame4future.com   By Scott Wittkopf Frame For The Future (9/6/17) It’s time for our representatives in Congress to choose a side – a moral side, not a partisan side. After all, politics are moral. And the outcome of the debate on The Dream Act will say a lot about who we are as a people and society. Progressives and Democrats would do well to make the debate about what we value and believe. It would be a mistake to make the Democratic argument based on statistics, policy that favors one group of people over another, or about “job creation” – because none of…


Bugged: Lefty Icon Cornel West Accidentally Smears Self & Charlottesville Antifascist Protesters

Inattention to framing can hobble, dilute and vaporize the best of political efforts. You can even wind up promoting your opponent’s arguments.   By Mark L. Taylor The Commoner Call (9/4/17) Before I begin, take a moment – and a deep breath – to check your emotional reaction to the following word: cockroaches So now… First off, let me say Cornel West is one of my heroes. The man is one of the sharpest intellects to be found and speaks truth to power with unique moral clarity and courage. Unlike many partisans, West challenges republicans and democrats alike in the name…


Daily Dose: What’s The DNC Thinking…Because It’s Definitely Not About Progressive Values

www.frame4future.com By Scott Wittkopf Frame For The Future (9/1/17) We learned today that the Democratic National Committee reported “abysmal” fundraising numbers: “The $4.7 million it raised in April was the lowest for that particular month since 2009. The $4.3 million raised in May was the worst for that month since 2003. And now the $3.8 million raised in July is the worst for any month since January 2009.” (Washington Post) As we head into a holiday weekend to celebrate labor and the sacrifices progressive people made so that we all can have a better quality of life, I pose the question that…


It’s Possible To Step Out Of Our Comfort Zone & Connect With The “Average” Trump Voter

www.frame4future.com By Scott Wittkopf Frame for the Future (8/24/17) There were quite a few comments on social media about yesterday’s blog (pointing out that progressives and Democrats have a largely unconscious “salient exemplar” bias that gets in the way of connecting with the average Trump voter) from progressives who adamantly disagreed with me.  I found it interesting that in disagreeing with me, they provided a stark example of their own bias (salient exemplar) – to the point of using metaphors to de-humanize all people who voted for Trump. Here are some examples (names omitted). Consider how these quotes reflect a bias which apply…


Want Affordble, Universal Health Care? Then Change The Debate & Redefine Solution

  By Scott Galindez Reader Supported News (8/26/17) One of my heroes, Paul Wellstone, used to say: “In the last analysis, politics is not predictions and politics is not observations. Politics is what we do. Politics is what we do, politics is what we create, by what we work for, by what we hope for and what we dare to imagine.” Imagine a country where you go to the doctor, he treats you, and the bill gets paid for by your tax dollars. We can create that world if we lead! It is time to stop worrying about labels. It…



Dunk Shot: How Progressives Can Simply & Properly Frame The Issue Of Paying Taxes

“Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it. You did not build the basketball court. Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise it won’t be maintained and will fall apart. “People who avoid taxes, like corporations what move to Bermuda, are not paying their dues to their country. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer. It is…


George Lakoff: If Democrats Want To Win They Need To Understand How To Speak To Americans

  (Editor’s Note: If you are an activist who has heard some of the chatter about messaging and “framing” political messages, this article and the links provided will give you a quick and useful introduction to the work of George Lakoff – the dean of messaging. – Mark L. Taylor) By Daphne White Berkeleyside.com (6/2/17) George Lakoff, retired UC Berkeley professor and author of Don’t Think of an Elephant, is one of a very few people in Berkeley who does not underestimate Donald Trump. “Trump is not stupid,” he tells anyone who will listen. “He is a super salesman, and he knows…


Before We Can Challenge Entrenched Power We Need To Find The Right Language Of Resistance

  By Mark L. Taylor The Commoner Call (6/29/17) The release of the republican senate Trumpcare bill was yet another stunning piece of sociopathic class warfare. In this case the result would be tens of millions of the most vulnerable losing their health coverage and nearly everyone else seeing their rates and annual deductibles go up and coverage go down. Meanwhile, senate republicans would hand the 400 richest families in America a $33 billion tax cut over ten years. What, many of my acquaintances ask, are they thinking? How could they? Don’t they realize the harm that would be done?…


Sad: Humpty Trumpty’s Rules For His Fake Language

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master-that’s all.’”  — Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll By Christopher Brauchli Common Dreams (6/17/17) It does not take a serious student of the English language to recognize the similarity between the discussion that Alice and Humpty Dumpty had about the meaning of words used by Humpty Dumpty, to recognize that as…


Your Brain On Politics: A Conservative Republican Candidate Has Her “I Am Not A Crook” Moment

  By George Lakoff GeorgeLakoff.com (6/7/17) During Watergate, Richard Nixon famously said, “I am not a crook.” And, immediately, Americans coast-to-coast thought of him as a crook. This incident inspired my book title Don’t Think of an Elephant!” What does the title make you think of? Why does negating an idea so often have the opposite of the effect negation is assumed to have? My late colleague, Charles Fillmore, the great linguist who discovered frame semantics, observed that every word is cognitively defined (unconsciously) in terms of a conceptual frame. Frames are structures of ideas. Ideas are carried out in…


George Lakoff On Disaster Branding: The Importance Of Giving Donnie His Due

By George Lakoff George Lakoff’s Website (6/4/17) Donald Trump knows the power of branding and actually makes huge profits by selling the use of his name. But the power of naming and branding can be a double-edged sword: when a president creates and perpetuates real human disasters, we can truthfully attach his name to them and allow well-earned disaster branding to spread naturally. Mr. Trump uses the word “disaster” metaphorically for policies and practices he doesn’t like. But there are real, literal disasters in the world: huge fires, devastating, floods, deadly storms, major droughts — disasters caused systemically by the…


Orwell On The Politics Of Language

“Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.” – George Orwell, Politics and the English Language”, 1945   (Commoner Call cartoon by Mark…


The Firing Of James Comey: Psychology Helps Explain What Trump Got Wrong & Why People See It The Way They Do

TheCommonerCall.org By Robert Jervis The Conversation (5/16/17) Why has President Trump failed to convince anyone other than his ardent supporters that he was justified in firing FBI Director James Comey? Even more, why did he fail to realize that the firing would call up strong objections, not only from Democrats, but from many Republicans? The psychology of perception and decision-making helps us here. As I have shown in several books, assuming people are completely rational will mislead us. We need to grasp what people see – and what they miss – if we are to fathom why they behave as…