These excerpts are from an interview of George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley linguistics professor who wrote “Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think,” and is working on a forthcoming book titled “”Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.”
“In another chapter I tell progressives how to talk to conservatives. This is not rocket science: you should show respect, know your values, always reframe, and say what you believe. The important thing is not to accept their framing of the issues, nor just negate their framing � that just reinforces it. Simply confronting them with facts won’t help. Frames trump facts. The facts alone will not set you free. You have to reframe the issues before the facts can become meaningful and powerful.
Some conservatives are ideologues and you’re not going to sway them. But most conservatives are nice people. What you want to do is activate their nurturing model, engage their empathy. Ask them who they care about, what they care about, and why. Find out where their empathy lies. Connect with the part of them that shares your values, and get that to spread to other issues.
You’ve said that progressives should never use the phrase “war on terror” � why?
There are two reasons for that. Let’s start with “terror.” Terror is a general state, and it’s internal to a person. Terror is not the person we’re fighting, the “terrorist.” The word terror activates your fear, and fear activates the strict father model, which is what conservatives want. The “war on terror” is not about stopping you from being afraid, it’s about making you afraid.
Next, “war.” How many terrorists are there � hundreds? Sure. Thousands? Maybe. Tens of thousands? Probably not. The point is, terrorists are actual people, and relatively small numbers of individuals, considering the size of our country and other countries. It’s not a nation-state problem. War is a nation-state problem.