Saturday, January 15, 2005

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Jeffey Feldman, author of Frameshop, brings up an important point in the whole discussion of framing. No matter how well we come to understand the concept of framing, it won't matter if our frames don't become widely dispersed through the political ecosystem.

The conservatives have engaged in a 30+ year of covert dispersal of their frames through think tanks and right-wing media. Progressives don't have the luxury of time or the resources at hand to match that kind of effort. The conservatives outnumber us in think tanks and media outlets by a factor of ten. We must develop a different method of dispersal.

Fortunately, their is evidence that such a system is already developing. As Feldman points out, the concept of framing and the dialogs that have arisen around it have become widespread in progressive circles despite the lack of a coordinated left-wing dispersal mechanism. Lakoff's work has been promoted by such leading lights as Markos and Dean, but were it not for the personal efforts of thousands of individuals who have "got religion" on this matter, the concept of framing would have gotten no where.

The lesson in this is that progressives can develop their own frame dispersal infrastructure out of their own natural inclinations: openness, sharing, cooperation. These are the hallmarks of the renaissance we are creating. It is in contrast to the conservative model of a more top-down mechanism of development (at the think tanks) and dispersal (through right-wing radio and TV). Ours is the very definition of grassroots.

The key to all of this, in Feldman's view, is branding through repetition. This will not be easy, but it will be necessary.

[...] even as everyone embraces the principle of repetition on the level of the brand, it is often the case that Progressives resist repetition on the level of political debate. Progressives love to be original, to speak against the grain, to be independent. All great things! But framing is not about eliminating those values. Framing is about setting up a set of broad logical concepts that then give rise to a range of creative ways to evoke that frame. Setting the frame is the hard part. Once it's set, we can be very creative within it.

Branding requires us to develop the discipline to repeat our frames until they become commonplace. Once they become commonplace it will be that much easier for people to understand us when we express our points of view. We will no longer be required to go into long winded explanations of what we mean. We will no longer have to bore people with the facts. They will "get it" already.

Bush can get away with his simplistic style of politicking because a foundation for his words has already been built in the minds of the voters. This foundation was created by the right-wing think tanks and right-wing media. Our foundation must be built through the widest possible dispersal of ideas, repeated almost to the point of absurdity.

Only then can the field of political play be leveled.

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