"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 30, 2010

Fisking Lakoff in the service of common truths, commonly ignored, I fan the embers of absurdity, wondering if any of this tempts non-existent History to reconsider to whom it has given influence, wealth and power...

George Lakoff once had a half serviceable idea. He called it framing, and he managed to capture half a truth and two thirds of an insight, in applying it to the lies that politicians tell.

Not content with this thought rattling around inside his own bone bubble, Lakoff started off a shit storm of stupid by telling anyone (and everyone) else about it. These days, to avoid some half wit with a pen or keyboard nattering on and on about "optics" or "framing,' an honest person has to pull a Thoreau and wander off into the green and darkening wood, perhaps taking an epic saunter, or a northbound trip to the company mill lands which chew up the once great woods in the shadow of noble and ennobling Katahdin.

Of course, wandering off into the woods recommends itself on its own terms, to sane people everywhere, regardless of Lakoff, or the Kosnikaut tools who love to mumble and mutter approvingly into their diaries about his contribution to the Unifying Field of Everlasting Stupid called politics.

Let's remember a solid truth, right here at the start.

Lakoff never questions power.

He just barely drums up an idea or two about the state, before leaping off into perfervid condemnations of childlike conservatives and their addiction to the wrong kind of power. Cuz'y'know, they might make das gubmint look bad.

Lakoff loves himself some authority, so long as good liberals have it, and do wonderful things for puppy dogs and public pools with it. And that constitutes the what for and the why of his entire theory of framing - how to tell stories to get ordinarily mistrustful hoi polloi to vote for do-gooder meddlers, the better to save them from themselves.

It should probably surprise no one but Lakoff, then, that Lakoff writes, "Barack Obama may be one of the best communicators of this generation, but he is not living up to his own talents. In a year of disasters, communication failure doubles the disasters."

Of all the possible hack sentences, in all the possible worlds, this may prove the funniest I've read in a long, long time. Of this generation? Barack Obama? The guy who stammers like a drunken frat boy taking his first cap of GHB, if he doesn't have a script?

Unreal gods and imaginary fates, I loves me some George Lakoff.

Does this alleged master of linguistics really want us to accept, blindly and willy-o-nilly, that fucking up the message somehow magically adds another full complement of disaster, ex nihilo?

Why, yes - yes he does.

Speaking of magical thinking, Lakoff continues,"If, as he says, the monster spill was his highest priority from Day 1, he needed to communicate that from Day 1 — or at least Day 3 or 4. It took five weeks for him to tell the nation what he and his administration were doing.

The result was visible in the press conference yesterday. He was on the defensive. He needed to be on the offensive — from early on. The choice is not doing or communicating. It is doing and communicating."

No, grasshoppers, you did not read that wrong. Barack Pendragon Obama, lord of the New Camelot, really ought to have told all we little people that he had the magic power to...er...um...prioritize his supreme distaste for a colossal monster of an oil eruption. One caused by gross negligence, the everyday operation of capitalism and the planned failure of oversight that forms the entire rationale of the liberal capitalist state. An eruption which no attentive observer can or ought to separate from his Presidency, because his Presidency, like all others, depends upon his serving the interest of the ruling class, and very specifically, the oil zaibatsu which shape so much of government policy.

George Lakoff, in other words, wants Obama to lie to us, because if he doesn't - other political vipers might knock him off his seat at the table.

And then do the really bad things that governments tend to do, but more openly. Which might make people question...

...government itself.

We can almost hear Georgie whimpering,"No, not that!"

In case, fellow travelers, you think wayward Jack has made this shit up, Lakoff spins it further:

"His narrative: This is a tough, unprecedented situation, but I’m in charge, and I’ve been very busy, in the Situation Room where I belong, not on tv. I’m fully competent. I’m a good policy wonk — ask me any question about details. I’m honest. I admit my few policy mistakes. I think about the details day and night. Don’t think I’m oblivious.

It’s defensive, trying to overcome criticism that should never have been allowed to accumulate. But worse, it’s weak when it needs to be strong.

The president did do the required minimum. He placed a moratorium on offshore drilling and cancelled oil leases in the Gulf and off Virginia. He appointed a commission to make safety recommendations. And he is reorganizing the Mining Management Service. All to the good, but ..."

Let us be blunt together. Lakoff has typed out and published a bunch of fucking hooey. Lies. And damned lies. Barack Obama didn't do jack shit in front of the telly, except for staged photo ops, because no one in the oil, entertainment and banking oligarchies to which he owes his power will ever actually let him do anything about it.  He didn't send in the Navy, or put FEMA spokes-tools all over the bandwidth, because he will never, ever undermine the foundation of the liberal capitalist state. If the oil doesn't flow, the Marines don't build forward expeditionary bases. If the oil doesn't flow, until such time as the rest of us get our tickets to superfluous existence, the whole thing risks premature collapse.

If Barack Penfuckingdragon Obama actually used the state against oil companies, or banks, or lying telecomms, it might give the hoi polloi dangerous notions. If he seizes oil assets, or frogmarches more than a handful of BP executives in for anything other than a show trial, he runs the real risk of losing his job.

A job he really, really wanted. He spent hundreds of millions of other people's dollars proving that.

Besides, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich might call him a kukka poopy doo-doo head.

Lakoff knows this, of course. Which makes some sense of what follows:

"Crises are opportunities. He has consistently missed them. Today was a grand opportunity to pull together the threads — BP and the spill, Massey and the mine disaster, Wall Street and the economic disaster, Anthem BlueCross and health care, the Arizona Immigration Law, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — even Afghanistan. The press threw him fastballs straight down the middle, and he hit dribblers every time.

It’s not that he said nothing to tie them together.  But there was no home run, no unifying narrative, no patriotic call to the nation on the full gamut of issues. Instead, there were only hints, suggestions, possible implications, notes of concern — as if he had been intimidated by the right-wing message machine.

And yet, Obama of all political leaders, could have done it, because he did before in his campaign."

Yeppers. Possibly the worst environmental disaster in the two hundred plus years history of the imperial project of these United States presents Barack of the Fabled Round Table with an opportunity.  To do what, you ask?

To keep Republicans from putting an electoral target on Barack Galahad Obama's back.

It gets worse. Oh, yes - it really does:

"The central idea is Empathy. Democracy is based on empathy, on people caring about one another and acting to the very best of their ability on that care, for their families, their communities, their nation, and the world. Government must also care and act on that care. Government’s job is to protect and empower its citizens.

That idea is what draws together all the threads. The bottom line for corporations (whether BP, Massey, Anthem or Goldman Sachs) is money, not empathy. The bottom line for those who hate (whether homophobes, the Arizona Legislature, or al Qaeda) is domination and oppression, not empathy. 

Empathy, and acting on it effectively, is the main business of government.

And Obama knows it in his heart.

Yet the right-wing has intimidated Obama into dropping not just the word "empathy," but the idea. Empathy is a positive deep connection with other people in general and with all living things, the ability to see and feel as they do.  The right-wing, which shows little empathy, has confused empathy with a bleeding-heart sympathy for individuals, which they see as a weakness. And though Obama has repeatedly made the distinction clear, he has allowed the right wing to intimidate him into abandoning 'the most important thing my mother taught me.'" 

Digest that shit for a moment, jackrabbits.

Mull it over.

George Lakoff thinks that the monstrous military and market machine which has ground up and destroyed the Haudenosaunee, the Shawnee, the Pequot, the Micmac, the Pennacook, the Huron, the Tsalagi, the Choctaw, the Lakota, the Pawnee, the Cheyenne, the Ute, the Apache, the Crow, the Shoshone, the Blackfoot, the Paiute, the Seminole - which stomped on Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Cuba- which funded and gave material support to dictators and oligarchies in Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Zaire, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rhodesia, South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, and across Asia and Africa - which could not have expanded and protected the wealth of its white ruling class without two hundred seventy five years of slavery, nearly a hundred years of Jim Crow, and continuing institutional segregation, which currently spends more of its stolen labor (as wealth) on murdering others through warfare than all other countries combined, which still protects the gendered division of labor that keeps so much of traditionally female work out of consideration for remuneration, or which undervalues it - this beast really just embodies love and ponies and sweet, sweet Empathy, because...well, because George Lakoff says so.

Lakoff thinks the job of government adds up to providing the subjects of its power with good feelings and neighborly thoughts.

Oh, and the word democracy...

Yes, grasshoppers and jackrabbits - George fucking Lakoff really did write, "Empathy, and acting on it effectively, is the main business of government."

No wonder Lakoff thinks the main business of political parties is telling plausible lies about government so that the people getting screwed most by the state (and who breed up the sons and daughters who'll get sent into FUBAR war zones to kill and die for the wealth of those who control the state) will vote in ceremonial elections for those same assholes who rule over them, giving sanction to that monstrous project of rapine, theft and destruction framing.

It goes on and on, but I've used up my reservoir of disgust. I'd rather go back to feeling half-halfheartedly bad for Steve Nash, and to gnashing my teeth and cursing at the unreal fates, for giving Kobe Fucking Rapist Raping Raper Bryant another shot at a hundred million more endorsement dollars

h/t Jane commenting at DGH


Jay Taber said...

These http://www.publicgood.org/reports/pdf/americanpsyche.pdf archived discussions from 2006 might interest you. I believe that was around the time of Lakoff's debut, and the discussion participants regularly noted his inanity.

Richard said...

Lakoff? Don't get me started. If you are interested in his pernicious role during one of the building occupations during the recent UC Berkeley protests, go to my blog entry about it.

Jack Crow said...

I read his silly Elephant book and despised him from the start, but this goes beyond the merely venal, and onward through to the very, very monstrous.

No Blood for Hubris said...

Ok, so then what?

Jack Crow said...

I have less spleen in me, today. I guess that's what. As for my personal opinion about what to do with electioneering, "framing" and the problems of empire?

No easy answer - but I've arrived at the following position: I've opted to opt out.

There's no win in electoral politics, because there's no way the state can be transformed into even an approximation of the Commonweal.

For those who still want to try that path, more power to them. Far be it for me to tell any how to live.

I just think it's a lost cause, because the goal itself corrupts the goal seeker.

This is probably a mockworthy sentiment, but what the hell - food. Instead of gathering together to gain electoral control of a death machine, let's gather locally and beyond to take food out of the capitalist equation.

Then, shelter. Then, medicine.

And those aren't pie in the sky sentiments. Anything we're not spending on commodities can be used to slowly, carefully purchase housing. And then anything not spent on rent, and so on...

Anyways - good question. Thanks for the reply.

Jay Taber said...

Don't knock lost causes; some of us have spent our lives on them. It's also a way to meet interesting people.

Jack Crow said...

For me, Spartacus, this one's pretty solid. Doing politics strengthens the worst aspects of the system, because so much labor (as money) is captured in the process.

Perhaps it's better to cut out the middle men, especially in this case?

Anonymous said...

Lakoff = EPIC FAIL

...to use a 20something e-hipsterism.

Not only does he never question power, he argues constantly for supporting The Noble Democrats. That's his whole schtick right there: pseudo-intellectualism in service of partisanship Donkey-worship.

Besides, "framing" is just rhetorical advocacy. It's not Lakoff's invention. It's been practiced for thousands of years -- far, far longer than George Lakoff has been posing at brilliance.

George Lakoff is right up there with Alan Dershowitz for Supremely Naked Academic Emperor status.

Jack Crow said...

Nice, CF.

Equating Lakoff and Dershowitz is a service to truth, everywhere.

Jane said...

This is good stuff. I've just seen it now, as the doom fatigue of the past few weeks drove me to seek solace in my modest container garden. I'm opting out too; not that I have a choice, being unemployed. I take comfort in the fact that what little I'm producing at the moment is feeding my family.

Off to check my seedlings.

Jack Crow said...

Thx Jane.