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Politics and framing the issue

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Politics and framing the issue


This might be a good time to discuss framing. Why, because we are in a period in which Americans and perhaps the whole world are trying to comprehend the killing and destruction in Iraq and the whole Middle East.


Framing is a means for placing a matter into a context for discussion and contemplation. “Frames are the mental structures that allow human beings to understand reality—and sometimes to create what we take to be reality”. “Thinking Points”—George Lakoff


An example of framing is what happens when we speak about economics. The ‘market’ is often the frame used in economic matters. The word ‘market’ has been developed such that when we invoke the concept we are invoking a ‘force of nature’, not to be ‘tinkered with’ or ‘regulated’. When facing a force of nature one can only show ‘due diligence’, ‘flexibility’, one can only ‘ride-out’ the ups and downs.


The market is in fact a human institution with rules developed by humans; but our culture has framed the market as a force of nature not to be messed with, a common ideological practice. This fact never becomes an issue because the frame does not include it.


A similar thing happens with education. Education is framed in economic terms and market forces. Our schools and colleges produce graduates prepared for the job market. Teachers become educational resources.


Our schools compete with one another based upon productivity and the degree upon which they produce the graduates with the best job offers. Technology is engaged to facilitate mass production. When schools compete, everyone wins. Expenses are cut and teachers paid the minimum allowed by supply and demand. Vouchers will fit within the competitive frame because parents are given a choice of product.


“War on Terrorism” is a good example of faming. Both ‘war’ and ‘terrorism’ carry a great deal of useful baggage for those who create the frame.


Any kind of action becomes justified by war; terrorism creates terror that permits easy manipulation of the population by government. Colin Powell suggested ‘crime’ as the proper frame and one can easily see the difference between fighting crime or fighting war; also a great deal of difference between fighting criminals versus fighting terrorists. I suspect no one would have considered torture as a proper tool for fighting crime.


Can you think of any other frames that people often use such as pro-choice or pro-life?


Was General Petraeous linked to ‘betray us’ as another useful frame?

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