By Kenrick Cleveland
Framing, Persuasion in Politics
Okay, so not only is there this economic crisis percolating, but there’s an election coming up pretty darn soon. (I wonder if these two things have anything at all to do with each other. )
In the spirit of the season, I’d like to talk about the politician’s most favorite past time: spin. No, I’m not talking about spinning classes you take at the gym. Those are incredibly difficult and the seats are painfully hard, if you ask me. I’m talking about the process of spinning a story (a political debate, a campaign speech, what have you) to put it in the best light for your side. The idea behind spinning is that everybody wants to put their slant on an issue.
I’m going to go back to the salad days just for an example here. I’m going back to a State of the Union address from many years ago — I won’t name names, but I’ll say that the president at the time was talking about what to do with a surplus in the budget. (Wow, that was a long time ago!)
So in this address, he said that for the first time in history, we had an excess in our budget. His plan for the surplus was to “be responsible with the surplus” and not just dump it back into people’s pockets to be spent. He wanted to put it towards Social Security and do the “responsible” thing by investing in American companies and in the American stock market.
Well, what happens after any political event? Well, depending on which network you’re watching either one or both sides make comments and attempt to persuade you to think how they think (as opposed to you thinking for yourself). This presupposes that there are only two sides which I absolutely do not agree with.
After hearing the speech, we then get to hear the “opposing” side put their two cents in. When this surplus existed, we had a democrat as a president and the republican talking heads got up and said something to the effect of, ‘The president says he wants to be responsible and he says that you can’t be responsible. Do you mean to tell me the great citizens of this United States can’t be responsible with their money? The president wants to control you. He wants to control how you spend your money and where you spend it.’
The basics of this are the frame of responsibility and what they do then is they try to knock that frame out and say, control freak, government interference.
Then the democrats come back with their own spin. And if you were going to spin it the other way, you would analyze the emotionally charged words the republican spinner used. How do they knock out control freak/government interference and put back ‘for the people’?
They come back with their argument. One that may work is, well, you could certainly call that being controlling and trying to take control of the money, but by the same token, the citizens of the United States, while great and sovereign, have demonstrated that they’re more willing to spend their money on other things besides long term savings. We’ve got an obligation as a government to deal with these people as they get older. ‘
The “two sides” can go on like that until they turn blue in the face. Who wins? Well, whoever is able to implant in your mind the highest frame and hold it there. And that’s really what this is all about.
Until Next Time,
Kenrick E. Cleveland