Historical Frames

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
— Abraham H. Maslow

Hi Persuader,

In school, unless we had an alternative education, we were taught history through the eyes of the powerful and elite. We learned about Columbus’ voyage to discover the new world and what he encountered there. We learned all about the founding fathers and the Declaration of Independence. We learned that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

This is clearly an overly simplified description of a narrow overview, but I use these examples just to make a point. If we’re viewing history from the perspective of those in power, we’re not really viewing history, are we.

The frame that education uses, the frame mandated for public educational institutions, (funded by public money and which curriculum is determined by the “powers that be”), is a positive one, for the most part. Revising history is a work of fiction, ‘1984‘, and couldn’t possibly happen. But if you think about it, all history is revision.

I came across “The People’s History of the United States“. It’s a book that has been around for almost thirty years and continues to be updated as history continues to be move forward.

This book is a classic reframe and whether or not we can agree that the perspective is valid, or “Marxist” or “socialist”, we have to agree that it is an entirely different frame from what we’re used to.

Look at Columbus’ “discovery” from the perspective of the people who were already there: genocide and blankets with small pox.

And how about those cute Thanksgiving pilgrims that we regard as fleeing religious persecution and bravely venturing onto the New World. The natives might see this as more of a violent colonization by early English settlers.

There’s a fascinating reframe at the end of the most recent edition regarding the “War on Terror”. Instead of accepting the perspective, the frame that Arab terrorists attacked us on 9/11 because they hate our freedom, think about this: they were fed up with our foreign policy, our “stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia… sanctions against Iraq which… had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children; [and] the continued U.S. support of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”

Huh? That’s not what the news tells us. Why hasn’t this perspective been reported?

Frames are complicated, just as reality is complicated, just as life is complicated, but if we can see the frames for what they are, then we can control them.

Until Next Time,

Kenrick E. Cleveland

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Ron Hudson - March 13, 2008


This is an understatement but I’m going to write it. This article was very insightful. Obviously, you are a master of persuasion!



JC - March 26, 2008

This post is so true. Everything we read and listen to is a product meant to produce specific beliefs in the populace that serve particular groups whether they are true or not. What is not reported is often as important to seeing the whole picture than what editors choose to print as “news”. The frames that are preferred by Madison Avenue are trumpeted in the daily barrage of advertising we face every day about we should say, do, and think. I often tell my friends we in the U.S. are “drugged up and dumbed down” as every other commercial is from a pharmaceutical company and much of what passes for entertainment seems meant to be a distraction to turn your thinking off – Bread and Circuses in full effect. I am very sorry Dr. Paul didn’t make it. He says out loud what the country needs to hear but his frame is actively suppressed because it would restore more power to individuals and reduce or eliminate the various three letter entities that make up what Noam Chomsky frames as “The Empire” and its corporate henchmen. There is a good documentary I think you and other libertarian minded individuals would like that features Dr. Paul and some other commentators called “Freedom to Fascism” by the late Aaron Russo. His site is http:\\www.freedomtofascism.com The mental prison that starts out as “be quiet” “stand in line” and especially “obey” we are taught as kids is complete when adults accept government omnipotence as normal – all the heavy police presence, surveillance, warrentless wiretaps, demands for “your papers” that Mr. Russo talks about in this film. All this is needed “for our security”. I see ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’ flashing before my eyes. The frame that most everyone accepts now as normal would not have been acceptable to a lot of better men who came before us. Or were they just not under the influence of the modern media ?


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