Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tweet Better Using Frames With Winning Words


In this installment from The Winning Words Project, we're going to help you learn how to think about re-framing tweets to avoid using and repeating right wing frames. Using right wing frames and having them re-tweeted potentially hundreds of times, actually conditions us to think using right wing frames instead of our own.

As described in "The Debunking Handbook" by John Cook of the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland and Stephan Lewandowsky with the School of Psychology, University of Western Australia:

To test for [the] backfire effect, people were shown a flyer that debunked common myths about flu vaccines. Afterwards, they were asked to separate the myths from the facts. When asked immediately after reading the flyer, people successfully identified the myths. However, when queried 30 minutes after reading the flyer, some people actually scored worse after reading the flyer. The debunking reinforced the myths.
Hence the backfire effect is real. The driving force is the fact that familiarity increases the chances of accepting information as true. Immediately after reading the flyer, people remembered the details that debunked the myth and successfully identified the myths. As time passed, however, the memory of the details faded and all people remembered was the myth without the “tag” that identified it as false.
Social media is now among the most referenced sources for news and information in the world, quickly overtaking traditional media outlets. Ordinary citizens broke the news of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound and Whitney Houston's death. This makes each and every one of us who participates in social media, a critical component in information dissemination—nearly as important as any cable news commentator or newspaper editor. We, the people, are finally in a position to shape the message instead of having it spoon-fed to us with what has been long-standing conservative media bias. This makes it extremely important that we get the message right.

So how do we do that? Let's look at some examples, starting with this tweet:

Sample Tweet—Did President Barack Obama Double Our National Debt?

What stands out here?

President Obama Double Our National Debt EXCELLENT.

The juxtaposition of President Obama and doubling our national debt—even if it's in question form—is certainly not the connection we want people to have in their memory, not the least because it isn't true. So how could this tweet have been written using a better frame? Looking at the linked article (which is filled with "don'ts" when it comes to progressive message framing, by the way!), we find this:
"[O]f the $5.1 trillion added to the National Debt from 2009 to 2012, only $1.5 trillion is due [to] legislation signed by President Obama.  Of that $1.5 trillion, only $500 billion in incremental spending carries past 2010. The rest of the debt, or $3.6 trillion, can be directly attributed to legislation passed under previous administrations."
What if this was tweeted instead?

Sample Tweet—Bush legislation led to 71% of the increase in the national debt from 2009-2011.

What stands out in that tweet? Bush legislation National Debt Increase. Much, much better, no? Not a single thing that could be misconstrued, or misremembered, as Obama increasing the national debt!

Let's look at another example.

Sample Tweet—Governor Walker was giving a Defender of Freedom award by the NRA last weekend.

The unintended take-away?

Governor Walker, Defender of Freedom. But is Governor Walker a defender of freedom? Absolutely not! He is near the top of the list of governors with the worst record ever on defending workers' freedom to collectively bargain and women's freedom to have sovereign control over their own bodies. So why not say that instead?

Sample Tweet—Contrary to the NRA award, Governor Walker is a Denier of Freedom (workers, women).

Now take a look at this tweet. What does it actually say?

Sample Tweet—GOP your plan to save medicare is going to cost seniors a fortune.

The very first thing it announces is that the GOP has a plan to save Medicare! Sure, it goes on to say that it will cost "a fortune," but it's still a plan to "save" Medicare according to this tweet. The reality is exactly the opposite. It's really important to say that.

Like this:

Sample Tweet—GOP budget plan will destroy medicare, cost seniors thousands. The Democrats will save medicare.

When you are ready to compose a tweet, or have clicked on an article that pre-fills the tweet for you, consider the following things:
  • What words stand out most prominently, and would those words evoke positive or negative feelings or impressions?
  • Can you rephrase the tweet to say the same thing using Progressive frames instead of right wing frames?
  • Does the pre-set headline tell the story you want it to tell? If not, don't use it. Just because a site suggests that text doesn't mean you have to use it.
  • Are you using "Winning Words" with progressive moral frames? Are you talking about Obama's successes? Are you reminding people how the Patient Protection Act protects their health, their pocketbook and their freedom? Are you firmly establishing the fact that Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits? Are you promoting the economic reality that government spending is an investment in our future (education, infrastructure, research) that actually returns a profit for the country?
If you have a tweet you'd like assistance rephrasing, let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Governor Chris Christie Gets The Party of the Paternalistic Daddy State Confused with the Democrats

Gov. Christie: Nation turning into 'people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check'

"It’s because government’s now telling them, stop dreaming, stop striving, we’ll take care of you. We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally," Christie told Bush, Henry Kissinger and an assortment of Republican governors in a theater at the New York Historical Society.

There's something really offensive about a wealthy white governor denigrating poor and working class Americans to a room full of wealthy white men.

Especially seeing how Governor Christie got it very, very wrong as to just who the "entitled" class are in this country. Let's enumerate for you, Governor Christie:
  • $74 million in unemployment checks for people with $1,000,000+ AGIs.
  • $21 billion in subsidies for gambling losses.
  • $9 billion in Social Security Retirement Benefits to millionaires and billionaires who don't need it to survive.
  • $316 million in farm subsidies.
  • $89 million for preservation of ranches and estates.
  • $75.6 million in residential energy tax credits enacted so low-income families could afford to pay their electric bills.
  • $18.15 million in child care tax credits for millionaires and billionaires who can afford full-time nannies to raise their children for them.
  • And the grossly unfair 15 percent tax rate on non-labor Capital Gains income, costing the country over $12 billion a year.
According to (deeply conservative) Senator Tom Coburn in his report, "Subsidies of the Rich & Famous" (pdf document) (emphasis mine) ...

The government safety net has been cast far and wide, with almost half of all American households now receiving some form of government assistance. But most taxpayers will be asking why when they learn who is receiving what.

From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Multimillionaires are even receiving government checks for not working. This welfare for the well-off – costing billions of dollars a year – is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations.

This is not an accidental loophole in the law. To the contrary, this reverse Robin Hood style of wealth redistribution is an intentional effort to get all Americans bought into a system where everyone appears to benefit. ...

We should never demonize those who are successful. [aside: that is not what Occupy or the 99% are doing. G-d love the rich; more power to 'em. But ...] Nor should we pamper them with unnecessary welfare to create an appearance everyone is benefiting from federal programs. ...

The government’s social safety net, which has long existed to catch those who are down and help them get back up, is now being used as a hammock by some millionaires, some who are paying less taxes than average middle class families. Comprehensive information on the full range of government benefits enjoyed by millionaires has never been collected previously. This report provides the first such compilation. What it reveals is sheer Washington stupidity with government policies pampering the wealthy costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
Let me repeat so we're really, really clear here, Governor Christie:

"This welfare for the well-off – costing billions of dollars a year – is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations." You've got a lot of nerve, Governor.
"A 4 percent solution, a 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Medicare," Christie said. "A 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Medicaid. A 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Social Security."
That's right, Governor Christie, let's "deal with" Social Security why don't we. Why don't we stop doling out the "entitlement" checks to the millionaires and billionaires whose incomes over the first $106K don't contribute a single penny into the system they take it out of? Or better yet, why don't we start making them pay into the system on all their income, exactly like working families in America?

And yes, let's do "deal with" Medicare. Let's institute a national health care policy that is more efficiently-run than private insurance, and then let's go after the for-profit insurance industry for the economic hardships they cause to working families who have the bad fortune of getting sick in this country!

Now, if you'd like to talk about which party is really turning this into a "Paternalistic" society, Governor Christie, I'm up for that conversation.

Republicans have spent the last 10 years legislating Daddy State policies all across this country.

Republicans are using their state legislatures to reach into every aspect of our lives; from restricting our access to basic health care; giving our employers the right to pry into our personal medical needs and refuse us insurance coverage they "morally" object to; and forcing women to endure invasive and unnecessary medical procedures against their wills. Republicans are legislating government control of women's health care all across this nation. And Democrats see this as a gross violation of the freedoms and liberties that we love about living in America.

The Republican Party would love nothing more than to turn this great country into a Daddy State, where "the man of the family" not only gets to set the rules, but they get to punish us when we're "bad" in their eyes.

You want to tell us what kind of sex we can have (lest we make the mistake of believing we have "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.") You want to tell us who we can marry (as if we were still teenagers "living under your roof"). You want to force us to listen to sounds from an invasive probe inserted into our vaginas, for having the temerity to figuratively stick our fingers in our ears and yell, "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" when you crank up the volume on calling us baby murderers. You'll show us, right, Governor? You'll just take the door off the hinges so we can't slam it in your faces anymore!

It's that "Strict Father" mindset that all you radical conservative regressives use in your own families, and now want to rule all of the America with, by implementing The Santorum Strategy over our lives.

Well we've got news for you and your ilk, Governor Christie: You aren't our Daddies and we aren't going to let you act like it anymore.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Health Care Reform — Framing Language Redux

Following on the framing philosophy of professional linguist and distinguished professor, Dr. George Lakoff, I have talked previously about how Democrats, Liberals and Progressives need to start talking about our health care reform legislation. Whether you believe this legislation falls far too short, or was too deep a compromise to the for-profit insurance industry, it is the legislation we have, so it is the legislation we have to support right now. And especially if you don't like this law yourself, the only way we will ever be able to improve on it is if we regain majorities in both Houses of Congress.

It is imperative to understand that the conversation isn't just about the health care law itself. It's about giving the Democratic, Liberal and Progressive candidates in this critical election a fighting chance to take back the House of Representatives. And given how the Republican Fright Machine has poisoned the minds of even those who support the provisions the law contains, those people will be more likely to vote for a Republican who says they now want to "fix" this law than a Democrat who supports this law.

Democrats up for reelection won't support Obamacare II


The political consequences will be severe for the Democrats if the Supreme Court kills the entire Obamacare law. The fallout will not just affect the president. There is no way Democrats in Congress, or anyone else on the ballot with the president in November, will want to commit to supporting Obamacare II.


And we cannot allow that to happen. And it will, if we don't find a way to re-frame this law in clear, straight-forward terms that, at the same time, expose the lies of the right and replaces them with positive messaging that will bring former supporters back into the fold.

I don't think anyone here wants to see a repeat of 2010. But that is what we will have if we don't get this right this time. Our party leaders failed us the first time around, allowing Republicans to get away with their "death panel" rhetoric. It's going to be up to us to turn that around. The only way "Winning Words" turn into "Winning Elections" is if they are repeated, repeated, repeated.

George Lakoff on the Santorum Strategy: Why we’re all in trouble if this strategy is successful in 2012.


A perfect illustration of pounding radical conservative ideas in our heads can be seen by examining the speech Rick Santorum gave in Missouri after winning the Minnesota primary. (Pay particular attention to the amount of times the words listening, he knows better, rights, and freedom were used)

Rick Santorum began his speech by thanking your average Fox news viewer and all of the “smart idiots” for helping to build the conservative party. “Tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party, and building a voice for freedom in this land.”

This was immediately followed up by continuously repeating language to evoke the “frame” that President Obama “knows better” than you. This is illustrated by the overwhelming number of references being made to President Obama not listening to the voice of the American people (14X’s), because he knows better than you (5X’s), and is using the Government to run your lives by taking away your rights (10X’s), and freedoms, (12X’s).


Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

The Santorum Strategy


Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called "independents," who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.

This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible. Even if President Obama is re-elected, he will have very little power if the Republicans keep the House, and a great deal less if they take the Senate. And if they keep and take more state houses and local offices around the country, there will be less and less possibility of a liberal future.

The Republican presidential campaign is not just about the presidential race. It is about using conservative language to strengthen conservative values in the brains of voters -- in campaigns at all levels from Congress to school boards. Part of the Republican strategy is to get liberals to argue against them, repeating conservative language.


Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

So who's ready to apply these principles to our own language — right now?

If you are, then join me using this "Winning Elections" way to frame health care reform:


The Republican party's plan for health care would put us on a Path to Poverty steeper than the one they've already set us on with their tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class, the poor, and our precious seniors.

  • The Patient Protection Act does just what it says — protects patients.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients from losing their coverage when they get sick, while the Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients from being refused coverage because of a pre-existing condition, while the Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients by allowing young adults to remain on their family's policy while they are earning a degree before earning a living, while the Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients from having their hard-earned income line the pockets of insurance executives instead of paying for their actual health care, by legislating that at least 80-85 percent of a patient's premiums go directly toward their care.The Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The personal responsibility clause of The Patient Protection Act protects patients from ever-increasing premiums that are necessary to cover free-riders who refuse to carry insurance and wind up costing taxpayers billions of dollars to cover their unpaid medical care.

    Unlike the Republicans, Democrats believe strongly in the rights of all individuals to be protected from the whims of big corporate insurance companies who are more interested in their bottom line than the health of our great nation.



Please help by forwarding this message to all of your Representatives in Congress, to any candidates running for Congress in your district, to Democratic Party leaders and the media.

And repeat, repeat, repeat!

Use these lists to find out how to contact the above:

Tweet the House.

Tweet the Senate.

Tweet the Media.

Call or Email your representatives.

Thank you!

The Word Cloud for this post is:




(For more on the importance of framing, how and why it works and why "truth-telling" doesn't, please read Let's Take Back Control Of Political Language by Kos diarist Nils Davis.

This post is part of a series on framing with Democratic moral language for the 2012 elections. See also:

  • 5 Words And Phrases Democrats Should Never Say Again
  • The Most Important Words Democrats MUST Start Using Immediately
  • 3 More Words And Phrases Democrats Should Start Universally Using
  • 3 Things Democrats Should Immediately Go On The Offense About
  • Sunday, April 1, 2012

    3 Things Democrats Should Immediately Go On The Offense About

    One of the biggest problems Democrats face in the messaging wars that Republicans have been waging for more than 30 years, is the fact that we are always playing defense. Republicans ascribe a label to us and we quickly scramble to explain how that label isn't true and why. But as we all know, our message gets lost in the middle of the rebuttal.

    The best way to combat this is to start taking control of the dialog ourselves and put Republicans on the defense for a change. Democrats need to start calling Republicans out for who they are and what they stand for politically. To do that, we'll need both new terminology and the ability to turn their own memes back on them.

    Here are three things we can begin going on the offense about immediately:



    1. Republicans are legislating a Daddy State.

    Republicans across the country are using their state legislatures to reach into every aspect of our lives; from restricting our access to basic health care, giving our employers the right to pry into our personal medical needs and refuse us insurance coverage they "morally" object to, and forcing women to endure invasive and unnecessary medical procedures against their wills. Republicans are legislating government control of women's health care all across this nation. And Democrats see this as a gross violation of the freedoms and liberties that we love about living in America. (Adapted from words used by Rep Steve King re the Patient Protection Act.)

    The Republican Party would love nothing more than to turn this great country into a Daddy State, where "the man of the family" not only gets to set the rules, but they get to punish us when we're "bad" in their eyes.

    It's that "Strict Father" mindset that radical conservative regressives use to shape their own families. And they want to bring that structure to America as a whole, by implementing what George Lakoff calls The Santorum Strategy.

    Well we've got news for them, right, Dems? They aren't our Daddies and we aren't going to let them act like it, either!




    2. Republicans are the Party of Gut and Spend.

    Republicans continually gut services to the poor and needy to spend on the wealthy elite with tax breaks for their gambling losses; unemployment benefits going to millionaires; and reimbursements for property damage on estates that should have been covered by insurance, that the wealthy could afford but chose not to carry. (Source for millionaire handouts: Subsidies for the Rich & Famous by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) pdf.)

    Gut and Spend takes money out of the pockets of hard-working families in America and gives it away to the rich and powerful. Gut and Spend policies have decimated the middle class, leaving a bigger and bigger gap between the used-to-haves and the have-more-than-the-99-percent-put-togethers.

    House Republicans passed a Gut and Spend budget that made deep cuts predominantly on low-income families at a time when millions are still out of work and have to rely on their earned benefits to survive, while not eliminating a dime of entitlements that are handed out to the wealthiest among us, and at the same time lowering their burden of taxes to its lowest level since Herbert Hoover.

    The Republicans' Gut and Spend policy is a Path to Poverty and bad for America.




    3. Republicans are the Party of Large Corporate Government. Republicans don't want smaller government, they want an Unelected Corporate Government that they can collude with outside the system of fair elections. The more successful they are at continuing to build this Large Corporate Government, the less voters will have a say in how schools are run, how prisons are run, or even how our most precious asset — our military — is run. Now Paul Ryan is conditioning America to believe that our Generals are lying to us! What better reason to replace them with the contractors of the Republican Party's choosing once they're in a position of power to hire them? We must prevent this from happening at all costs. Turning our government over to Unelected Corporations is anti-Democratic and un-American.

    I urge you to contact your representatives in the House and Senate and ask them to start talking about the Republican Party in these terms. How we frame their positions will be critical in preventing their efforts to create a radical conservative future for America.

    Tweet the House.

    Tweet the Senate.

    Call or Email your representatives.

    Thank you!