Don’t normalize Trump

George Lakoff talking:

Ideas don’t float in the air. They’re carried out by neural circuitry. That neural circuitry is not just in your brain, it’s through your whole body, which enables you to get information and understand it, and so on. The main thing about that is it’s mostly unconscious, estimates range from anywhere up to 98% unconscious because you don’t have conscious access to your neural circuitry. [LAUGHS] It’s that simple. Your unconscious thought has a different structure than your conscious thought. Different parts of ideas are characterized in lots of different parts of your brain.

A great deal of your thought is metaphorical thought. If you say, he’s a warm person or a cold person, there is a connection between warmth and affection. Why should you have that? Well, as a child you’re held affectionately by your parents and you feel the bodily warmth. Warmth and affection are registered in different parts of the brain. In order to understand that metaphor at all, you have to have neural connections between those parts of the brain.

normalization, there’s a famous example that you cite involving the newscaster Lesley Stahl interviewing Ronald Reagan that illustrates how the media might be normalizing Trump now.

Lesley Stahl was attacking everything Reagan was doing. The next day, she got a call from Reagan’s chief of staff, saying, thank you for this wonderful interview. And she said, but I was attacking Reagan. He said, it didn’t matter, if you turned off the sound he looked wonderful. He then said, people are going to forget what you said but they’re not going to forget how he looked.

And this is the same thing with Trump. So if you have a station where people are constantly sitting around analyzing Trump, some attacking him, some defending him, etc., that’s normalization. When you negate something, you’re activating it. Think of the title of the book, Don’t Think of an Elephant, it makes you think of an elephant.

Let me give you an example from NPR. There was a report from a charter school in Memphis where the new secretary of education had gone to show how wonderful charter schools were. And it was like one of the few charter schools in the country that actually worked. And the NPR reporter simply reported what they were told, without mentioning that most charter schools are failing, no discussion of the context.

even if you negate something you activate a neural connection that makes that connection easier and easier to fire. eg “Hillary is not a crook,” you’ve already linked the connection to “Hillary” and “crook” and the negation just falls away when it comes to your circuitry.

whereas, if you had focused on Hillary’s trustworthiness, on her doing what she says, if the – you know, the Democrats had said that over and over, instead of the Republicans getting their ideas out there, that is very different. That’s the positive thing. If you’re going to deal with this, you have to deal with the positive alternative. And so, the question is, what is the positive alternative? And the fact about charter schools, for example, is that they destroy public education.

the positive thing is, is that public education is crucial, that it’s much better than charter schools. And then, once you say that, that the charter schools destroy it, it’s not a good thing. The question is, what comes first? What is the frame in which you’re having that discussion?

media mocked Trump’s name calling and hyperbolic repetitive language. “Clever Trump,” echoing his epithets, like “crooked Hillary,” “lying Ted Cruz,” “failing New York Times,” and so on.

What he was doing was using your brain to his advantage. If you repeat, what happens? First, language is meaningful. If the language activates certain neural circuits, every time a neural circuit is activated it gets stronger. The more you repeat it, the stronger it gets, in whoever hears it. So you’re going to get, you know, “crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary.” At the same time, you’re framing her as dishonest. And if you’re dishonest, then you should be locked up. So “lock her up, lock her up” over and over and over.

You’re going to be using certain mechanisms of thought. For example, when a DC-10 took off from O’Hare Airport in a storm, turned in a way it shouldn’t have and crashed, that was shown on TV for days, and then people stopped flying DC-10’s, when DC-10’s were, on the whole, the safest plane in the air. Why did that happen? It happened because people really think in terms of frames, metaphors, narratives, emotions, and so on. They’re not thinking just in terms of logic and the facts.

the name, the sound of the word “Trump” helped him build his brand and project political strength.

first, I point out that if you changed a couple of letters and made it “Twimp” it wouldn’t work as well. Imagine voting for President Twimp?

Why? It turns out that certain sounds have meaning. Take ip words like drip, clip, snip, it’s a short path in your mouth to a sudden stop. This has meaning. It doesn’t give you the whole meaning of the word. It structures the meaning of the word.

If you look at TR words, they’re forceful. You trample on things. You have a train, a truck. There are just dozens of examples of this, where the TR words exert force. Look at ump words, dump, lump, no force there. It is like the absence of force. It’s just doing nothing. So what you have is a sequence of force followed by non-force. The sequence of whatever is first is seen as a cause of, you know, beating up other people, getting them to, to not be able to function.

So the “tru” beats the “ump” and, therefore, embodied in his name is triumph. The first part of his name wins over the second part of his name. He trumped whatever the opposition was and maybe that’s why those words have the meanings that they have.

Hillary Clinton and journalists repeatedly took apart Trump’s phrases to demonstrate how many things he said are outlandish or based on no reasoning at all. So you say the first thing that should be taught about political language is not to repeat the language of the other side or negate their framing of the issue. What you need to do is not talk about someone and what they’re doing and, as you said earlier, not even show Trump’s face.

So how can we cover Trump without covering him?

If you’re reporting, you’re reporting on what he says. Now, however, when you report on what he says and it’s a lie, you can give a positive background. For example, he says, you know, he’s saved a thousand jobs – not exactly. Carrier Air Conditioning is going to send to Mexico 1,300 jobs of their 2,000, so two-thirds of the jobs are going to Mexico. That could be your lead. He got Mike Pence to pay $700,000 a year from the Indiana state budget directly to Carrier, part of the deal. So the taxpayers are paying the owners of Carrier to keep some of those jobs, one-third of them, when two-thirds of them are going. Now, that’s very, very different from the reporting that says he saved a thousand jobs. And The New York, Times, in their reporting, started by pointing out that all the companies near Carrier, even within a mile, are going to Mexico and nothing is being saved. So that part of the truth isn’t being reported, if you report just on what he says.

what is a regulation? A regulation is a protection from corporations doing things that would harm the public, for example, putting poisons in the environment. But if you said, Trump is getting rid of protections and he said for every one protection, we’re gonna get rid of two protections — very different.

we should say “Loser President Trump” or “Minority President Trump”?

Hillary now has two and a half-million votes over Trump. The person who the majority of Americans wanted to be president isn’t president. If you’re in the media, why are you there? You’re there for the public good. You’re there to tell the truth. You’re there to make sure that the truth is always told and not hidden. That’s your job. It’s not being progressive or democratic or anything like that. It’s your job!

— source wnyc.org By Brooke Gladstone

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