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Saturday, September 16, 2023

Brian Dean's book on framing

I have just finished Brian Dean's book, Lazy Person's Guide to Framing: Decoding the News Media, issued this year in a newly-revised edition. 

I enjoyed the book and it's an easy, quick read. I am of course somewhat familiar with Brian's thought via the RAW Semantics blog and his X account, but it's nice to have much of it in one place. The book seeks to popularize George Lakoff's work on framing, i.e. the metaphors and points of view that people  use to understand the world, and to attempt to impose their ideology on others. The book also can be read as being about reality tunnels, and Robert Anton Wilson is quoted in several places. (Here is Brian's own explanation of the book).  Much of the discussion comes from the point of view of Brian's left politics (which I understood better after reading the book) but you can use the techniques Brian talks about to analyze anyone's opinions, including Brian's. 

Here are a couple of my favorite passages from the book:

"It seems obvious, but needs repeating: We don't all think the same -- only a part of our conceptual systems can be considered universal. So-called 'conservatives' and 'progressives' don't see the world in the same way; they have different forms of reason on moral issues. But they both see themselves as right, in a moral sense (with perhaps a few 'amoral' exceptions.)" [Emphases in original.]

[On how a small element of truth can lead to distortion:]

"With repetition and reinforcement, the irrefutable small 'truth' becomes the main focus -- the primary frame through which we perceive the larger issue. But it's not an accurate or honest representation of the issue. It's like a small stain on the corner of a large carpet -- you don't even notice the stain unless somebody points it out. But if you repeatedly focus on the stain, it may become an obsession -- your primary mental category for the overall appearance of the room is 'stained carpet.' The stain becomes the overriding frame, the tiny truth that's out of proportion." 

1 comment:

Brian Dean said...

Thanks for this kind mention, Tom. Good choice of quotes, and a fair and on-the-mark description. One of the things I enjoy about "the RAW community" (and particularly - we come from a fairly diverse range of political views/backgrounds, but share our enthusiasms and opinions in a mutually appreciative way. That seems a wonderful thing in this era of increasing polarisation.

I'm currently mostly offline, and reading Naomi Klein's book, 'Doppelganger', which looks at the ways in which some major "left" tropes have been appropriated by Steve Bannon's political project. The second half of my own book also does *precisely* this (eg from the perspective of frames, McLuhan's Tetrad and RAW's takes on General Semantics).

I see Naomi's book as important and timely - but I can't help thinking her writing (and ideas) would be improved vastly by an in-depth reading of Wilson. But then I always think that when read books by relatively "mainstream" political authors.

Another fascinating book I'm reading: 'The Coming Wave' by Mustafa Suleyman. Like Klein's book, it's only just been published. Essential reading for anyone interested in both the positive and nightmare scenarios being delivered by A.I. and biotech.