|So, what are some of the myths that otherwise intelligent people buy into? Here's one small example:
Most people believe that lie detector tests are valid enough to show when a person is lying. They are not, but the fact that criminal suspects often believe that they are causes the police using the lie detector to get a confession. Courts don't allow the results as evidence in a trial because the detectors cannot be shown to be valid, but the confession can be used.
Here are other things that have become accepted as true but aren't:
"America is the richest nation in the world... America has the best medical system in the world... Markets are free and fairly reward individual effort... Business is efficient and government isn't."
A recent study found that memory plays a great part in what people recall as true or false. The research, conducted by Dr. Peter Frost, a psychology professor at New Hampshire's Rivier College, reported that people who were given misinformation recalled that information more clearly with the passage of time. Factual information, on the other hand, tended to blur with the passage of time.
George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, has been trying to get people on the left to realize that how we frame arguments and the language we use is vitally important.
His application of cognitive linguistics to politics has led him into territory normally considered basic to political science.
Lakoff has argued that one of the reasons liberals have had difficulty since the 1980s is that they have not been aware of how their own use of language is often detrimental to their philosophy.
For example, Lakoff insists that liberals must cease using terms like "partial birth abortion" and "tax relief" because they are manufactured specifically to allow the possibilities of only certain types of opinions. For instance, "tax relief" implies that taxes are an affliction, something someone would want "relief" from.
Conservatives long ago realized the importance of applying marketing and advertising principles to their message. We progressives need to do the same thing.
One example I can think of is that it was a mistake for the Obama administration to call the Recovery and Reinvestment Act the "stimulus bill" as a form of shorthand. The bill should have been referred to as a "job creation bill" or "job preservation bill" by every member of the administration. Whenever anyone called it a "stimulus bill," they should have been corrected and told, "No, this is a job preservation bill."
We all need to choose our words and the metaphors we use by considering their emotional content, Lakoff reminds us.
Just look at how difficult it is to defend "pro-choice," instead of "pro-life." The opposite of "pro-life" is "pro-death" in the minds of many people, just what the opponents of a woman's right to medical privacy want us to try to defend.
How about the "free market"? There is no such thing. Markets are constructs of people. Every market has rules. They aren't "free."
Conservatives, especially conservative think tanks and the corporate media that reinforce them, have framed virtually every issue from their perspective. They have put a huge amount of money into creating the language for their worldview and getting it out there.
On the other hand, we progressives have done virtually nothing. We have too few think tanks, too few people on the Sunday talk shows, too few letters to the editor in papers.
That needs to change. We had better learn how to market our ideas. We have let the opposition label us for far too long. It's past time for us to label them.