2007 JET Podcast
Some helpful hints from folks already on the JET Programme. It covers all of those very specific things that you really need to know but may have forgotten to ask or that you just couldn't find answers to. Click here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Professional Re-framing

Nope, I'm not talking about getting a new gilded frame for the giant picture of your grandmother or anything.

I'm talking about people whose sole job it seems is to re-frame important issues to prove themselves right.

Don't get me wrong. I've argued with folks like this before. Heck, I've even done my own re-framing to skew a debate into my corner, but never to extent and disservice or on the scale that these professionals work.

Person in point: Rush Limbaugh.

Of course.

I don't actually listen to him, but the past few days of scanning the radio, I've passed over the EIB network and was fascinated to actually hear the person that so many of the people I know talk so negatively about.

From what I can tell, Mr. Limbaugh has a pretty stable mode of operation.

He takes an issue (usually a pretty scandalous one where everyone and their mother will have an opinion), he re-frames the debate so that his side (usually the Right) looks sane and the other side (usually the Left) looks crazy, he cracks a few jokes, calls himself a god, then calls it a day.

Every time I've listened to him, it has been the same thing. Maybe you're out there saying, "well duh, why are you surprised?"

Well, maybe I'm naive. I actually expected the man to be, at least, genuine in his arguments. I thought, naively, that he just argued for the side my friends weren't on and that's why they don't like him. Not so apparently.

They don't like him because, not only his he wrong, but he's slick enough to know he's wrong but employs re-framing to look like he's right (and smart).

Don't believe me?

Just today, Mr. Limbaugh re-frames the debate on global warming as such: the liberals (whom for whatever reason can ONLY be Godless heathens) are saying that the Earth's weather has a sinister political agenda.

I can't recall an instance where a serious climatologist has made this statement or even insinuated it. I can't remember when ANYONE has made this claim.

To go further, Mr. Limbaugh even insinuates, if not out right says, that somehow the "stupid liberals", when they argue that the climate is changing in part because of our wastefulness, are saying that tornadoes and hurricanes somehow never happened on a magnanimous scale; that "the liberals" are dumbly saying that natural disasters and hotter temperatures are this surprising phenomena that falls on the sole shoulders of the human population.

If you're a liberal who's concerned about global warming, are you saying that? Is that really your debate? Was that ever the debate?

I didn't think so.

He used as his example of the mass hysteria of all liberals, a hodgepodge mess of clips from various nondescript local and national news programs, particularly their weather segments where some meteorologist is trying to convey the oddness (and possible worry) of subtropical storm Andrea's arrival before the official hurricane season.

Now, I'm not saying that Mr. Limbaugh's characterization of the "drive-by media" (his words) isn't warranted. The MSM has a penchant for taking complex issues, busting them down into their simplest form, and generalizing everything, hoping for better ratings. Plus, they're owned by corporations that expect measurable results and therefore, they are sensational by necessity.

But, I ask, what does the MSM's sensationalization have to do with an everyday politically liberal person who is concerned about global warming? Oh, you guessed it, absolutely nothing. How is that his proof? Plus, how is concern by a meteorologist about the early arrival of a subtropical storm any indication of anything except worry about the early arrival of a subtropical storm?

None of those clips had the meteorologist say, "...and this is because of global warming." These weather people did one thing, their jobs. They looked at previous recorded storms and their times of arrival and said, "hey, this storm is earlier than the majority of storms of this magnitude."

Praytell, they make OBSERVATIONS about the subject of their jobs!

Anyway, none of this really matters. It's just an observation I made when I switched over to the EIB because NPR was playing classical and I only really like radio that talks.

The thing that interests me about this professional re-framing racket is why.

Why would Mr. Limbaugh argue this way? Why would anybody listen and believe him? His logic obviously grasps at straws, making connections where there aren't any, generalizing to a gross degree, taking headlines and sensationalism and attributing it as some sort of credible proof that he is right.

I don't listen to Mr. Limbaugh often. He's not my cup of tea. But from what I have heard of him (about 2 or 3 shows worth), he seems to be a little low on facts and a very full on vague notions. But, why, when I can see it and many others can see it, do people still adamantly listen to him and turn around to reiterate his notions to others?

Because, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Limbaugh offers a selfish man's dream. If you don't acknowledge that your (the human population's) wastefulness is negatively affecting the environment, then you don't have to change your actions. You're not responsible. You can drive your giant SUV, you can have your electricity without wondering what it's costing the planet, and instead of devoting public funds to solving a very real problem, you can have your tax break.

Who wouldn't want to buy into Mr. Limbaugh's plan? It's the easiest choice.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt in most cases. Maybe they don't have access to libraries or other forms of information. It's possible.

Or, sadly and scarily, maybe people really are that ignorant. Maybe they don't realize when someone is re-framing a debate in order to make their opponents look bad -- not by winning the debate and proving them wrong like a fair and balanced argument would work, but by aligning their opponents with ludicrous ideas and forcing them to argue for them.

It's like those who say if you refuse to fund the President's troop surge, you are against the troops. Quite obviously if you refuse to fund the surge, you're against the idea and implementation of the surge. A professional re-framer would not acknowledge that the President could just not have the surge, that he could rethink his strategy, that he could come up with new ideas about how to extricate the US from this terrible civil war brought on, in no small part, by the US.

A professional re-framer wouldn't acknowledge such an issue as the clash of ideas and stubborness that it is.

No, a professional re-framer would only shape the rules as "us against them" with no in-between.

Sadly, not only do they make a living off of doing this, but their media reach is often so far that their professional re-framing misinforms an already uninformed populace.

But I can't blame Mr. Limbaugh for misleading the people really. He's just doing what he does best. He's earning his money. You can't blame a man for that.

I can only fault an ignorant populace who have no concept of logic, who refuse to do research for themselves. These are the broadest targets of a sports-like opinion market. These are those who are most easily swayed into an "us against them" mentality. Rooted in fear, backed up by lack of knowledge. I don't think there's any more potent a combination than that.

So I can only say...educate yourselves...better yet folks, educate your children. Teach them not to accept ignorance as a state of mind. Because then it wouldn't matter if they're listening to Rush or to any other political pundit, right or left. They'll have enough wherewithal to recognize a re-frame artist when they hear them.

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