Move On: Misunderstanding The Moment

I have never been a fan of George Lakoff. I imagine he may be an effective academic. I believe he is clueless when it comes to politics. For example this:

MoveOn’s “General Betray Us?” ad has raised vital questions that need a thorough and open discussion. The ad worked brilliantly to reveal, via its framing, an essential but previously hidden truth: the Bush Administration and its active supporters have betrayed the trust of the troops and the American people.

MoveOn hit a nerve. In the face of truth, the right-wing has been forced to change the subject — away from the administration’s betrayal of trust and the escalating tragedy of the occupation to of all things, an ad! To take the focus off maiming and death and the breaking of our military, they talk about etiquette. The truth has reduced them to whining: MoveOn was impolite. Rather than face the truth, they use character assassination against an organization whose three million members stand for the highest patriotic principles of this country, the first of which is a commitment to truth.

(Emphaiss supplied.) This has to be the dumbest thing I have read yet in defense of the Move On ad. I’ll just focus on the two bolded statements:

In the face of truth, the right-wing has been forced to change the subject — away from the administration’s betrayal of trust and the escalating tragedy of the occupation to of all things, an ad!

I would change a few words, “in the face of the truth, the right wing has been forced to WAS ABLE TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT — away from the administration’s betrayal of trust and the escalating tragedy of the oupation to of all things, an ad!” And Lakoff calls this ad brilliant? IS he joking? The Move On ad enabled the REFRAMING of “the truth” about Iraq. It allowed the Iraq Debacle to be overwhelmed by the stupidity of an ad, and Lakoff says Yay! He calls that good framing. Lakoff is perhaps the worst political strategist I have ever seen in my life.


Second phrase I want to emphasize:

[T]hey use character assassination against an organization whose three million members stand for the highest patriotic principles of this country, the first of which is a commitment to truth

The irony of this defense of Move On, that they are victims of “character assassination when they accused General Petraeus of betrayal, is beyond belief.

I loved the phrase “stand for the highest patriotic principles of this country.” Talk about buying into the wrong frame.

Look at what Lakoff is advocating here – a “patriotism” contest between Move On, a political activist group, and a general of the military. In the eyes of the American People, who is going to win that contest?

So, to Lakoff, it was politically brilliant of Move On to change the subject from the Iraq Debacle to a patriotism contest between General Petraeus and Move On. That, according to Lakoff, was the frame we would want.

Dumbest thing I think I have ever read.


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    • Armando on September 17, 2007 at 2:10 pm
  1. DocuDharma could really use that kinda money….just sayin..

    • TampaCPA on September 17, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    to change the debate when you’re winning.  All they needed to do was keep repeating the truth.  Why didn’t Move-On just run an ad with Bush Admin catch phrases over the course of the war, and then ask, “What will be their new catch phrase?”

    As for Lakoff, he might be right in the long run.  But last week, he was not on.  The surge in “fairy dust” that Petraeus spread last week will wear off soon enough when reality is reported day after day.  Last week’s PR victory will fade very quickly, just like any bump W got.

  2. I’m glad I didn’t ever give any money to MoveOn. I’ll say that much.

    • vigkat on September 17, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    I can’t think of any circumstances in which this could be defined as a win for Move On or for the Dems, who would be best advised to simply ignore discussion of the ad altogether.

    The whooping from the repubs is almost triumphant; they are thrilled to have this particular opportunity, especially at this moment in time, this stage of the debate.  They are like heat seeking animals, always trolling for ways to change the channel; unfortunately, we all too frequently hand them that opportunity.  We also fail to be as vigilant about seizing upon opportunities we could use to reframe the argument. 

  3. I don’t think the ad made a damn bit of difference, because I don’t see Petraus’ testimony as fundamentally altering the prevailing narrative in the first instance. I think we’re conditioned to reflexively credit the right when they pounce on something that may–“may”–reflect poorly on the left. The American public does not seem to have been swayed by Petraeus’ testimony. If anything, they had been conditioned to reject it, as the pre-testimony polls suggested. I think the continual carping on this ad is exactly what the right expects us to do.

    Move on has been marginalized many times. No damage was done to Move on’s reputation that hadn’t already been done.  They’ll simply create a new ad and that will become the “topic” of conversation, the topic for us to “wring our hands” over.

    Moreover I don’t see the ad as implying that Petraeus was a “traitor,” and it’s hard for me to believe that the public perceives it that way. The ad accuses him of betraying the faith and trust of his charge, i.e., the public who pays for this war in its blood and money, by hewing to Bush’s political agenda. I think the public perception of Petraus is just that.  I don’t believe the public has a clear picture of Petraeus as an individual enough to see this as a purely personal attack.  They see it as a symbolic statement of what they already innately know–that they’re being sold a bill of goods by Bush and any lackey he holds out to them.

  4. For better or worse they came to symbolize the whole “treat the base like an ATM” behavior of many entrenched Democrats for me. But that’s just me.

    • snud on September 17, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    righteous indignation over “The Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” ads, when they – apparently successfully – smeared crap all over John Kerry – a veteran who volunteered to go to Vietnam, unlike Chimpy McFlightsuit, who went AWOL with his tail tucked between his legs?

    Apparently their “patriotism” is very selective, depending of course on party affiliation.

    Hypocrisy, thy name is republican.

  5. is almost always a waste of time, it turns into a “My dad is bigger than your dad” piece of silliness, and detracts those who swirl into it off other issues which of course is why the right loves to do it. When the right is wrong, which is frequently, they rely on patriotism and invoking piety.

  6. I don’t think the MoveOn ad helped in real time accomplish anything.  It is my opinion and my opinion only though that it addresses something very devious developing within our military culture and I am glad for the ad where this malignancy is concerned. Our military is beginning to develop a disrespect for the national will that is moving into the area of despising the civilian populace who supposedly oversee them right now.

    It starts with those who are in power and I speak from the heart here because I have a brother-in-law up for bird colonel now and for the most part I deeply dislike the guy.  He has sought power and not service.  We have had a few vile disagreements in the past where he places himself on some pedestal protecting the lives of the peons who refuse to allow him to destroy the enemy and keep his own self safe and make his job easier.  Of course he never has to look his “enemy” in the eye and realize that it is a four year old when he bombs them because he is Air Force and an F-16 pilot, but he characterizes a cancer within our military right now where Neocons have been promoted into positions ordering soldiers into combat situations that are counter to the national will.

    There was a time when the military cared about maintaining the national will, that is falling by the wayside though now. Neocon officers are being promoted into high places right now because they are thriving in the current environment, they are sending enlisted gleefully into combat whenever and where ever they can and the enlisted don’t get a vote in the matter and all the enlisted know is that they have to do this and the American people don’t agree with it.  I have thought a lot about the MoveOn ad and I think it served a poor purpose when it comes to the actual matter at hand it was attempting to address but for me it is also pointing to a larger problem that Petraeus is only the tip of the iceberg of.  Military officers of high rank HAD BETTER BEWARE WHEN THEY GO AGAINST THE NATIONAL WILL, YOU SERVE A DEMOCRACY…..NOT A DICTATORSHIP AND SOME OF YOU GUYS ARE BEGINNING TO ACT LIKE YOU SERVE A DICTATORSHIP BOTH IN ACTION AND PRIVATE WORD!  YOU ALL MAY HAVE TO BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THAT SOONER THAN YOU WOULD LIKE TO THINK!

    • fisheye on September 17, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Does the American people’s understanding of the false portrait of the war by Bush play into the judgement on the ‘patriotism’ contest, or are we living in a the same state of ingnorance as 4 years ago?

    Does patriotic sympathy for Patraeus help or hurt the Republican cause? The undercurrent of the reality (spot lighted by the ad) of the occupation, beneath the distraction, seems more cogent to me than the controversy over the ads language. But, I’m not one to speak for the ‘American people’.

    • mudslide on September 17, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    The ad was stupid because its implied message of “betrayal” suggested an expectation that Petraeus could have been trusted to provide a reasoned assessment in the first place.

    As for its political implications, MoveOn has never operated in a manner that most conventional Democratic tacticians would prefer…And I would never expect it to.

    For the record, I’m not a MoveOn member.

  7. What we have here is a dude who use to framing the debate and is now seeing the sunset on his ability to do so.

    He is a Ellsworth Toohey who has realized his levers now move on their own instead of his flicking.

    The levers have, Moved On, if you will.

    That is all, and nobody outside the beltway reads this crap, and if you hadn’t posted, most would have never known about it.

    So technically, by you posting it, you are helping him reframe the debate.

    That’s choice.

  8. all on their field? Why are we the left, playing on their version of reality. Betrayus is just that, he has betrayed us! Treason is in the legal sense beyond most. We do however know when we have been betrayed, it is all around us. Our rights, our laws, our human values, all are betrayed. The fact that Move On has put this ad which you or others  may consider controversial is to me a good thing as it points the way to the truth.


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