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FoxNews, Framing, and "Politics and the English Language"

There's been a lot of research on this, with George Lakoff's work being the best:

According to the report at Media Matters, in August of 2009 after Fox News' Sean Hannity used the term "public option," Luntz encouraged him to say "government option" instead.

"If you call it a 'public option,' the American people are split," Luntz said. "If you call it the 'government option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it."

As Lakoff notes:

Language always comes with what is called "framing." Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like "revolt," that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That's a frame.

If you then add the word "voter" in front of "revolt," you get a metaphorical meaning saying that the voters are the oppressed people, the governor is the oppressive ruler, that they have ousted him and this is a good thing and all things are good now. All of that comes up when you see a headline like "voter revolt" - something that most people read and never notice. But these things can be affected by reporters and very often, by the campaign people themselves.

Liberals, of course, call people who entered the United States illegally undocumented immigrants. These people just need a few documents, and everything will be OK. An abortion is not a termination of a pregnancy or killing a fetus: It's a choice. And so it'd be unfair to single out FoxNews. In fact, all media is corrupt. Into the Buzzsaw.

Metaphors We Live By is the denser work, but Don't Think of an Elephant is good, too. (And of course see this very blog's discussion of cognitive bias.)

At least once each year I read George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language":

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

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