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vector: zmary

The Cheap-Labor Conservatives' "Dirty Secret": They Don't Really Like Prosperity

Several weeks ago, I picked up a copy of the Utne Reader at Ozark Natural Foods in Feyetteville, Arkansas (the town of my birth). This issue featured an article ("Winning the Frame Game" by Chris Mooey, reprinted from the American Prospect) about a woman named Susan Nall Bales. She runs a think tank called the Frameworks Institute which helps liberal groups tailor their messages for the masses.

The thrust of the article is that so-called conservatives communicate their message more effectively than do liberals, and that it’s not just a case of conservatives dumbing down their messages for Joe Sixpack. Neo-conservatives do a better job than most left-wingers of crafting their message with a care to the existing conceptual frames of their target audience. Crusading liberals not only lag far behind in this crucial persuasion technology, they seem to consider it cheating. Rather than get inside the heads of the people they want to pursuade, many would-be progressive pusuaders consciously reject considerations of frame and choose to craft empassioned arguments that appeal to people like themselves. As a result they tend to come off sounding shrilly absurd to folks who don't share their preconceptions.

Here are a couple of key snippets from Chris Mooey's article:

A constant refrain in Bales’ work is that people have deeply held preconceptions ("frames") that render their views almost impervious to new, contradictory information. "It’s not enough to present evidence," Bales says. "You have to change the frame."

Why do conservatives seem to communicate better than liberals? One reason is the liberal left’s tendency to overintellectualize issues. Liberals bombard the public with figures and statistics that prove their cases. But again and again the data bounce off people without making any impression. "If the facts don’t fit the frame, it’s the facts that are rejected, not the frame" is an oft-repeated FrameWorks aphorism.

I thought back to that article today when I followed a link from zmary’s journal to an essay that proposes what seems like an effective re-framing meme for undermining the neo-conservative worldview that people like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage propagate so effectively.

The essay, Defeat the Right in Three Minutes, found on the Conceptual Guerilla website, proposes reframing every neo-conservative argument against social spending and for militaristic, corporate, imperialism as examples of the "Cheap-labor Conservative" agenda. Conceptual Guerilla takes a page out of the neo-con playbook and explicitly instructs his progressive brethren to use the phrase "cheap-labor conservative" ad nauseum to embed the phrase in the collective consciousness just like the neo-cons do.

Conceptual Guerilla also provides directions for using the phrase "Cheap-labor Conservatives" to judo flip all the neo-con catch phrases like, "personal responsibility," and "less government" and re-frame them as the self-interested agenda of the mega-wealthy who actually want to undermine high employment and general prosperity. They want cheap labor, and the best way to get it is to keep workers desperate, and, as CG repeatedly phrases it, "Over a barrel."

Of course, by adopting some of the neo-con tactics, he comes to sound a bit like the Corporate Feudalist mouth peices he intends to stymie. While I don’t entirely care for the tone he sets, I do stand in admiration of his understanding of effective mass-communication and paradigm-manipulation. I think, if the "Cheap-labor conservative" phrase works its way into popular usage it will prove an effective antidote to the "classless society" fantasy that Republicans like to spin.

In addition to what struck me as condescending hostility, I have another reservation: I wish CG’s brilliant counter-meme didn’t equate conservatism with Bush and his fellow Corporate Feudal Lords. That lot and their self-justificatory hogwash have little to do with my preferred definition of conservatism.

I like to repeat the ACLU’s claim that they are the most conservative organization in the United States. Bush, Ashcroft, and their ilk certainly aren’t looking to conserve our constitutional rights as the ACLU does. They don’t seek to conserve our environment or the resources upon which we depend. They claim to want to conserve "traditional family values," but such values are predicated on a family structure in which one not-necessarily-well-educated wage-earner provides the financial support for a non-working spouse and their children. What working class families can live well on a single parent’s wages in the economic climate the Corporate Feudalists work so hard to create?

Reservations acknowledged, I think the essay is worth reading, and I would like to hear the phrase "Cheap-labor conservative" the next time I surf past one of the legion of political talk shows on CNN or Fox News.

Link: http://www.conceptualguerilla.com/beattherightinthree.htm


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 1st, 2003 07:14 pm (UTC)
was it my mouthwash?...:)
The offer stands. I just used the reply function to generate an email message to you. Saved myself 10 seconds worth of effort.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 5th, 2003 12:03 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting this!

I've e-mailed the links to a few friends and got a lot of good response. I'm even printing out the text for someone!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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