Nov 29, 2020

When You Negate the Frame, You Strengthen It

“When you negate the frame, you evoke the frame. When you evoke the frame, you strengthen it.”

- George Lakoff

The title of Lakoff’s book (above) is a perfect example of why this is true. The more you tell people not to think of an elephant, the more they will struggle to keep that image out of their minds.

Lakoff's book is mostly a pro-Democrat political screed. (The original sub-subtitle is "The Essential Guide for Progressives.") The trouble is he chose the worst possible audience to give this advice: pundits, activists, and politicians.

All it took was the presidency of one Donald J. Trump to demonstrate this was a fool's errand. Clearly consumed by TDS, Lakoff spent most of the Trump years repeating the quote above like a mantra, all but begging people on his side (especially journalists) to stop negating — and thereby evoking and strengthening — DJT's powerful frames.

Of course, nobody listened.