Maybe you’re an American politician, and you really do hate puppies, but I hope the point of that question is clear. Of course, in a real situation, if someone asked you that, you could say, “I never hated puppies,” but what if the question was a multiple-choice survey question, and that wasn’t one of the choices?
Here’s an example from real life: “Should we be drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?” How are we not answering this with a collective, emphatic, hell no? How is this even still a question?
We can answer that last bit, at least partially, with framing. Of course, it isn’t always as obvious as that first example in the title, and the bigger problem is actually more subtle. The problem is not always the ‘politicians in smoke-filled back rooms’ trope playing out in real life, but at the same time, politicians are aware of the thing I’m talking about here, and there’s no denying that public opinion is knowingly manipulated. Looking at the example of drilling in the ANWR, consider the fact that the DNC removed ending fossil fuel subsidies from their platform. I’m certain that the fact that oil companies basically run America has more than a little to do with that, but it was also at the very least somewhat enabled by the fact that they’re being attacked by Republicans as radicals, and so feel comfortable moving back to the right.
A similar example is Obamacare. I was living in Massachusetts when that same basic thing was passed by then-governor Mitt Romney. There were some slight improvements, but it was still more of a giveaway to insurance companies than any kind of help for Americans. Now the Tea Party/Trump Cult attacks that as the “radical left” position, and liberals jump to the defense of a right-wing, corporate plan. On a good day, you might still get them to talk about pushing for a “public option.” Asking for a Medicare for All-type plan like the rest of the world has is still completely off the table, even though it polls well with voters.
There’s another tricky word game that gets played with this issue, which is framing Medicare for All as “losing your insurance.” While technically true, it’s leaving out the part about how your healthcare would still be covered, and for less money.
I also think this is worth thinking about:
Reproductive rights are another area where framing is an issue. Those who are against abortion will often call themselves “pro-life,” yet they generally oppose policies which would provide people healthcare. I feel it may be worth noting the high infant mortality rate in the US here. They also generally support pro-war politicians, and that doesn’t seem very pro-life, either. And now we aren’t even talking about bodily autonomy, and it wouldn’t matter to them if we were, anyway.
In some cases, as with the “pro-lifers,” there’s no real hope of steering the conversation in a reasonable direction, but I would like to think there may be some hope for others. If nothing else, I think this is worth considering in your own thoughts and discussions, and especially when hearing talking points from people in suits.
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