Metaphors can kill
April 4, 2003 6:30 PM   Subscribe

War as metaphor, again. The linguist George Lakoff writes a sequel to his seminal piece on the first Gulf war. The Nation as Person, The Just War, War as Business (and Politics), War as Fairy Tale: will these ways of thinking ever be re-framed in the interests of peace and common humanity? Not if any dissent from the accepted line continues to be silenced. Source: Too Much News
posted by cbrody (4 comments total)
Thanks for the link, I had just finished reading for the first time the original essay Metaphor and War: The Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf one week ago.

will these ways of thinking ever be re-framed in the interests of peace and common humanity?

There is a whole list of possible choices. Though I doubt this is what you had in mind, I have been using Dangerous Beliefs Are Contagious Diseases.
posted by cmacleod at 8:16 PM on April 4, 2003

I prefer Love is a Journey. And I'm not even a Christian. But that wasn't really my point. The mappings I referred to are incorrect and need to be changed.
posted by cbrody at 8:39 PM on April 4, 2003

I think it is crucially important to understand the cognitive dimensions of politics – especially when most of our conceptual framing is unconscious and we may not be aware of our own metaphorical thought.

He's asking us to wake up when we, as a nation, are deep into a voo doo trance. That is a task.

I am reminded of this passage from Heinlein's Coventry--

Had the science of semantics developed as rapidly as psychodynamics and its implementing arts of propaganda and mob psychology, the United States might never have fallen into dictatorship, then been forced to undergo the Second Revolution. All of the scientific principles embodied in the Covenant which marked the end of the revolution were formulated as far back as the first quarter of the twentieth century.

But the work of the pioneer semanticists, C. K. Ogden, Alfred Korzybski, and others, were known to but a handful of students, whereas psycho- dynamics, under the impetus of repeated wars and the frenzy of high- pressure merchandising, progressed by leaps and bounds.

Semantics, 'the meaning of meaning', gave a method for the first time of applying the scientific method to every act of everyday life. Because semantics dealt with spoken and written words as a determining aspect of human behavior it was at first mistakenly thought by many to be concerned only with words and of interest only to professional word manipulators, such as advertising copy writers and professors of etymology. A handful of unorthodox psychiatrists attempted to apply it to personal human problems, but their work was swept away by the epidemic mass psychoses that destroyed Europe and returned the United States to the Dark Ages.

And this one from his Methuselah's Children--

The other man turned toward Lazarus. "Cousin, did we hear what I thought we heard? That is the first case of asocial group violence in more than twenty years . . . yet they reported it like a breakdown in a weather integrator."

"Not quite," Lazarus answered grimly. "The connotations of the words used in describing us were loaded."

"Yes, true, but loaded cleverly. I doubt if there was a word in that dispatch with an emotional index, taken alone, higher than one point five. The newscasters are allowed two zero, you know."

Heinlein's notions of Korzybski's General Semantics aside, the idea of having the news reported under such rigor is alluring.
posted by y2karl at 8:47 PM on April 4, 2003

Extreme rhetoric makes for bad debate (self-link).
posted by cbrody at 4:33 AM on April 5, 2003

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