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Counter-frame It! How to Stop Using Their Words

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3. Turning a tin ear to the public sense of a word or phrase, and talking only to ourselves, in "Leftspeak." My best example of this is "single payer." Lately when people ask me about this phrase after I give a talk or do a workshop, my answer is simply "You mean "unmarried' payer?" They get it when I say that; I don't have to say anything more. Another much more dangerous example still in play is the phrase the "No on Proposition #32" campaign in California is using: "Stop special exemptions." Every grass roots California Democrat I know is horrified by this slogan, because they know the general public won't understand it. The stakes couldn't be higher, because this proposition is in fact another union-busting move by big corporations. There is still time for the "No on 32" people to come up with something better, and I certainly hope they do. (Try looking at the free American Framing resources on The Metaphor Project website, guys!)

 4. Believing that the words of a slogan or sound bite don't matter, because the talking points will do all the heavy persuading. After so many years of being beaten by Right wing sound bites that evoke strong emotions, it's amazing that anybody on the Left still holds this idea. But there's abundant evidence that many do. Instead, if you are very, very lucky, your smart, emotionally effective Left sound bite will awaken rational curiosity in some Americans, and they will actually be open to hearing your talking points too. But as former President Clinton once said, "If they can't say it in a phrase, we're sunk."  

It's time for all of us, Democrats, liberals, progressives, and yes, even radicals, to smarten up, get off our comfy Left couches, and create the truly dynamic American counter-frames we desperately need now.

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Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Metaphor Project. She is also the author of our new book, MOVE OUR MESSAGE: HOW TO GET AMERICA'S EAR, available on our website. The mission of the Metaphor Project is helping (more...)

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Some may ask why I didn't include examples of what... by Susan Strong on Friday, Aug 10, 2012 at 3:05:13 PM
Great article Susan.  It reminded me of a pro... by Tom Madison on Saturday, Aug 11, 2012 at 11:05:42 AM
Tahnks, Tom, for an excellent comment.... by Susan Strong on Saturday, Aug 11, 2012 at 12:21:19 PM
The ability of the 'right' to capture the public i... by Carol Davidek-Waller on Saturday, Aug 11, 2012 at 12:20:03 PM
When NPR uses "Obamacare" instead of PCACA or ACA ... by Paul Roden on Monday, Aug 13, 2012 at 6:09:32 AM
Thanks for this comment! Maybe you should print my... by Susan Strong on Monday, Aug 13, 2012 at 11:23:39 AM