Sep 19, 2023Liked by FrameLab

I find these ideas (from George's 'Moral Politics' book) more important than ever, especially given the confusing algorithm-boosted political-category dislocations we see these days (Glenn Greenwald's earnest description of Tucker Carlson as "a socialist" springs to mind as one of the weirdest).

One can see Trump as a textbook example of Strict Father morality/politics, despite the early attempts by his followers to present him as an anti-elite peacenik (his record shows the absurdity of that - his escalation of every conflict he presided over, ramping up bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen, increasing civilian deaths, in some cases to record-high levels).

I look forward to the Framelab commentaries on Elon Musk, and on Naomi Klein's new book (which I've read - I'm glad Naomi has raised the issue of Bannon & co appropriating some major 'left' tropes, but I was disappointed that she didn't go into detail on *how* this was accomplished in political-semantics terms, or even how Bannon exploited the new media forms to do it - how he transformed those "anti-establishment" tropes so that they suddenly functioned as rallying calls for the radical right. These are issues I'd love to see Framelab commentaries on - thanks!).

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I worked as a social worker for 48 years doing individual, couple and family therapy. Many of the conflicts that presented in my office seemed manifestations of the framing that the individuals had adopted or ingested growing up. Their respective narratives were often from these different Frames described here leading to conflict. A marital scientist that I admire is John Gottman who in his research identified four behaviours or attitudes that led to couple break-ups. Criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt. Those behaviours seem evident in the political conflicts of our day so I am wondering if they are comparable or underlying factors in the framing discussed in the video?

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In Minsky's 1974 work, he wrote, "When one encounters a new situation (or makes a substantial change in one's view of the present problem), one selects from memory a structure called a frame." You correctly pointed out the connection of frames to values, but what you did not discuss is the causal relationship between them. I believe that the direction is from values to frames, meaning that conservatives and liberals pass values, and then the corresponding frames "stick." A frame that is incompatible with one's value hierarchy will feel foreign, regardless of how many times it is repeated. Over the years, I've become skeptical of the idea that it is possible to "persuade" someone. Persuasion works only if the value system is commensurate. Otherwise, the only way to change someone's position is to alter their values, which will subsequently make a new set of frames compatible and possible to adopt.

Have you ever wondered about the success of propaganda in totalitarian regimes? What makes Russian and North Korean propaganda so effective? How do they make their citizens adopt completely ridiculous frames? I believe they achieve this through manipulation of values. I think we need to study the strategies adopted by totalitarian propaganda machines to understand how they change the value system of their citizens. One thing I've noticed is that all of them attempt to alter citizens' perception of themselves. If you can convince a person that they are a certain type of being, their self-consistency instinct will align the rest of their personality with the new self-image. One can form an idea about the world by observing it, but one cannot form a proper self-image in isolation. We rely on others to help us calibrate our own idea of who we are. This is where the propaganda machine engages: it convinces people that they are something else from what they used to believe, and this permanently changes the way these citizens view the outside world. It alters their value system.

The environment in which values are passed requires trust, often blind trust. This is why children adopt their parents' values so readily: because parents are regarded as a moral authority and a role model and they enjoy unconditional trust from the kids. This is why the rebellious kids or children who did not have a good relationship with their parents (e.g. because of abuse) are more likely to stray away from the family values and seek to establish their own identity independent (or even contrary to) the values system held by their parents. The best environment for moral authority and trust is the environment of unconditional love and acceptance. This is why many membership in closed communities is often life-changing: the milieu of trust, love and acceptance is conducive of values-altering influences. This is how cults, churches and secret societies operate. The cold-blooded individualistic rationalism adopted by democrats is not compatible with the idea of life-changing experiences. Modern progressives seek it in identity groups, sports/yoga and diet/well-being. Unfortunately the spirit of individualism in many of these groups (e.g. envy-soaked Instagram) is self-defeating in passing on the progressive values.

My general comment is that many things you describe used to be very true and relevant, but the modern individualistic lifestyle erodes the foundations of both conservative and progressive value systems. I notice that the core morality of conservatives is slowly degrading into xenophobic nationalism and the morality of progressives is slowly degrading into eccentric hedonism. Very sad for both worldviews.


Minsky, Marvin. 1974. “A Framework for Representing Knowledge.” In Readings in Cognitive Science, eds. Allan Collins and Edward E. Smith. , 156–89. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781483214467500182 (July 26, 2023).

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I think that the posts by Clarence Wilhelm Spangle should be removed. They are hostile and bigoted. He should be blocked. I have no idea why he is calling me antisemitic names. My post was not on any issue that would warrant that.

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