The controversy about whether or not to require vaccination in school aged children is a symptom of a deeper issue: how we arrive at decisions when making public policy. Should policy makers make decisions based on fact and science or ideological and religious beliefs?
A recent Pew Research poll found that 68 % of all people thought the government should require vaccines while a disturbing 30% did not. Young people (41% ) are more likely than old (20%) to favor a "choice" to vaccinate, most likely because older people lived through the 60s when measles outbreaks in the US plummeted from almost 800,000 a year to mere hundreds in less than a decade (and saw similar achievements with polio and smallpox). Along party lines, both Democrats and Republicans in 2009 were equally in favor (71%) of vaccine requirements for admission to school. In 2014 Republicans slipped to 65%, Democrats increased to 76%.
Yet this still leaves us with that disturbing chunk of Americans across party lines who make decisions about vaccines on ideology or religion, when a decision so potentially catastrophic ought to be a science no brainer. Vaccine denial, like climate and evolution denial, is a great example of the human vulnerability to choose belief over facts.
What is it about ideologies that would have a minority of both lefties and righties opposing mandatory vaccination? I went off in search of conservative and progressive frames that might explain this. On the right, the core frames seem to be individualism, freedom from government interference and the primacy of parental authority, i.e., "the government can't force me to vaccinate my kids". A general distrust of science among conservatives applies to vaccines, but to a much smaller degree, perhaps because when it comes to one's health even those who generally distrust science prefer to be like the deathbed convert, "better safe, than sorry".
A core conservative frame is that wealth is proof of hard work and therefore grants moral authority to the wealthy. Anything that interferes with one's ability to amass wealth in any quantity is morally wrong. There is also the persistent assumption that government is inherently more wasteful and inefficient than the market (the tremendous waste of the Great Depression and Great Recession notwithstanding). Lowering taxes is morally right because it keeps government from wasting the hard earned tax dollars it "takes" from citizens.
Because taxes are inherently immoral, it becomes immoral to even suggest that a minimum amount of funding is necessary to keep public schools, roads, the environment, parks, air traffic control or anything else we as citizens have decided work best as government investments running. It is also complete heresy to suggest that those who benefit most from those investments should pay more in taxes.
It does not take a genius to see where dis-investment leads -to the erosion and eventual destruction of those investments and the control of crucial infrastructure placed in the hands of those for whom profit trumps any other consideration.
Why has the public, who one presumes likes driving on roads and sending all kids to school, not stopped conservatives by voting them out? Perhaps it's because we are coasting on the investments we made many decades ago. Bridges are falling down, but not too many just yet. Schools are starved, but kids still get on the bus. Air traffic control is operating on antiquated equipment, but, thanks to heroic controllers, few airplanes are yet falling from the sky.
Of course, wrecking most public investment is the goal of conservatives; it opens the way for for-profit companies to take over those functions. This is why 80% of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit corporations, why prisons are privately run and why our armed forces are more and more comprised of mercenaries.
Because there is no accounting for greed in the "free market", public investments can easily suffer the same fate as our own investments did when we let the banks do whatever they pleased with them. Our economy was bled dry by irresponsible and immoral bankers yet these are the very people conservatives consider most moral.
The constant cry from conservative strategists is lower taxes, not lower taxes at all costs, because they don't want you thinking about costs. The fact that everything has not collapsed just yet suggests to voters that everything is fine and conservatives may be right that we should reward the wealthy and give them implicit authority over our government.
Privatizing profit from infrastructure and important services is one thing; the socialization of cost is another. Polluters are exempted from cleaning up their messes because that happens in the future. Wal Mart racks up record profits and offers abysmal wages because they can coast along on government services provided by local, state and federal governments to feed and house their employees. I suspect they're not thinking much about the destruction of those things they so much depend on because business decisions are often made to enhance profit in the next quarter or next year, not 25 years from now. They'll deal with that then, if they think about it at all.
The fact that everything has not collapsed just yet supports the illusion that everything is fine, government truly controlled by citizens is unnecessary and that conservatives may just be right that we should reward the wealthy and give them authority over our government. Pay no attention to the destruction ahead -or the man behind the curtain.
Lost in the media images of righteously indignant protesters at US
border facilities is the fact that all these children stuck there
are war refugees. In their home countries it matters not that the
belligerents are drug kingpins and police. Day by day, year in and
year out these children see their neighbors and family left dead
in the streets. Imagine the constant terror. So they come by
themselves, or are sent north by terrified relatives.
Our hearts go out -until they hit the border. Publicly the
protesters' fear is that the cost might come out of their pockets.
Privately the feelings are a stew of racism, xenophobia and
extremist right wing ideology. Children of immigrants themselves,
they don't make the connection that those kids could have been
their own ancestors just decades ago. In this narrow mental space
it's no longer about terrorized children: we simply must
air drop these kids back into the war zone.
How cruel. Helping refugees is fine if it's happening somewhere
else, a check in the mail, seen on CNN. Get too close though and
"my brothers keeper" goes right out the window.
Dear Chairman Wheeler,
Consider this. What would happen if you told the ISPs that they cannot have a two tiered Internet?
Comcast will not go away. Trust me they'll make plenty of money, if my ever rising cable bill is any indication. The other ISPs will not say, oh well then, we're closing up shop -too bad, no more internet for you. The Internet will go on - with or without the current ISPs- simply moving all speech, all business, all religion, all social justice, all books, all news, all video -all everything- just as it does now: free flowing with opportunity for everyone on an even playing field.
In my country, the citizens are supposed to run the show. If we want to say you can't take over the Internet then that's just tough beans for Comcast. You are working for us, not them.
But if you do go ahead with this historically monumental bad idea then at least protect the citizens by 1) forbidding lawsuits against any governmental body, from the feds on down, that wants to build citizen owned Internet services, and 2) requiring every ISP to pass citizen owned internet data at the fastest speed possible on their network. I won't speculate as to your motives for wanting to give the ISPs what they want, or the President's motives for giving tacit support for killing Net Neutrality by his stunning silence and lack of leadership but, if you do cave to industry pressure and take the Internet away from citizens, then the activism must begin for Congress to override that poor choice with new law.
This is not an issue of trade or technology; the Internet is a fundamental evolution of human communication. Ask yourself this: are the ISPs really that much more important than citizens? Your choice is to go down in history as the public servant who set the precedent for free speech for the ages or as the guy who screwed the pooch for everyone.
Benghazi will, continue to rear it's ugly head from time to time, but not because there's any news. This is really about messaging. The conservatives want their base fired up so they employ what I call the ZOMBIE ATTACK!!! -a claim that keeps resurfacing after being conclusively and repeatedly proven false. It's just one of a number of new conservative propaganda tricks I've been cataloging. Here they are:
"Poof!" When the going gets tough, the tough just make something up like “Clean Coal”! Also known as PIOOTA-(pulled it out of their a$$), The Poof is a close cousin to the "Well my dad says" tactic (below).
"I'm rubber and you're glue”. Whatever you're doing wrong, just accuse the other guy of doing it. Conservatives are largely successful with this one because 1) they anticipate these charges and accuse progressives first and 2) progressives have not learned to ignore these taunts. Instead we get apoplectic and sputter some denial or defense or, heaven forbid, a string of facts. It's not pretty. Example: "Progressive's just want to give money to people who don't deserve it" -as if Wall Street bailout, corporate subsidies, tax cuts for billionaires never happened?!
"The Chevy Codpiece". Just as some men need to offset the diminutive size of their manhood by parading about in an urban assault vehicle (or sending their trophy wife to Sam's Club in it), likewise when conservative ideas aren't supported by the facts they put together a "think tank" to make it appear as if they are. Examples: The Discovery Institute, The Greening Earth Society.
"Well, my dad says" A corollary to The Chevy Codpiece above, this trick involves creating "authoritative facts" where there are none. Example: Tobacco and chemical industry "research".
"These are not the Droids you're looking for." A Svengali-like move that mesmerizes the ill informed, the Droid trick makes the hearers ignore the real issue. Examples: While actively deploying voter suppression in a number of ways, conservatives shout about protecting the vote through Voter ID laws. Or any Republican sponsored legislation with the words "clean" or "fairness" in the title.
"ZOMBIE ATTACK!!!" A zombie attack is a narrative or message that persists long after it has been proven false. Famous examples are Dick Cheney's continual claims that WMDs existed in Iraq, claims that Al Gore said he invented the Internet or that it was government and irresponsible homeowners, not Wall Street that wrecked the economy. Zombie attacks can persist for decades (climate change deniers) or even centuries (Creationism).
The point of initiating a zombie attack is not to actually assert that a claim is true but, in true Zombie fashion, it's simply aimed at capturing more BRAINS! The continual repetition of the story raises doubt in those who are not intimately familiar with the issue. This spreads the infection and, of course, once bitten, those who believe the claim, in turn, become Zombies and infect others. The danger of infection is greatest at Tea Party rallies or Mega Churches.
Zombie attacks are particularly effective because reason and facts are useless as defenses. Unfortunately the accepted method of dealing with zombies -a chainsaw to the head- is ill advised for all the obvious reasons. The best defense is a good offense: protect your brain and the brains of your loved ones by cultivating a healthy skepticism and practicing critical thinking.
"Release the Krakken!" Last ditch conversation stoppers thrown in when conservatives have quite obviously, rhetorically and/or factually lost an argument. Examples are "
But, but... 9/11!", "Why do you hate America!?"and the ever popular "Benghazi!"
Edit fall 2014: Bill Maher picks up on the Zombie theme with Zombie Lies in his New Rules.
Send any tricks you've discovered to unclegeo at myaurora dot org.
How we talk to voters about economic issues is very important. It is crucial to step back to basics and "frame" the issue to provide context and to communicate our core values.
The central frame conservatives use when talking about the economy is that the free market is inherently benevolent. Tinkering with it only degrades its ability to create good. If you just leave it alone everything will be fine.
Like many conservative frames, it's black and white, simple and direct; that is why their frames have broad appeal. Yet history -recent history even- time and again the tragic results of such an orthodox faith in the free market.
A society where citizens cannot legally direct or correct market misbehavior and inequities is defenseless against greed. Kings, churches and aristocracy have traditionally sought to reduce constraints on their actions and concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people. The Founders knew the dangers of concentrated wealth having power in government -that is why we do not have a House of Lords. We are empowered by the Constitution to make decisons about anything that affects our lives. We are allowed to check destructive market forces.
Explode the basic conservative premise: "I don't believe democratic self government is inherently evil and I don't believe an unfettered free market is inherently good. Both need checks to keep them from getting out of control."
Good progressive frames for this issue are fairness, opportunity, common good, protection and strength (see "Our Progressive Values" in the left column). For example:
- Is it fair that a few very wealthy people can gamble with our entire economy and put everyone else in danger?
- Is it fair that workers work harder and harder for no increase in pay?
- When wealth accumulates into fewer and fewer hands opportunity shrinks for everyone else.
- Our Constitution empowers citizens to make decisions that protect the common good. We need protection from irresponsible and greedy banks.
- Good jobs for all and protections against the tragedies of greed create a healthy economy that moves America forward. (The underlying values of opportunity, common good and progress are implied here by other words.)
Facts are facts and they're obviously important (and on our side), but humans most often make decisions on deeply held beliefs; if the facts don't fit they are discarded. All issues get easier to discuss when you back away from the details, misdeeds and statistics to focus on the underlying values.
Try framing any issue in terms of these core progressive values:
- Citizen Participation and Responsibility
- Opportunity & Fairness
- Strength & Progress
- Freedom & Equality
- Commonwealth & Investment
- Protection & Security
- Justice & Accountability
- Decency & Dignity
You really want to get scared, read The New Jim Crow by Michelle
Alexander about how the Republican initiated War on Drugs was built to
take the place of Jim Crow laws so they could continue to routinely
disenfranchise millions of African Americans by conviction and
incarceration while at the same time leading poor whites to understand
that African Americans -not the power/money elite- were the one's
screwing them. Cleverly, Republican framing was not overtly racist
and tended more to their modern fear mongering and hate of democratic
self rule. Under those frames Democratic legislators and presidents, not
wanting to appear weak, went along with it.
In some cities, half the African American men cannot vote -in or
out of prison. Through various police tricks and legal cover, African
Americans are arrested and convicted far out of proportion to crime
rates. Drug possession is actually more likely in white communities of any economic class, yet 3/4 of those imprisoned for it are black.
The take aways are that voter suppression and institutional racism is
certainly nothing new for conservatives and that if this was being done
to whites there'd be a rebellion.
I'm also sick about the Court's interpretations that weaken or negate
constitutional protections as they could just as easily be applied to
political enemies. The same court will decide voter supression laws and
I'm not hopeful they'll rule in citizen's favor. Add in domestic spying and any thinking person should feel chills up their spine.
a Children's Game he'd be Where's Waldo:
Public town halls - can't find him!
Public debates with challengers - can't find him!
Don't be shy, Erik, we're only your constituents!
A UPS driver - he might understand what it's like to be UPS driver who pays a higher percent in taxes than the UPS CEO.
Honest, he wouldn't take credit for a highway he voted against.
A voter in CD3, he or she'd be mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!
Our Progressive Values
- Citizen Responsibility
- Opportunity & Fairness
- Strength & Progress
- Freedom & Equality
- Commonwealth & Investment
- Protection & Security
- Justice & Accountability
- Decency & Dignity
Resources for Effective Activism
Help The Pocket Progressive Thrive
- FrameShopMN: Sort of like Al Capone demanding a probe of the FBI. http://t.co/itBAr1JgNI #RomneyShambles #GOP #shameless... http://t.co/FjgInSwKxz
- FrameShopMN: RT @keepon2012: What The Founding Fathers Thought About Corporations http://t.co/W31RrLP5B3 via @AddInfoOrg
- FrameShopMN: The New #GOP! - Republicans drop elephant, dig apt new mascots. http://t.co/r7GtiaOMj2 #hip #modern #politics #p2 http://t.co/772KD3PYeT
- FrameShopMN: @Ford exec: commercial van sales grew 14% in 2012 - Obama Recovery rocks on. #economy #p2 #stribpol
- FrameShopMN: Upside surprise - 175k new jobs in May! - Obama Recovery rocks on. http://t.co/eYLqIpeGuG #p2 #stribpol http://t.co/xgYnEFLhky