George Lakoff points out what’s wrong with the hashtag they’ve adopted — #NotTheEnemy — in contesting Trump’s assertion that journalists are “the enemies of the people”.
The key lesson: when we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.
When President Richard Nixon addressed the country during Watergate and used the phrase “I am not a crook,” he coupled his image with that of a crook.
He established what he was denying by repeating his opponents’ message.
This illustrates a key principle of framing: avoid the language of the attacker because it evokes their frame and helps make their case.
Why? Because, in order to negate a frame, you have to activate it. Frames, like all other ideas, are constituted by neural circuitry in the brain. Every time a circuit is activated, its synapses get stronger. When you negate a frame, you help the other side.
Avoid repeating the charges! Instead, use your own words and values to reframe the conversation. When journalists protest that they are “Not The Enemy,” they should remember how well “I am not a crook” worked for Nixon.
The important frame here is Truth. Donald Trump despises journalists because the duty of a good journalist is to tell the truth and inform the public. Trump doesn’t like the truth – or an informed public – because the success of his anti-democratic agenda depends on lies and distractions.
This is why he has labeled journalists as “enemies.” Because Trump is an enemy of truth, and you can’t have democracy without truth.
Journalists are the courageous people we trust to #ProtectTheTruth.
Obvious, isn’t it? We had the same experience in the Brexit referendum when good people devoted endless resources to pointing out that the Leave campaign’s claim that leaving the EU would give an extra £350 a week for the NHS was incorrect. The more they corrected it, the more firmly the figure of £350m was embedded in people’s minds.