Review of

PragerU Video: The Dark Art of Framing

Our summary: Jeff Myers describes the way that liberals often employ deceptive arguments by selectively including or excluding relevant information. He provides examples, and concludes with recommendations such as memorizing bullet points and refraining from insults.

A welcome call for rhetorical awareness

Tyler Romero Pittsburgh, PA Published 20 Dec 2019

Jeff Myers’ admonition for applying critical thinking to political dialogue is very worthy of praise and support.  It would not fix everything in our political system, but it is an essential part of the solution.  It also could help take the temperature down a notch in social media.

Though, I had a hard time following his examples.  By “framing”, for starters, rhetoric experts more commonly mean the strategic use of metaphors and stereotypes, rather than suppression of evidence.   For example: speaking of immigrants in terms of an infestation (biological metaphor) or an invasion (military metaphor).

The first example Myers offers is the way that liberals say “those who have more than their fair share have to give it back.”  The metaphor here is thievery: that is, those who have more must have stolen it from other people.  We should rightly be skeptical of anyone who makes this argument.

He also accidentally demonstrates his own version of framing when he casually mentions the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Venezuela in the context of young people’s positive responses to the word “socialism.”  By this framing, he craftily hides from view the successful countries who have more expansive welfare states than ours.  (Just like a movie director shows some stuff and hides some stuff.)

His second example is very muddled.  Myers’ claim seems to be: liberals believe that anyone who claims the right to the free exercise of religion is a bigot.  Hmm.  He doesn’t tell us what their argument is.   But he asserts that the “exercise of religion” means the right to influence others.  Okay, but… is there anyone saying religious folks don’t have the right to influence others?  I don’t get it.  Maybe it has something to do with the right to refuse service to gay shoppers, or to put manger scenes on public property…I just can’t even guess.

The third as well.  Myers seems to assume that hate speech is defined purely arbitrarily by campus liberals.  I’m not sure that is true, but, that aside… I can’t figure out what the supposed “framing” is here.  These liberals are being very explicit about what they think; they aren’t trying to fool anyone with appealing rhetoric, they just think there is a very wide range of statements that meet the definition of hate speech.  None of us has to agree with their judgments about any particular statement.  Where is the devious framing?

Abortion, actually, is definitely the best example of framing that Myers cites.  “Pro-choicers” frame it in terms of freedom (“you want to tell women that they have no choice?”), while “pro-lifers” frame it in terms of murder (“you want to kill babies?”)  Neither framing paints a fair or nuanced picture, and neither promotes healthy dialogue.  Myers is right to raise our consciousness about framing.

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