Sunday, October 26, 2008


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In US politics this year, as always, we have seen a fair number of attempts to change the subject. The McCain campaign, when asked some difficult questions, seems at least in part to have focused on Obama's involvement with Stephen Ayers instead. The Obama campaign, when asked some difficult questions, seems at least in part to have focused on such things as Sarah Palin's incipient grandchild.

This is reframing things. When presented with a question, answer something else. Or better yet, make a charge that is entirely unrelated.

It's a particularly effective technique, and a particularly insidious one. When you're losing... change the subject. Accuse the other side of something else. If it's scandalous enough, it doesn't even matter if it is completely irrelevant to the question at hand

If this sort of behaviour were confined to US politics alone, we could brush it off... politics as usual. But it's not. Reframing happens in everyday life as well. Look hard enough and you'll find it in your walk of life too, I bet. And woe be to you if you're the frame-ee rather than the frame-er. It can be quite hard to get the question back where it belongs.

So watch out for that.

Know of any examples of reframing? Let's hear about them

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1 comment:

Moulton said...

You've probably forgotten about it by now, but a year and a half ago, I raised the issue of reframing in the context of my criticisms of IDCab on the English Wikipedia. At the time I raised it, only one person (Dave Souza) even took notice of my comment. To his credit, he bothered to ask if this was an established idea, or if I had just invented some new word. I directed him to the literature (including Wikipedia's own article on the subject).

Even though I demonstrated that IDCab was employing reframing in an unethical manner (the way one finds in political propaganda), my observations were largely ignored (if not deleted from view). It took ArbCom almost a year to note how FeloniousMonk had strayed from the straight and narrow, partly from his practice of reframing issues in an egregiously unethical, unprofessional, and unscholarly manner.