Sunday, December 16, 2007

the difference between conservative and liberal think tanks

After exploring the PNAC think tank website, I realize just how aggressive the conservative side is in framing politics. Not only does PNAC "[accept the US] as a ruling body and moral standard for the rest of the world," as Ian said, it actually caused such an idea to become popular and mainstream. By framing certain issues, such as the recurring one of American "global responsibilities," as fact, and ignoring opposing opinions, PNAC is extremely successful in attracting a strong following.

UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff says that one of the reasons conservatives are so successful in politics as well as in think tanks outside government is the framing of their ideas as the best for the people. In this article, he explains that wealthy conservatives provide funds for intellectuals to write from a conservative perspective. As a result, "over the last 30 years [conservative] think tanks have made a heavy investment in ideas and in language." Lakoff explains that conservatives have put huge block grants into think tanks, while progressives give more of their funds to grassroots organizations (fits with their image more, for sure).

I can see in the Statement of Principles of PNAC, after hearing what Lakoff had to say about language and framing, many examples of such framing strategies. Presenting American global responsibilities as concrete, and downplaying the significance of those to whom America owes responsibilities is, are thus very effective ways to use language to give power to conservative ideals.

Julie Zhao

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