Donald Trump,” by Matt A.J.

June 13, 2018; The Guardian

US linguist George Lakoff and former press secretary Gil Duran wrote an article this week in the Guardian on how Trump is using language and media as “principal tools” to attack democracy. The article rings an alarm for all who care about democracy, with a focus on the role of media. Readers may have noticed that NPQ has been delving deeper into the powerful narratives that shape our world and push the nonprofit sector to seek to work masterfully at this level.

The authors politicize the media’s general inability to play, or fight, well in what is essentially a narrative battle we are losing. They write, “By faithfully transmitting Trump’s words and ideas, the press helps him to attack, and thereby control, the press itself.”

They continue, “So the press is at a disadvantage when dealing with a super salesman with an instinctive ability to manipulate thought by 1) framing first, 2) repeating often, and 3) leading others to repeat his words by getting people to attack him within his own frame.”

They remind us that “Language can shape the way we think.” Then outline Trump’s summarize his strategy as:

  1. Pre-emptive framing—”to get a frame advantage”
  2. Diversion—”to divert attention when news could embarrass him”
  3. Deflection: to “shift the blame to others.”
  4. Trial balloon—to “test how much you can get away with”

They also provide basic suggestions for countering this “politricking” and stopping the spread of lies:

  1. “Report the true frames that he’s trying to preempt.”
  2. “Report the truth that he is trying to divert attention from.”
  3. “Put the blame where it belongs.”
  4. “Bust the trial balloon. Report what the strategies are trying to hide.”

Now, let’s get to work doing our part to hack the narrative!—Cyndi Suarez