In the eyes of George Lakoff, a linguist and author who analyzes how language and media form liberal and conservative doctrine, we worry about the wrong stuff. Or don’t worry at all, which, he says can be a bigger problem.
We don’t even know it, but big government and big business are controlling our lives through American media propaganda. Does Lakoff mean the “B” word? Brainwashed?
“Basically, what you’ve got are monopolies running your life in any dimension and it’s not mentioned,” Lakoff said to RawStory.com. “It’s not discussed. It’s not a topic of conversation. It’s not a topic of legislation. It isn’t something that’s out there.
“Corporations run your life all the time. Look at the corporate ads on TV. Corporation ads are innocent. They have nice little sounds. Think of the music in oil company ads and the people in them. It’s like, ‘We’re pleasant. We’re progressive. We’re making progress. We’re cute,’ etc., when they’re actually running your life.”
In other words, Lakoff is saying we are being hit over the head constantly with messages that are misleading, deceitful and evoke fear. And it’s all intentional.
Why? According to Lakoff, to influence our politics and policies. Republicans shout that Obamacare is not good for the country loud and often enough, and people believe it—even the people whom it would help. Fear-mongering.
In December 2013, the Gallup poll found that nearly three out of four people feared “big government” more than “big business” or “big labor.” After President Obama took office in 2009, 55 percent feared Big Brother. By late 2013, the last time Gallup asked, the government-fearing figure was 72 percent, the highest in 50 years.
Only 21 percent of Americans said that big business was a bigger threat, which means the other 79 percent of the population does not get it or chooses to ignore that most big businesses, especially those online, breach our privacy daily, peek into our personal space, profile us, and resell that information.
Banks, insurers. . . they have access to our personal information and with it are able to shape our lives. And no one seems to care enough, Lakoff said.
Rawstory pointed out that “many small problems get undue attention while widespread problems go unacknowledged and unanswered.”
It used this example: taxpayers spend millions on Amber alerts, which usually end up being the missing child with an angry family member. In contrast, Americans continuously overlook the millions of children nationally who lack health insurance, who are malnourished and have rising illiteracy rates. Nobody needs to be reminded which of these two issues is likely to be on the evening news.
“Whenever one group uses fear to manipulate another, someone benefits and someone pays,” wrote sociologist Barry Glassner in the 10th anniversary edition of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, where that example originated. As he noted, “Threats to the U.S. financial system, obscured from public view in part by endless attention to the ‘war on terror,’ undermined America’s national security more than Osama bin Laden and his organization ever did.”
And yet, Gallup found Americans fear big government much more than big business. Gallup didn’t cite more tangible reasons why many Americans fear government. It didn’t mention the racism Black people endure: abusive policing, being arrested for victimless crimes, being followed or harassed by white law enforcement, or targeted by overzealous prosecutors. It cited a right-wing obsession, Obamacare, and Eric Snowden’s revelations about cyber stealing.
“Our self image is a nation of self individualists,” Glassner said to Rawstory. “You make it on your own and success comes from your own hard work. That doesn’t mesh well with any kind of collective or community notion.”
Said Lakoff: “You have all of these progressives out there who went to [liberal arts] school and did well thinking that all you have to do is tell people something once, give them the facts, they’re all reasons to the right conclusion,” he said. They think “that’s all you can do, or should do, when that’s utterly false… That’s not how the brain works.
“For conservatives, democracy is about the liberty to do what you want to do to anybody and meet no public responsibility,” he said. “With progressives, people care about each other and work through the government to provide public resources so that private life can function and private business can function…The whole idea of public resources for well being and freedom isn’t there for conservatives.”