Framing and Reality TV

In her blog today, Arianna Huffington asks if CBS’s new reality offering, Undercover Boss, is the most subversive show on television. It’s a provocative question, as most of us would like to think that a reality show existed that could turn the genre on its head.  Maybe spotlight some of the reality that real Americans face, rather than spotlighting primarily those obsessed with fame. In the show, CEOs infiltrate the lower ranks of their organizations, often service industries, to see how business is going on the ground. Huffington proposes that in revealing the reality and conditions of low-wage work and workers, the show allows audiences a somewhat unprecedented look at what it really takes to get by in this country, while also illuminating the stark divide between the haves and have nots.

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Framing and the Facts

Here at The Opportunity Agenda, we talk a lot about values, and the importance of building communications around them. In fact, we built a whole organization around six core values that drive our work and the way we talk about it. We do this, of course, because these values matter to us.  Seeing them realized and supported are central to our goals. But as NPR explained recently, leading with values is also a savvy communications strategy. In a story on people's beliefs about climate change, reporter Christopher Joyce describes findings from Yale's Cultural Cognition Project that people form their views about climate change, among other things, based more on their existing worldview - and values - than on the facts presented to them.

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A New Beginning?

For months we’ve been arguing that President Obama’s failure to convey a core narrative, rooted in shared values, has been a major impediment to his success on health care reform and other progressive priorities.  At long last, he seems to be coming to the same conclusion.  As he told George Stephanopoulos last week:

OBAMA: If there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values. And that I do think is a mistake of mine. I think the assumption was, if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on the, you know this provision, or that law, or are we making a good, rational decision here – 

STEPHANOPOULOS: That people would get it.

OBAMA: That people will get it. And I think that, you know, what they've ended up seeing is this feeling of remoteness and detachment where, you know, there's these technocrats up here, these folks who are making decisions. Maybe some of them are good, maybe some aren't, but do they really get us and what we're going through? And I think that I can do a better job of that and partly because I do believe that we're in a stronger position now than we were in a year ago.

Let's hope he means it.

For more, watch this.

Why can't American business create American jobs?

Over at Open Left last weekend Paul Rosenberg noted that the Left and Right have different temperaments and worldviews so effective strategies for one side do not translate into effective strategies for the other.So just what should we do?

Challenge the Frame by Posing the Question   (4.00 / 7)
We do challenge authority and pose questions fairly well.

Why can't American business create American jobs?

The talking points flow from the question. While we wont hammer the talking points, We can pose the question. What would happen if each of the major blogs and bloggers posted a diary posing this question for a week.

As long as the Question is challenging enough it will create the conflict that the media seems to feed off.
by: Judeling @ Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 17:40

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Busting the Practice of Myth Busting

As mounting evidence shows, the practice of busting myths - lining up facts to disprove an opponent's false assertions - just doesn't work.  Most recently, Sharon Begley takes on the practice in Newsweek, exploring why people believe nutty stories about health care reform or supposed controversies about the president's birth certificate.  She reports that, basically, people want to believe what they want to believe and they predisposed to ignoring any facts that clash with those beliefs.  In fact, she finds that we actually go out of our way to find facts that bolster our beliefs.  And most people are not too picky about the source of those facts, which makes the internet an ideal tool for them.

However, it's true that the audiences we want to reach are not usually completely opposed to our arguments and comitted to disagreeing with us regardless of the facts.  Usually, we need to sway the middle, the people who haven't necessarily made up their minds.  Why not line up statistics showing how wrong opposing arguments are for them?  There are a few reasons.  First, even with these groups, facts are not going to be the swaying element of your argument.  If they are leaning toward believing that immigration is generally bad for the country, numbers showing how much immigrants contribute to the economy are not going sway them alone.  It's important, instead, to frame arguments with the basic values that we know our audiences share.  In the case of immigration, fairness is important.  Numbers can then support how, because immigrants pay into a health care system, for instance, it's only fair that they receive the benefits from it.

But with these middle audiences, there is another danger in relying on myth busting, and that's repeating your opponent's argument.  If a series of myth busts say "immigrants do NOT commit more crimes than citizens" or "health care reform does NOT want to kill your grandmother", you have put those arguments back into print once again, with only a measely "not" separating them from your opponents.  Worse, some myth busting sheets repeat the arguments word for word and the refute them.  Research shows that this mainly leaves the bad argument lingering in people's minds, not the counter.  As Shankar Vedantam reports in the Washington Post:

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