by TortDeform com, Fri Dec 15, 2006 at 07:22:07 AM EST
To view the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation's new series, click here.
Cross-posted from Tort Deform: The Civil Justice Defense Blog
by Nina Mason
If you're reading this blog, you probably already know the truth about tort reform. You probably already know that powerful special interests looking to reduce financial liability by promising a cure for "lawsuit abuse" (a spin-born ailment). And you probably already know that they're doing pretty well. Between 1986 and 2004, more than 38 states passed some form of legislation aimed at civil justice "reform."
Shortly after Georgia passed sweeping tort reform in 2005, the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation came to Crane MetaMarketing, the firm I've been working for, wondering: how do we get the voters to care about this?
How indeed? I read Lakoff. I read everything I could get my hands on about tort reform. I read what the other advocacy groups and the trial lawyers were saying about tort reform. But the response campaign seemed to be falling on deaf ears. Voters were still looking the other way while legislators in state after state shook hands on the deal. In focus groups, we found that the public could recite negative frames like "clogged courts" and "lawsuit lottery," but they couldn't apply these abstractions to actual cases. Still, it seemed that fighting the frames was futile. The facts were out there, but they were bouncing off without challenging the validity of the negative frames (you have probably noticed this happening!)
What we needed was a whole new frame. We needed a concept that would link deeply held values with civil justice. We needed a frame that would trigger a positive, values-based conversation about American civil justice to help the unengaged public grasp what's really at stake.
To get things started, we developed a metaphor that evokes a foundational American ideal: fair play. In the narrative, civil justice acts as a "compass" that helps us as a nation locate "due north"--an agreed upon code of acceptable ethical and moral principles and behaviors. The compass metaphor describes the function of civil justice for all citizens (and American society), and provides a non-partisan frame to equip audiences to sniff out the fear-based rhetoric.
The narrative needed a voice that could break through the fog of public apathy and simulated "frames"--while hooking founding values. So we used pithy writing, humor, and animation to illustrate the concepts and hired Alexander Hamilton as our narrator (luckily, he was willing to work pro bono!).
The first three animations in the series can be viewed at www.fairplay.org (along with whitepapers and annotated links in topical resource centers that enable varying levels of learning). Fair Play, the first (click on Hamilton to launch it), introduces the compass metaphor and describes the role civil justice plays in American society. All are "narrated" by Hamilton, but different topics are "hosted" by different founders. (John Adams hosts "Impartial Judges" and Ben Franklin hosts "Adversarial Process.") More topics and more founders will appear in the next few weeks! The first series includes seven animations.
Did we succeed? You tell me.
Feedback and client referrals are more than welcome Nina Mason (firstname.lastname@example.org).