Words are powerful, and the most powerful ones are those you never think about for a moment. When we hear news outlets and read in papers about stories, we often get caught up in the "narrative" as it is told and become outraged or enamored accordingly. What we do not often stop to consider is the way about which the topic is being discussed, and whether or not the language itself leads us toward an inevitable conclusion.
The reality is that you can take almost any fact and by the language with which you discuss it, put your own “spin” on the story to say almost anything you want, even if it totally contradicts the facts.
Abortion has been framed a question of “women’s rights” and most people believe that it is really about that. The wise people in favor of abortion who pitch it within this frame realized a long time ago that is the way in which their position can gain the greatest amount of support, and also maintain the appearance of having the moral high ground over their opposition. After all, who would say “I am against women’s rights!” Probably no one. Having thus successfully framed the debate, all they need to do is caricature all who disagree with their position (abortion) as barbaric, bigoted, morally deficient people who are “against women’s rights.” So, the frame is really a tool that enables you to labels your opponent and dismiss their arguments no matter how substantive they may be.
How many people, however, have stopped to ask whether or not this frame is actually propaganda in and of itself which influences the debate by the nature of its language? Lets consider the language for a moment. In order to do this, we have to stop talking about the frame of the debate, and look down to its substance. Is it necessarily true that those who oppose abortion are against the rights of women?
If you are in doubt about this, consider this scenario. A woman is pregnant with a female child. Which women’s right’s should be considered? Why should the rights of the already born woman overrule the rights of the unborn woman?Clearly, those against abortion are not against the rights of women, rather they are simply in favor or “equal rights” if you will, for the unborn child.
So, the label of “women’s rights” for pro-abortion does not actually address the issue, as it does not consider the rights of the unborn woman. However, lets stop for a moment and consider the frame “pro-life.”
Is it true that all those against abortion are in favor of the life of all concerned in this question, including both the unborn child and the mother? And, is it also true that all those who are in favor of abortion are willing to terminate the life of a ‘fetus’ and are thus against its life? Yes, by definition. So then, does the “pro-life” frame more accurately represent reality than “pro-choice”?
Yes, and the implications of this are obvious and terrifying.
Many, many people are convinced that this debate should be framed as “women’s rights” when in reality it is about no such thing. How have they been convinced of such is what is scary. Hilariously, most people today consider themselves to be immune to propaganda, as though it only affects people who are not as “smart as I am” etc. They think about it with an attitude of “Surely I would see it coming and know what it was.”
The problem which is rarely pointed out or discussed is whether or not the FRAME is legitimate or illegitimate. Often, those attempting to frame the debate in their favor by certain language react with feigned naivety or otherwise outrage when it is suggested that the very frame of the debate they have put forward is deceptive.
The whole issue concerned in the “women’s rights” frame of debate is not difficult to understand logically, but it is nearly impossible to talk about without extreme emotional reactions.
So, maybe we need to consider two other examples in which framing the debate makes all the difference in the world.
In the first, consider the push for acceptance of “homosexual marriage” is being framed as debate about “marriage equality” and is being spoken about as a “civil right.” You see how that works now don’t you? Why issues are spoken about in the way they are: to frame the debate. Because if you present your case in this way, it ensures that you will win by nature of the language you have used and not based on the merits of your position. The language with which you have framed the debate allows you to end the debate before it begins by labeling your opponent as a bigot who denies rights of others and who considers some people as inferior others.
In the second, consider how the actions of ISIS (or ISIL if you are President Obama) are being framed by the media and President Obama. It is continually being framed as though “it is not Islamic,” being rather just a group of “radical extremists.” This frame allows a way for them to condemn the actions while not addressing their source! Whenever ISIS is talked about, the beliefs of those practicing such things are ignored entirely and are left as “beyond the scope of discussion”! When in reality, it is precisely their beliefs which lead ISIS to the actions they have taken, and their beliefs are deeply rooted in both the example of their prophet Mohammed and in the teachings of the Qu’ran. Clearly any idea about how to deal with ISIS must take into consideration their core beliefs—which are the reason they even exist! Everything about ISIS is Islamic, and it is impossible to claim otherwise, unless you have framed the debate from the get-go as a “non-Islamic issue”. Any strategy which ignores this is designed to fail. If you’d like to read of an approach which adequately acknowledges and considers their beliefs, look here.
Framing seems to be the chief debate strategy these days. It is no longer about what is TRUE and what is not, but rather about labeling your opponent as backwards if they do not agree with your position.
Using a frame allows you a quick and easy shortcut to a logical fallacy of “personal incredulity” or “appeal to the people” so that you don’t have to deal with the substance of the question at hand.
Open your eyes and start to see through the frames down into the substance. It may be harder, as it requires more thinking and work, but in the end you’ll have a result worth considering since you will thinking about the substance of the arguments and not just how they are labeled.
Don't be fooled by the language, dig into the facts.