There's an interview with George Lakoff
at UC Berkeley News
. Lakoff is a professor of cognitive linguistics at Berkeley. He's the author of Moral Politics and Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. One of Lakoff's main points in his work is that how we speak and think is conditioned by the metaphors we use (up means more, anger is heat etc.) Lately, he's has been exploring the use of framing in political discourse. Choosing the frame means that you get to decide how the debate proceeds.
For example, Lakoff makes several good points abot the "war on terror". Is it a war? Not really, like the "war on drugs", it's a metaphor. Wars are between states. There are maybe a few thousand terrorists at most. There's no state to fight, no one to sue for peace etc. Maybe terrorism is a crime and the metaphor is that we need to round up these criminals. Bush has positioned himself as a "war" president. What if there's no war (except, of course, the wrong one he started in Iraq, maybe there's a group of bad guys who need to be locked up. Perhaps, we're marching to the wrong metaphor.
Public debates often rise and fall on metaphors. Consider the RIAA and internet music "piracy". The RIAA and MPAA are obviously using the metaphor of "sharing is theft". In actual fact, it's copyright violation. It's a lot easier to get the public worked up over the notion nameless teen thugs stealing the hard earned bread of poor Britney Spears than it is to get people aroused over a fairly abstract concept like copyright violation.
People do see through the metaphors though. Apparently, during one of the MPAA anti-piracy ads in a movie theatre, a group stood up and began making pirate noises. ARRRRRRRR, me hearties.