Category Archives: N

How “the Nanny State” Influences Your Mind

A common way to disparage the government’s constitutional efforts to “promote the general Welfare”  is to call it the nanny state. Like tax relief, this two-word phrase packs a punch, and Framologists should avoid and reframe it.

The word "nanny" brings many connotations that mischaracterizes government efforts to protect citizens from harm.
The word “nanny” brings many connotations that mischaracterizes government efforts to protect citizens from harm.

Connotations of the nanny metaphor include:

  • Because nannies care for children, if the government is behaving like a nanny, it is inappropriately treating us like children.
  • Nannies are employees, so who is the boss? If We the People are the boss, we should be telling the government what to do, not the other way around.
  • Nannies are optional. They can be fired. Parents can care for their own children or hire a different nanny. If the government is like a nanny, do we need it at all?
  • Nannies are usually women, and in the patriarchal strict-father model, women are supposed to support their men, not tell them what to do.

So this two-word phrase brings to mind several tenets of the strict-father view of government. Consider reframing the “nanny state” as one of the following:

  • A strong, caring state
  • A reponsible state
  • A protective state

According to George Lakoff, empathy and responsbility are the core progressive values, and speaking of government this way brings these values to mind.

It likely also would bring their opposites to mind. Do opponents of the “nanny state” really want:

  • An uncaring state
  • A negligent state
  • An absent state
  • A wimpy state?

How do you think Framologists should reframe the nanny state?

Net Neutrality: What’s at Stake?

Internet connection
There’s nothing to stop ISPs to slow down or block our access to websites on home Internet connections. Americans have never enjoyed net neutrality protection on mobile Internet connections.
Photo Credit: wheresmysocks via Compfight cc

As I understand last week’s court decision that overturned the FCC’s net neutrality rules, Internet service providers (ISPs) now can slow down or block access to any website they choose.

As pointed out in this On the Media story, ISPs’ interest in this power likely is to be able to charge other companies more money rather than trying to silence blogs such as this one. For example, Comcast might try to charge Netflix or Amazon more money to use its network.

Support Net Neutrality
Net neutrality is about freedom of speech, and we should talk about it that way.
Photo Credit: Brian Lane Winfield Moore via Compfight cc

But there’s nothing to stop them from squelching online speech.

Would Americans accept it if the US government claimed the power to slow down or block any website it chose? This illustrates George Lakoff’s principle of the conservation of government: that less government regulation means that corporations decide. In this case, it’s the big ISPs.

On the Media also points out that net neutrality has never applied to mobile Internet access, just home in-the-wall connections. But it should apply to any Internet access.

I’ve also heard net neutrality called Internet freedom. I think that’s better way to frame the issue because it makes clearer that freedom is at stake: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of commerce, at a minimum. While accurate, neutrality doesn’t carry that moral punch.

Another potential phrase is online equality.

How do you think Framologists should talk about equal bandwidth access?

Framing Judicial Nominations

For a long time, some Republican senators have accused President Barack Obama of trying to fill Federal courts with liberal judges. If that were all there was to it, it would be just routine partisanship. What makes it different is that they frame these judicial appointments as “court-packing.”

The phrase originates with a struggle between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Supreme Court, which had struck down several New Deal laws. In response, FDR proposed in 1937 adding six more justices to the Supreme Court’s nine for a total of fifteen. These appointments would have given his supporters a majority on the court. This was known as his court-packing plan. This plan was extremely controversial among both Republicans and Democrats and never passed.

Therefore, with the court-packing accusation, the story these senators are telling goes something like this:

The president is not satisfied to fill vacant seats in the judiciary. He wants to cheat. If we don’t stop him, our courts will be overrun with liberal, activist judges that will try to achieve victories for Obama through the courts that he can’t win through Congress.

In this story, of course, President Obama is framed as the villain while Republicans that try to block his judicial nominees are the heros.

The problem with this story is that it isn’t true. Obama has proposed nominees only to vacant positions, not to new positions. So why do they say it? The court-packing charge associates Obama with FDR, the radical Republicans bullies‘ ultimate foe, riling the base. It also sows doubt about the president’s intentions. And people that have heard only claims that he’s trying to pack the courts may believe it.

How do we prevent this? The best I’ve been able to think of is to call the claim a lie:

That’s a lie. The president is fulfilling his oath of office by appointing judges to vacant seats as the Constitution requires. Trying to stop him from doing his duty is obstruction of justice for Americans that have already waited too long for judges to hear their cases. As the saying goes, “Justice delayed is justice denied,” and that’s wrong.

In this story, the president is the hero for doing his duty to protect the right of accused Americans to a speedy trial. The villain is those that try to stop him. Obstruction of justice is a crime.

What do you think should be said in response to the “court-packing” charge?