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George Lakoff: 10 Rules for Resistance Against Trump

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Recommendations for democracy activists as Trump's second year in office begins.

(Editor's note: A summary of 10 points for effectively resisting Trump has recently been a viral sensation. Those points came from a talk retired linguist and cognitive scientist George Lakoff gave last year in northern California. Here are those takeaways followed by Lakoff's summation of his talk at Sonoma State University.)

1. Don't use the president's surname.

2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone.

3. Do not argue with those who support him -- it doesn't work.

4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state.

5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies grow.

6. No more helpless/hopeless talk.

7. Support artists and the arts.

8. Be careful not to spread fake news -- check it out first.

9. Take care of yourselves, and:


"This wonderfully viral list comes from a talk I gave in Sonoma, California, last January," Lakoff tweeted. "Since then, it's been attributed to many people, including @RBReich and @BerniceKing! It's close, but not exactly what I said. Here's my list."

Ten Points for Democracy Activists

1. To understand the basic issues, read “A Minority President." (This article starts with noting Trump was not elected by a popular vote majority and deconstructs the societal segments he appealed to and why.)

2. Know the difference between framing and propaganda. Frames are mental structures used in thought; every thought uses frames. Every word in every language is defined relative to a mental structure — a frame. Frames, in themselves, are unavoidable and neutral. Honest framing is the use of frames you believe and that are used to express truths. Propaganda expresses lies that propagandists know are lies for the sake of political or social advantage.

3. Hold Republicans accountable. Trump is dominating the media, partly to establish his authority, but mainly to divert attention and provide cover to Republican leaders. Keep focused on Republican actions. Minimize publicizing Trump — his image, his name, his tweets.

4. Focus attention on substance, not sideshows. Trump’s attacks on freedom, democracy, and the innocent matter more than his tweets. Positively and strongly reframe his pre-emptive framing (see tweet diagram).

5. Focus on democracy and freedom. In a government by, for, and of the people, there is, or should be, no distinction between the public and the government. The consequences are:

  • Empathy: government should care about, and for, the public;
  • Transparency: government should inform the public truthfully;
  • Freedom and Opportunity: the private depends on public resources, both for private enterprise and private life. For example, if you’re not educated, you’re not free. If you have no health care, you’re not free. If you’re impoverished, you lack opportunity.

Republicans are destroying all of these by:

  • Removing “regulations,” which are public protections;
  • Imposing gag rules and budget cuts on government agencies removes transparency;
  • Privatizing education, protection, communication, infrastructure, nature, etc., are attacks on freedom.

6. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it out, on the “big four” non-partisan political fact-checkers—, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, and Subscribe to real news!

7. Understand the brain’s politics: All ideas are physical, embodied in neural circuitry. The more the circuitry is activated, the stronger the circuitry gets and the more deeply the ideas are held. Worldviews are complex neural circuits fixed in the brain. People can only understand what fits the neural circuitry in their brains. Real facts can be filtered out by worldviews. “Alternative facts” are lies — falsehoods that follow from ideologies that are fixed, that define one’s identity and so are taken as ‘higher truths.”

8. Remember: We’re the POWERFUL American Majority. No more helpless/hopeless talk. Anger, fear and cynicism benefit Trump’s GOP. Remember: Don’t think of an elephant! Don’t use Republican language, or repeat their positions, even to negate them. Frame using ideas you believe and real facts that are contextualized and morally framed. Avoid isolated facts and numbers. The best resistance is positive persistence.

9. Be positive: frame all issues from a progressive moral viewpoint. Take the viewpoint of the public good, not corporate profiteering. Take the viewpoint of the impoverished and weak, not the rich and powerful. Take the viewpoint of preservation, not the destruction of nature.

10. Join the Citizens’ Communication Network: until it is officially functioning, you can unofficially join by following me on Facebook and Twitter (@GeorgeLakoff) for regular thoughts and updates.




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