"There's no accounting for taste" means people cannot explain their preferences and likes or dislikes. But our ideas, our words, our actions "make traks". They could be obvious or hidden, but we create Frames...
Whether you like him or not, Newt Gingrich has an amazing and skillful ability to frame. And if you are outside the USA and don’t know who Newt is, he was the former Speaker of the House during the Clinton Presidency and is now one of the candidates for President on the Republican side. Now his skill in framing and reframing has appeared recently during the Republican Presidential debates. In those debates, Newt has showed himself incredibly skilled in detecting frames, identifying frames, challenging frames, deframing, reframing, and outframing.
I first began noticing this in the early debates when the “media” people who were asking the questions would ask a rhetorical, manipulative and semantically loaded question which Newt called a “gotcha” question. Then Newt called their hands on it. “That’s a gotcha question, can we raise the level of this conversation?” He did that several times last year. At first it seemed to have embarrassed the person who asked the unfair question that was semantically loaded and after doing that two or three times, the media news people stopped doing it! I found that amazing! Single-handedly he called them on the assumptions inside of the questions and because he didn’t take the bait and get caught up in the content, he brought to people’s attention the framework that the questions were coming from thereby exposing the uneven hand in the media people.
That’s leadership by framing. That is both detecting the frames and by identifying it and making it conscious, reframed it. And whoever sets the frame controls the game, so Newt’s ability to frame demonstrated leadership.
In the days after Newt started to do that, there was lots of political analysis about the questions and his answers. And as a result, the questions became “cleaner” — more honest, more straightforward, and less semantically loaded. And that improved the quality of the following debates.
Last week Newt again went for frames rather than content. When Juan Williams asked him about his comment about Obama being the “food stamp President” and “isn’t that belittling him?” Newt made a meta-comment to the effect that while those who are politically-correct may “dislike uncomfortable facts,” the facts are the facts and one fact is that Obama has put more people on food-stamps than any other president in history, now costing $76 billion a year.
When asked about his comment about getting inner city kids to work in the schools, to do some janitorial work and be paid for it, the questioner posed it as an insult to them. “Don’t you realize that some people hear that as if you are belittling them?” Newt’s answer was as blunt as it was succinct. “No.” Then he explained by setting out the difference between being “taken care of” by government and “learning the work ethic and the pride of a job.” Newt said he wanted people to take pride in working, earning money, becoming independent, and growing up to “own” the job. For that he got a standing ovation.
The frame of the question tried to hook him about a low-level job, doing “janitorial” work. The frame of Newt’s answer was about the value and honor of any and all jobs. The battle was about meanings. One assumed the cultural meaning that cleaning things up is something shameful like it means being a servant. The other meaning views work as honorable and that the experience of learning to work, learning to do well whatever one does, learning to see it as the first steps and as confirmed by many of Newt’s supporters, “That’s how I also got started, washing dishes, bussing tables, cleaning up, etc.”
Another comment that Newt made concerned the government giving longer and longer periods of unemployment pay. In the US it is now 99 weeks. And while the official unemployment rate is 8.5, the actual rate is between 12 and 15 and those who are under-employed extends to another 5 to 10 percent. That’s somewhere around 25 million people. Now statistics about that have consistently indicated that the longer the unemployment lasts, the longer it takes a person to find a job. Newt made a comment about the 99 weeks was — “That’s an Associate Degree.”
Meaning what? Meaning that that is the amount of time it takes to earn an Associate’s Degree at a College or University. Meaning that if a person is unemployed the best thing government could do would be to ask people to use that time to learn— to learn a trade, how business works, how to be an entrepreneur, how to add value, how to learn, etc.
Instead of sitting at home or doing whatever they do, they should be asked to attend 99 weeks of training in business skills. Now that would truly support people— it would teach them “how to fish” in addition to giving them a fish.
After writing the above, I watched the next debate on CNN Thursday night, Jan. 19 and Gingrich did it again. During the day, more “dirt” was thrown at Gingrich, ABC using his ex-wife and some of her accusations. So John King, the moderator started by asking about the “accusations that your ex-wife has made...” That was the content. Newt refused to take the bait. Instead he turned to the frames:
“I am astonished that you would start a Presidential debate with that.”
The way the media goes after those who would run for public office is destructive, vicious, and despicable.
The way the mainstream media is protecting Obama and attacking the Republican candidates is appalling.
And when John King said, “This story did not come from this network...” Newt didn’t let him off the hook:
“John, you chose to start the debate with it. Your network made that choice. So you can’t blame someone else.”
Now later on CNN, a panel interviewed John King and he kept defending himself in asking the question. “It was the story in the news that day; everybody was talking about it; it had to be asked.” He presented his reasons so as to say that he didn’t have a choice as a journalist but that he had to bring it up and ask the question. Hmmm. So that was (is) his frame and so explains his game. With those frames, no wonder he felt and behaved as he did. As such, I would say, he was thereby the victim of his own frames. He certainly had other choices which from his interview he apparently didn’t realize or see. For example, he could have started the debate like this:
“Mr. Speaker, the news of the day has centered around accusations of your ex-wife and it may or may not have anything to do with this presidential race, it is personal and not political, if you want to say something about it, fine. If not, then we will start with the issues of this campaign that face the American people— the economy, the wars, the budget, etc.”
A framing like that would have brought it up the subject and given Newt an opportunity to do with it whatever he wanted to. But John King didn’t do that. He presented “the news of the day” to wit, the nasty accusations of a bitter ex-wife two days before the primary election as the first thing to talk about. That prioritized it, that tried to make it an issue. In terms of that content, Newt afterwards simply said it was false, his daughters wrote to ABC to deny it, and they offered witnesses, but ABC refused.
Now in the few days that have now passed, every news commentator that I’ve heard do not seem to understand what Newt Gingrich did. This is true for those on the right and the left. Most called it “shrewd” dealing with things; others described it as “turning the tables on them,” several morning shows decided that it was “media bashing,” “... blame it on the media, the American people love it.” Then there were many who decided to interpret it as Newt being an “angry” person. “He’s just angry, that’s why he did that.”
I even heard other commentators complain that after the shrewd attack, Newt never dealt with “the substantial details” of the question. In these words they equated “the substantial details” with the content rather than the frame. Yet I shouldn’t be surprised by this. This is the seduction ofcontent. Content seduces us as it gets us to confuse the details with the most important part of the message. But for Neuro-Semanticists, we know that the frame governs how to interpret content.
Ah, the battle of the frames! It’s always about frames, everything human is. And at this point in human history, this is a leadership skill, that is, the ability to detect frames and then address them effectively.
Welcome to Neuro-Semantic NLP!
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Everyone as best as he/she can!