Thursday, August 26, 2004

Reframing "activist judges"

Activist, Schmactivist

Publius definitely "gets" it how framing works. Perhaps he has read some Lakoff recently, though he has written about language before:

So, what should be the liberal linguistic counter-frame to the conservative phrase "activist judges"?

Dahlia's "Re-activist" is definitely the worst. In order to negate the conservative frame you are forced to utter it which just reinforces the conservative frame. This also reminds one of the "Law of Action and Reaction" which actually makes conservative judges look even better, as they activelly work on undoing what "liberal activist judges" have wrought.

"Reactionary" is not that much better. The "action" root is somewhat better hidden, and the word in itself has a much more negative connotation, but the fact that the conservative frame is utterred remains.

"Traditionalist" vs. "modern" is even worse, as many people love and cling to their traditions, and are sceptical and afraid of "modernity". Backfires big time.

"Milleniarist" or "Rapturist" judges suffers from cumbersomness of pronounciation, as well as from the "What?" effect, i.e., you have to explain it to the uninitiated. Also, not all actions by conservative judges are strictly milleniarist.

"Literalist" may or may not work. Problem is, as Publius states quite eloquently, no word or line of any law, just like the Bible, can be read literally. One has to interpret the language, and every law can be interpreted in multiple ways. What conservative judges do is try to fathom what the authors of the Constitution meant when they wrote this or that word. Thus, they are trying to do the impossible - to read the minds of people who lived in 18th century and understand what they meant. Not to mention that this ignores a couple of centuries of social change.

"Fundamentalist judges"? That may work perhaps.

"Extremist judges"? I don't know.

We (I mean liberals/progressives) put so much stake into truthfulness and honesty. Perhaps we should not. The phrase "activist liberal judges" was initially meaningless, and later developed a meaning that is wrong. Why not coin a progressive frame that is factually wrong, but rings a bell, resonates, and does the job? Why not find a term that immediatelly invokes Inquisition, witch-hunts, and gallows? That may work! Ideas, anyone?

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