Framing Science

Repower America’s lastest advertising campaign to promote their new online feature “The Wall” is brilliant. The ads and the social media initiative vividly portray the diversity of support for serious climate action while also framing the relevance of the issue in ways that transcend the traditional ideological divide. As I wrote in a paper this spring at the journal Environment, the Repower campaign is a stark contrast to the dominant message of Inconvenient Truth which may have unintentionally reinforced the partisan divide on climate change.

Gore, however, also faces a major communication dilemma, one that I refer to as his Back Stage – Front Stage problem. From behind the curtain, directing the Repower America campaign, Gore’s strategic message and initiative holds the promise of transcending the ideological divide. But each time he steps front stage–such as this week on the cover of Newsweek–given his status as a former presidential candidate, Gore makes it easy for Americans to reinterpret climate change via a partisan lens while providing more rhetorical fodder for conservative media.

Comments

  1. #1 A
    November 4, 2009

    If Warren Buffet were to say the same on global warming as Al Gore does, it either would not be reported by the press and TV at all, or he would be similarly denounced as a partisan limousine liberal by the same coalition of unholy forces who still try to create uncertainty about it. Without Al Gore, the topic might just have been completely ignored by the mainstream media.

  2. #2 Heather
    November 4, 2009

    There’s no question that having a partisan entity being the spokesperson for something skews the way people look at the issue, but isn’t it better to have science brought to center stage than to be neglected altogether? Who would be a better spokesperson for the need to address climate change?

  3. #3 Marion Delgado
    November 4, 2009

    Until the GOP stops being the party (overall) of climate denial and delay, I am not sure what, in a constitutionally 2-party system (1st-past-the-post, nonproportional, winner-take all, entrenched entanglement with the voting and media and debate process, etc.), can be done to make it less partisan-seeming.

    Most of Al Gore’s public appeals are to the choir, which loves him. He’s not in charge of the cover of Newsweek. As is so often the case with Nisbett, and often the case with Lakoff, etc., I think this is a “they should listen to me” on the part of the self-labeled framing expert in search of a problem.

  4. #4 yogi-one
    November 5, 2009

    The MSM only has one story line: left-vs-right, and I am sick to death of it.

    Left vs right is wrong, ugly and false. My friends and acquaintances don’t divide themselves that way, and neither does my family or my workplace. In fact, inside myself I have attitudes that could be charatcerized as right or left co-existing inside a single person.

    And yet, the MSM cannot, or worse, will not entertain any other story about America. If you read the papers enough, you’d think America was continually on the brink of a civil war.

    But it’s obviously not true.

    For me, the gap that deepens is mistrust in mainstream media, and distrust in the motivations of those who claim to be our leaders.

    They would stop selling this lie if they were actually leaders with a vision. But they suffer from the same greedy shortsightedness that has been destroying all our social and financial institutions lately.

  5. #5 Don
    November 9, 2009

    Matthew: Why doesn’t Gore involve Lindsay Graham, a right wing senator from South Carolina, who is also rational and objective about climate Change? Any thoughts?
    Don

  6. #6 Marion Delgado
    November 16, 2009

    Also, since, as usual, Nisbett’s advice is to tell one of the best communicators to sit down and shut up and hide, perhaps someday someone will read this comment and realize why several people, including me, spend a small amount of our time telling people Nisbett is a complete fraud, a disaster, and to be avoided. His record so far is zero. Absolute nil.

    Gore’s is substantially better than nil.

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