Archive for August 2011
Aug 31, 2011 – There are two frames for work: obedience and exchange (as identified by the cognitive scientist George Lakoff). In the work-as-obedience frame, there’s an authority (the employer) and there’s obedience to the commands of authority (ie work). This obedience is rewarded (pay).
In the work-as-exchange frame, work is conceptualised as an object of value which belongs to the worker. This is exchanged for money.
Different consequences apply depending on the type of framing. In the obedience frame, the worker is expected to make personal sacrifices to the employer. This may help to explain why, each year, workers are giving £29 billion in total unpaid overtime to their companies (according to TUC figures).
(Consider also that the average worker spends 139 hours a year commuting – another sacrifice).
Remember that frames function “below” consciousness, according to the cognitive scientists. Why do people tolerate a situation in which income is dependent on obedience (to people they might regard as idiots)? Perhaps it’s because our upbringing results (in most cases) in the work-as-obedience frame being a familiar part of our neurology (consider the paternal representation of school/employer).
In adulthood, this work frame infantilises us, and it’s reinforced by the paternal-strictness type of attacks on the unemployed from politicians and media. Terms such as “workshy” and “scrounger” don’t suggest people aged 45+ who have lost their jobs.
* Note: the above Express front page isn’t today’s – it’s from our archives, 16/8/10.
Not that high pay in the public sector isn’t a valid news story. One wonders, though, when three newspapers (Express, Mail, Telegraph) all lead with stories on public-sector pay (over the course of 6 days) – particularly given the other newsworthy situations occurring on the planet.
The Telegraph quotes a Tory politician: “Ordinary people will be outraged that bonuses are being paid at all in the public sector…”. Compare the quote from another Tory in the Mail’s front-page coverage of a similar story, five days ago: “…this sort of generosity would not be found in the private sector”.
An interesting topic for academic study would be the timing of news stories. Why are we supposed to be thinking, right now, about high pay in the public sector? Why did the MPs’ expenses scandal get reported just when public outrage over the bail-out of banks was peaking? Without empirical studies, we’re left with useless speculation, “conspiracy theory” and Citizen Kane. Fnord.
Aug 28, 2011 – Regarding this familiar frame (‘Workers vs Scroungers’) the Express informs us that:
- The number of “scroungers” has doubled “since the recession”.
- The number of young “scroungers” has trebled “since 2008″.
- A quarter of hardcore “scroungers” are “aged over 50″. (100,000 of whom lost their jobs at the start of the economic crisis).
That tells us something about the term “scroungers”.
What the Express describes as a “war” against “scroungers” in fact consists of proposals by the (no doubt) well-meaning IPPR, a “Labour-leaning think-tank” – to get the long-term unemployed into jobs. The IPPR says: “…we need as many people in work to maximise tax revenues. The Government should be aiming to increase the employment rate…”
We can separate the IPPR’s bizarre notions from the malign framing of the Express – but only to a degree. They both seem to frame work/jobs in ideological terms, although it’s less obvious with the IPPR. Does tax revenue need to come from created/subsidised human labour, rather than from, say, the currently untaxed zillions made with virtually zero labour in international finance (eg currency markets)?
(Note: the real “war” on the unemployed was revealed earlier this year in a Guardian report).
• ‘BANKERS –>RECESSION –>JOBLESS’
• ‘GOLDEN AGE OF LEISURE’
• ‘WAR ON YOUNG & OLD & VULNERABLE’
Aug 27, 2011 – Given last week’s Treasury select committee report (pdf) condemning PFIs, this should’ve been a national headline. According to treasury figures, taxpayers will spend £229 billion on PFI projects that cost contractors only £56 billion.
From today’s Yorkshire Post front page (our bold emphasis):
“MORE than £4bn-worth of huge public works projects are to be signed off by Yorkshire’s local authorities this year using a now-discredited financing system despite condemnation from MPs who say taxpayers are being “ripped off”.
“Treasury figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the region already owes more than £6bn for schemes funded via the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), a Government-backed way of using private firms to build and run public buildings [...]
“Last week a hard-hitting report by the Treasury select committee concluded PFI deals offer “poor value for money” and can typically cost up to 40 per cent more than if they been funded with normal public borrowing. Successive Governments now stand accused of “cooking the books” by using PFI to keep major new infrastructure projects off their balance sheet, so artificially reducing official debt figures – all the time knowing it would ultimately cost taxpayers billions of pounds more.”
Aug 26, 2011 – We’ve seen this headline story many times before. It’s a template containing the elements of a complex frame:
1. Imposed EU regulations
2. Obstacles to ‘British’ business growth
3. Huge costs (for firms)
4. “Business groups” to the rescue
The “business groups” get a lot of space. The Telegraph quotes the British Chambers of Commerce and The Institute of Directors. The former says that unless the government “reduces this kind of red tape” it could “end up derailing the recovery”. The latter says the legislation has “very high costs for business” and is “wholly inappropriate in the current economic climate.”
Factual details may be misreported, or not. More important is the construct, the reinforcement of a particular cognitive script, and what it excludes.
• PROTECTION (OF ‘ORDINARY HARD-WORKING PEOPLE’)
• WELL-BEING & HEALTH OF WORKERS-TAXPAYERS
• WIDER BENEFITS TO SOCIETY OF WORKER RIGHTS
Aug 25, 2011 – It almost looks like a Mail-Express double-act (see yesterday’s Express). The framing in both cases seems to be provided by the rightwing pressure group, The TaxPayers’ Alliance (both Mail and Express quoted TPA). The “state” (and its “fat cats”) in this case refers to Quangos. “Quango” was originally an acronym for ‘QUasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation’. The idea was that they would “not be a formal part of the state structure“ – it brought “private sector” framing (and ideology) into the public realm.
Widespread waste, bureaucracy, corruption, etc, followed. It’s now been successfully reframed as “state”.
The Mail story segues smoothly from “state fat cats” to “generous” redundancy payments for public sector workers. It then quotes a Tory politician: “this sort of generosity would not be found in the private sector”, and a TaxPayers’ Alliance spokesperson: “Most taxpayers could only dream of such a generous redundancy.”
Not all quangos (or “public bodies”) are equally wasteful and corrupt. For those who have the time, there is much more to this story. See, as a starting point, Britain’s Shock Doctrine.
• ‘WE’RE FUCKING WITH YOUR HEADS’
• ‘RICH BANKERS AREN’T SO BAD’
• ‘STATE COMMIES EAT BABIES SHOCK’
Aug 24, 2011 – The latest surreal installment in Operation Daily Express Mindfuck. “Hard-pressed workers in the private sector” now have a focus for their feelings of anger and frustration (which are understandable given the long hours, low pay, poor conditions, poor benefits, poor holiday entitlement, idiot bosses, soul-crippling corporate ideology, etc).
“Millions” of them can now feel “infuriated” at their fellow hard-pressed workers in the public sector who apparently don’t have the “curbs on their pay” that private sector workers have.
Where is all the taxpayer money going? The Express reveals the “infuriating” truth: public sector workers will continue to receive “annual ‘increments’ – salary increases given to recognise the length of a worker’s service”.
The private sector, on the other hand, is responsibly exercising “restraint”, by putting “curbs” on workers’ pay. The quīnta essentia of bullshit.
Aug 21, 2011 – This Observer headline is another example of reinforcing a frame while negating it. What we see here is “moral decline” – that is how we conceptualise the issue, regardless of the following word, “not”.
Most media coverage of the “rioting” excludes the perception that it has always occurred in Britain. The country has a long history of insurrection. Even in quaint coastal villages, whole communities criminally conspired against the authorities (eg the customs men) - in Ye Olde days, when murder and violence were more common .1
In 1898, newspapers in England warned of the menace of “hooligans” and of a “dramatic increase in disorderly behaviour”. The Times reported “organised terrorism in the streets”.2
In every decade of the 20th century there were similar media panics.
• ‘NO RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY – A GREAT BRITISH TRADITION’
• ‘GOLDEN AGE OF LAWLESSNESS CONTINUES’
• ‘LATEST INSURRECTION MINOR IN HISTORICAL TERMS’
1. See: Ted Robert Gurr, Historical Trends in Violent Crimes, 1981; Manuel Eisner, Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime, 2003.
2. Quoted from Laurie Taylor’s article, Looking with a historical eye, published in the 1995 Channel Four booklet, Battered Britain.
Aug 20, 2011 – A good example in the Telegraph of how negating a frame can reinforce a frame. The “mansion tax” has been pushed by the Lib Dems as a way to tax the rich (on properties worth more than £1m). The Telegraph puts forward Eric Pickles’ argument that this will affect “ordinary middle-class families” and “hard-working home owners” because of “high property prices in some areas”.
But the Telegraph’s headline, ‘NO TO THE MANSION TAX’, works against this argument. It might just as well be saying, “No to taxing the landed aristocracy”.
The number of people who glance at newspaper headlines (in the newsagent, supermarket, petrol station) far exceeds the number actually reading the newspaper copy. In this case, the Telegraph’s own headline works against the newspaper’s position.
In the wake of the UK riots, the Daily Express prints this headline: ‘MIGRANTS ROB YOUNG BRITONS OF JOBS’ (18/8/11). To what extent will this “incite” hatred/violence – compared, say, to the hatred/violence which two youths failed to “incite” with Facebook pages (for which they were each sentenced to 4 years in prison)?
It’s impossible to rob or steal a job, although the financial desperation required to accept a low-pay, long-hours job (with idiot boss, appalling conditions, etc) is probably similar to the desperation required to rob or steal.
• ‘MIGRANTS GIVEN THE CRAP JOBS’
• ‘UK SHITS ON IMPORTED WAGE SLAVES’