George Lakoff is an emeritus professor of cognitive science and linguistics at UC Berkeley whose research includes the language of politics in which we reside. We discuss the importance of framing the truth first, his famous “truth sandwich,” and why the press is critical to a functioning democracy.
George Lakoff invented a construct called the Truth Sandwich in order to effectively frame the truth and negate a lie. In it, true statements act as “bread,” and the lie is the “filling.” A truth sandwich always starts with the truth because framing first is an advantage. Next, indicate the lie and state that it is a lie. Return immediately to the truth. The truth must always be repeated more than the lie. Simply negating a lie without first stating the truth helps liars because it highlights the lie first. The Truth Sandwich formula of truth-lie-truth is key to combatting lies and fake news.
Democratic societies depend on newspapers and the media overall to lead with the truth in their reporting and to root out lies. Everyday citizens are ill-equipped to fact-check every piece of media they consume. We need capable editors and reporters to fact-check, call out lies, and point to the consequences of the lie versus the truth. Reporters and editors should use the Truth Sandwich model to convey factual information and debunk lies to the public. High quality and truthful journalism is critical to a functioning democracy.
Our morals depend on how we understand ourselves, our families, and our politics. Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about morality and give their loyalty to the party they think most likely to defend their values. Illegal conduct, lies, and other usually “immoral” actions are tolerated when they are deemed as furthering a specific set of goals and morals. As long as the party is carrying out the values of its constituents, the party faithful will keep their values.
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George Lakoff is Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society and retired Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972. He previously taught at Harvard and the University of Michigan. He graduated from MIT in 1962 (in Mathematics and Literature) and received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Indiana University in 1966. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant!, among other works, and is America’s leading expert on the framing of political ideas.
You can follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLakoff.