I’ve recently received a mailer from my Congressman Mark Souder (R-IN). Besides the typical, “I’m doing this for you” type propaganda is a survey. And just to give you an idea of what the survey is like let me choose at random, well, let’s just pick Item #1 shall we,
If forced to choose, would you support more federal spending on education or alternative energy?
____ Education ___ Alternative Energy
Well Mr. Souder, I pick alternative energy because I don’t really care if my children can’t read as long as they can’t read by solar powered lamps. Obviously this is a political stunt that as a taxpayer I’m paying for but nevermind that.
Ever since Matthew Nisbett and Chris Mooney authored there little article about Framing, I’ve become keenly aware of how the framing (or context) of a question or statement can dramatically affect my perception of an issue or person. Just in case you don’t know what I mean by framing and don’t care to follow the above links since they do go on a bit. Essentially “framing” is the term describing the different ways in which you can present your message to elicit (intentionally or otherwise) the desired response and that the “framing” of the message often bears more on the response than the message or content itself.
Now I won’t point out the obvious False Dichotomy that Mr. Souder is choosing to employ because quite frankly I’ve never accused Souder of even being a logical or rational person. Hey Souder, can’t wait to see what other road in Fort Wayne you can put Ronald Reagan’s name on. Ooh maybe you should try putting his face on the dime. Anyway.
Ready for more? Well you asked for it but this time be extra aware of the choice of words he uses,
Which of the following do you believe is the best strategy to reduce gas prices?
___ Drill for oil
___ Force further size reductions in vehicles
___ Nothing, the current strategy is working
“Drill for oil” is put forward in very neutral terms that almost begs the question, “Aren’t we already doing that?” or “Why wouldn’t we do that?”
But the next one, “Force further size reductions in vehicles”, is an example of using both perjorative phrasing and quite frankly a misleading statement (my grandmother would simply call it lying). First notice the use of “Force”, just in case your not clear ANY government regulation is force, just see what happens when you choose not to comply. The statement “further size reductions in vehicles” to my knowledge doesn’t make any sense. I’m unaware of any regulation or law that currently requires the reduction in the size of vehicles. I’m not nearly as aware of regulations as Mark Souder but I’d like to see some proof of legislation or even a bill proposal on this. Clearly he’s referring to raising the CAFE standards on vehicles which says nothing about how big a vehicle has to be only the average miles per gallon that a fleet of vehicles from a car manufacturer must achieve.
And to cap off the idiocy, the third option is “Nothing, the current strategy is working”. Do I even need to comment.
You want more? You people are glut tons,
Would you support higher taxes on all taxpayers to fund government-run health care?
___ Yes ___ No ___ Maybe
Well at least I get a maybe. 2 words, oversimplification.
Mark Souder has been criticized for spending too much time working to help veterans, including by working to save the Fort Wayne VA hospital. What do you think?
___ I agree with the critics that he has spent too much time on veterans issues
___ I agree with Congressman Souder’s effort to boost veterans spending and save the hospital.
Personally I think once a veteran has gone past their usefulness, either they are too injured to fight or too old, they should all be shot and then their bodies should be recycled into a food product, and we should call it Soylent Green.
Seriously what kind of question is this? I hang with a fairly liberal group of people and I hear a lot, I mean a lot, of criticism of Mark Souder, spending too much time on veterans affairs is not one of them. Again, the question is used to paint Souder as a victim of partisan politics and is a pathetic attempt to cast him as a champion for the common man.
I have a new criticism though. How about Souder’s wasteful taxpayer spending on direct mailers that could otherwise go into processing old people as a renewable food source. Is Mark Souder’s 3-terms* in office up yet?
Now that I’m done ranting about Mark Souder**, let’s get back to the question at hand which is Framing. I can’t find an online version of this survey so I can’t send you off to see the whole thing but needless to say each question is carefully phrased and each response is carefully guided to a particular “right” answer. But the attempt to guide the reader to the right answer is so thinly veiled that it, at least to this harmless blogger, puts me into one of two frames of mind. Either I’m put off by the level of political hackery that’s involved or Mark Souder clearly does not understand the issues he’s being presented with.
Of course, being a rational person, and therefore unintelligable to people like Souder, I’m going to assume that this is just a political hack job. Quite frankly the other proposition is too depressing to think about. Plus let’s be honest Mark Souder didn’t put this survey together, he’s got a guy who does this stuff, he probably rubber stamped this thing without a second glance but if I were Souder I’d be checking on what image you are portraying to your constituency. This survey presented two Mark Souders, one of a Partisan Hackjob or an Incompetent.
* One of Mark Souder’s campaign promises, Gingrich’s Contract With America, was that he would only run for 3-terms in office. He was elected to Congress during Republican Revolution of 1994.
** In case you need additional reasons to conclude that Mark Souder’s grasp on reality is tenuous at best here’s his press release bragging about his recent appearance in the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. If you movie is about the lack of intelligence then Souder is your man.