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Don't Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense about the Economyby Anat Shenker-Osorio
Synopses & Reviews
Anat Shenker-Osorio has spent her career exploring the range of ways people understand complex political issues and she's seen one thing over and again: when were using the wrong metaphor, were sending the wrong message. In this book she focuses that argument on the wrong headed and destructive way we talk about the economy in the United States. Relying heavily on language such as unhealthy,” suffering,” recovery bill,” we continually convey that the economy is something natural, like a body, the tides, or the weather. It is how it is — like the barometric pressure, unemployment can be expected to rise” and fall.” In fact, we've bought the idea that we must work without complaint and Keep the Economy Happy!”
Shenker-Osorio shows that this wrong headed way of conceptualizing the economy has a real effect on the way people engage with money, and it has lead to a great deal of hardship. The solution therefore is that by consciously shifting the ways we talk about the economy we can radically alter how we react to and thus make rules and decisions. By speaking, accurately, of the economy as a man-made system requiring continuous man made control we undo the damaging notion that the market is its own best control. By speaking, forcefully, of the economy as part of the pursuit for security and prosperity we can impose regulation and control to achieve certain means. Economic reform is going to require transparency and understanding in our conversation. This book tells us how.
"Strategic communications consultant Shenker-Osoria's first book considers the word 'economy' and the metaphors we use to illustrate it. Conservatives, for instance, view the economy as a 'moral enforcer': 'the individual is clearly to blame for what befalls her.' Other people will allude to it in terms of health, water, or motion (think of sick economies, trickle-down theory and downward spiral). The author has very good points about how conservatives and progressives present their plans, and lack thereof, to deal with the present crisis. We should not speak in abstractions such as 'costs grew' and 'paychecks shrank.' Rather, Shenker-Osoria exhorts, we should speak of CEOs, conservative politicians and lobbyists attacking labor unions and suppressing wages; we should talk less about hurting the economy and more about how the economy might hurt people. Without doubt, this book is written from the liberal or progressive viewpoint (though liberals economists like Paul Krugman take their knocks) and, while Shenker-Osorio is not an economist, her view of the rhetoric we suffer through is sharp and to the point in saying that we need to define what the economy is, how it works and what it can do for us. If someone can deliver that, we might have a solution — that is, if anyone will listen. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A persuasive case for retooling how activists think and talk about matters of the wallet." Kirkus
This concise, entertaining book shows us how wrong-headed metaphors and deceptive language have muddled our economic thinking, and how better word choice alone can win the debate.
Today the term “dismal science” seems almost too kind: too many of today’s economic arguments deserve the mantle of mysticism. In the name of appeasing our fickle economy, politicians have slashed services, laid off public workers, and threatened the future of the social safety net. And yet all of these “sacrifices” only make matters worse.
In Don’t Buy It, political communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio shows how wrong-headed ways of conceptualizing the economy have led to bad decisions and worse policies. When we call the economy “unhealthy” or “recovering,” we give it the status of a living being. Americans must submit to any indignity required to “keep the economy happy.” Tread lightly, we can’t risk irritating the economy!
Don’t Buy It cuts through misinformation and skewers the economic nonsense we hear every day. In the end, it convincingly demonstrates that radically altering our politics and policies for the better is a matter of changing the conversation — literally.
After everything thats happened, how is it possible that conservatives still win debates about the economy? Time and again the right wins over voters by claiming that their solutions are only common sense, even as their tired policies of budgetary sacrifice and corporate plunder both create and prolong economic disaster. Why does the electorate keep buying what theyre selling? According to political communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio, its all about language—and not just theirs, but ours.
In Dont Buy It Shenker-Osorio diagnoses our economic discourse as stricken with faulty messages, deceptive personification, and, worst of all, a barely coherent concept of what the economy actually is. Opening up the business section of most newspapers or flipping on cable news unleashes an onslaught of economic doomsaying that treats the economy as an ungovernable force of nature. Alternately, by calling the economy unhealthy” or recovering” as we so often do, we unconsciously give it the status of a living being. No wonder Americans become willing to submit to any indignity required to keep the economy happy. Tread lightly, we cant risk irritating the economy!
Cutting through conservative myth-making, messaging muddles, and destructive misinformation, Shenker-Osorio suggests a new way to win the most important arguments of our day. The left doesnt have to self-destruct every time matters economic come to the fore—there are metaphors and frames that can win, and Shenker-Osorio shows what they are and how to use them.
Dont Buy It is a vital handbook for seizing victory in the economic debate. In the end, it convincingly shows that radically altering our politics and policies for the better is a matter of first changing the conversation—literally.
About the Author
Anat Shenker-Osorio is a communications consultant and independent writer based in Oakland, CA. She has presented her work at the White House, to members of Congress, as a keynote speaker at Netroots Nation and Campaign for Americas Future Take Back the Dream conference. She has crafted communication strategy and online, print and paid advertising featured globally on such outlets as Fox News, the New York Times, Vanity Fair and CNN.
Previously, Anat helped found the cutting edge research and consulting firm, Real Reason, offering communication solutions to the ACLU, Ford Foundation, Berkeley Media Studies Group and the Center for Reproductive Rights, to name a few. She writes regularly on language for the Huffington Post, Alternet, New Deal 2.0 and RH Reality Check, and has been a commentator on NPR. This is her first book.
Table of Contents
Preface: All I Need to Know About the Economy, I Learned from South Park
Chapter One: From What to How
Chapter Two: Time to Resuscitate the Patient
Chapter Three: Tools of the Trade
Chapter Four: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help!
Chapter Five: Don't Call It a Crisis
Chapter Six: Do You Think the Poor Are Lazy?
Chapter Seven: People Do Things
Chapter Eight: What We Don't Know Is Definitely Hurting Us
Conclusion: Putting It All Together
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