Monday, April 24, 2006

Post 9/11 Syndrome

George Lakoff discusses, among other issues, how the language and visual imagery of 9/11 frames our experience (acceptance) of the War on Terror.
BLVR: Can you explain to me in layman’s neuroscience terms how September 11 changed the way we think?

GL: It reshaped our brains. That’s why they had to keep showing the towers falling over and over and over again. The imagery meant that the towers were people. The planes going in are like bullets going through your brain, the people falling are you falling. Here’s a picture of you dying. The other thing was it was framed in terms of war, instead of crime. Then it was not just war, but metaphorical war, where the enemy is this abstract thing: terror. Terror, which is in you. That’s what’s sort of weird. The enemy is inside America. It’s terror, not terrorists, the outside guys. Of course, by saying ña war on terrorî you can never feel safe. The locus of the war is in you.

BLVR: Are the conservatives who formulated all of these terms aware of these other meanings?

GL: Yeah. I suspect Karen Hughes is smart enough to understand that.

BLVR: Really?

GL: Sure. Think about the image of those towers falling. Think about your empathic response. What you see there you feel in your body. You feel that the terror is in you. You feel that the destruction is in you. Just by looking at it over and over and over, it’s come into you, it’s changed your brain. And so you become the war. It’s not over there in Iraq. Now, you justify the war by saying, “It’s better that it’s fought there than here,” which is the relief. But of course, metaphorically, it’s here. There are people all over the Midwest worrying about the war, especially women, who are empathic, feeling it themselves, worrying that the war is going to come to Peoria, Illinois.
Full article at Believer Magazine.

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