How NOT to frame the debate on the toxic Hungarian law against homosexuals


Sometimes politicians carefully choose a title or shortcut for a law or policy in a way that inflames their base and makes it difficult for opponents to get their point across.

Think of the recently adopted EU regulation on ‘terrorist content’, often referred to as #TERREG on social networks.

Digital rights groups, including Freedoms, criticized the proposal because its provisions are so general that they are likely to muzzle freedom of expression and public debate on the Internet.

But whenever an NGO criticized the proposal for its foreseeable shortcomings, we almost automatically had to divert attention from our message by adding the qualifier that we support the fight against terrorism.

Rather than focusing our messages on how the internet is the key to democracy, activists ended up repeating the EU framing that this law would fight terrorism while standing up for us to protect freedom of movement. expression.

The label given to the proposal is deliberate: this law fights against terrorism. And who is going to disagree with that?

The label is repeated by the media reporting what politicians say. And the activists repeat the title to us when we contradict it, without realizing that it is not a neutral label: it is framed. In the end, supporters, journalists and opponents all underlined the framework under which this (clumsy) law fights against terrorism. Instead, opponents of the law could have focused on re-labeling the law, leading their messages about the importance of a free internet to feed everything we value, and shifting the #TERREG hashtag as the sole focus. reference on social media.

We do not have to discuss from within our opponent’s frame.

Effective reframing can reverse the situation, if the new framework adapts. For example, when the “community charge” of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was reformulated as the unpopular (and career-ending) “poll tax”.

The Hungarian government a master of framing

This month Hungary’s authoritarian government tabled a bill that was easily passed by parliament.

Viktor Orbán designed it as a law to protect children from pedophiles. Whenever an opponent, freelance journalist Where foreign government would criticize the law saying that “it is not a law to protect children from pedophiles”, they would strengthen the framework of the government.

Why? Because of the way our brains work. If I tell you not to think of an elephant, what are you thinking? If I tell you I’m not a con artist, what are you thinking? Directly denying a frame ends up strengthening a frame in our minds.

So even though on the surface we think we are telling people that a law discriminates against LGBTQ people, our audience subconsciously thinks that it is a law against pedophilia.

So how should the activists have reframe this?

First, explain what you stand for: what is your cause and why should someone else care? On this particular question, it might be to remind our audience that most of us have known love in our lives and that sharing love and being close to someone is a common human experience – no matter who. attracts us.

Second, state what is really going on.

The authoritarian Hungarian regime has constantly fabricated ghosts that are supposed to attack the security, economy or culture of the country.

Before, it was people who migrated, philanthropists, the EU. Now it’s LGBTQ people. Why? Partly to play at their own base.

But the scapegoat is also a matter of division and distraction. Divide voters against each other on irrelevant differences so they don’t unite against you to demand an end to corruption and proper investment in public services.

And in this case, split the kaleidoscopic coalition of the political opposition using a wedge question before an election.

Third, get back to your main message before telling people what they can do to show their support. This basic structure for managing campaigns of political hatred and disinformation was labeled a “sandwich of truth”.

Journalists and activists should pause and think about the terms they use in their reporting and campaigns. In an age when some politicians deliberately mislead and spread hatred, journalists need to consider whether just relaying their words really helps educate and inform the public.

And activists need to start focusing their messages more on what they stand for rather than what they oppose.


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