Book review. Framespotting: Changing How You Look At Things Changes How You See Them by Laurence Matthews and Alison Matthews
by Ian Sinclair
20 April 2015
Never judge a book by its cover. Trite but true.
Looking a lot like pro-capitalist parables like the bestselling Who Moved My Cheese? the 117-page Framespotting is actually a refreshing, radical work that explores the politics of framing.
Written in a simple, straightforward style and accompanied by quirky illustrations, it’s the kind of book anyone could pick up and quickly read and understand. And what they will read about is nothing less than thought control in a democratic society, followed by a short course in intellectual self-defence.
Laurence and Alison Matthews, former university lecturers and statisticians in the oil and transport industries, explain how political issues are framed is often deeply ideological. So the media will report that jobs are “lost”, rather than “destroyed”. One gets “tax relief”, the assumption being that tax is a burden to be avoided rather than something to be proud of paying as a contribution to a civilised society. The phrase “economic recovery” implies that lack of growth is an illness – something one needs to recover from. In reality endless economic growth on a planet of finite resources is a recipe for catastrophe. And no doubt if you were to argue against economic growth you’d be told you “need to live in the real world”. By “the real world” they mean the political reality at any given moment in time, rather than the scientific reality that means continuing economic growth will endanger large sections of humanity. Who are the real dreamers?
By highlighting some of the hidden assumptions behind the narratives the political and economic elites push on the general public, the authors make plain a process that is often consciously hidden. “Framing is a way of limiting the debate, fixing the agenda”, they note. They recommend “zooming out”, which can lead to lateral and long-term thinking, often revealing “new perspectives and powerful, deep stories.” For example, the dominant, narrow framing of obesity is one of individual responsibility and blame. However, if one zooms out and looks at the topic from a broader perspective one sees that obesity has deeper causes like advertising, urban planning and corporate power.
Ending with a rallying call for action to combat the looming threat of climate change, Framespotting is a wise and unusual book that you’ll want to pass on to your friends and family as soon as you’ve finished it. Inspirational.
Framespotting is published by Iff Books, priced £8.99