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Monday 20th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Framespotting: Changing How You Look At Things Changes How You See Them by Laurence Matthews and Alison Matthews (Iff Books, £8.99)

NEVER judge a book by its cover. Trite, but true.

That’s the case with Framespotting, which may look a lot like pro-capitalist parables such as the bestselling Who Moved My Cheese? but 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.

Its authors Laurence and Alison Matthews, former university lecturers and statisticians in the oil and transport industries, explain how the way political issues are framed is often deeply ideological. The media will report that jobs are “lost,” rather than “destroyed” and of “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 to be recovered from. In reality, endless economic growth on a planet of finite resources is a recipe for catastrophe.

If you were to argue against economic growth you might be told that you “need to live in the real world,” meaning 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 that 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,” the authors state, and they recommend “zooming out.” This can lead to lateral and long-term thinking, often revealing new perspectives and “powerful, deep stories.”

An example is the dominant and narrow framing of obesity as one of individual responsibility and blame. Yet by zooming out and looking at the topic from a broader perspective, it can be seen that obesity has deeper causes such as 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.

Review by Ian Sinclair