Social Issues,  Thought-provoking

When framing becomes defaming

Frames in art are meant to help a work stand out and better express its reality. But José Maria André is concerned that in everyday media framing is often used to distort and even falsify what people are trying to say.

Journalists distinguish between the news and its framing. The factual description is the news; the framing is the set of associations, more or less implicit, that go with it.

It may surprise us, but framing often carries a lot more weight in modern communication than we realize. Some media even specialize in framing information according to what, in their opinion, the public should think.

For example, a book comes out that shows the dangers of child sexual initiation, but the newspaper wants readers to accept this. The news could be reported like this:

“So-and-so, connected with extreme right-wing movements, has written a book uncompromisingly condemning the right of children to have pleasure. Speaking to this newspaper, Dr X, a researcher in the field, commented that we can’t reject something just because it’s different from our grandparents’ time. And Professor Y, a respected academic, even mentions the positive experience of more developed countries that have accepted this practice.”

We cannot say that the news is false. Indeed, a book was published and there are people who disagree with it. The point is that many readers don’t register the information in such banal terms.

Two people criticizing an idea is commonplace, the important thing is the message conveyed by the framing. The framing presents us with a stubborn and isolated author versus enlightened and informed personalities. It sticks a negative label on the author and classifies the opponents as researchers and academics.

It seems to focus on the book, but none of its arguments are mentioned. It even lets us think that the book wants to take us back to the time of our grandparents and refers to ‘positive experiences’ in ‘developed countries’. Or rather, it doesn’t state this falsehood itself, it appeals to the authority of a ‘respected academic’ to make this claim.

National and international information is full of framing loaded with disguised messages.

Labeling people, whether with positive or negative labels, is a widely used tool in these manipulations. Examples abound. 

The delinquent who vandalized the altar at the major international Catholic youth event, the World Youth Day, with Pope Francis in Lisbon last summer is described as an ‘artist’.

Those who defend the family are depicted as backward extremists. The mob that robs a museum or hits people is a collective of activists. Those who help homosexuals overcome their situation are committing hate crimes and are homophobic fascists.

The manipulation of words is another common technique. 

Instead of abortion, we talk about voluntary interruption of a pregnancy. Instead of being unfaithful to commitments, we talk about starting over again. Instead of killing, we talk about euthanasia.

Making words pliable means giving up the search for truth, following the ‘pensiero debole’ (weak thought) proposed by Gianni Vattimo and Pier Aldo Rovatti, which ultimately leads to a form of thinking which is inconsistent and precarious.

One of the biggest campaigns of vocabulary reconstruction is gender ideology. It has created a whole new dictionary! This includes dozens of adapted or new words, like the one that holds the record for the number of letters in most languages. That construction is so difficult to articulate that people only say it in abbreviation: LGBTQ+.

The direct target of gender ideology is the family because, from the perspective of extravagant selfishness, loving family bonds are like prison bars. Parents are tied to their children for years, husbands and wives depend on each other for the generation of their children. Therefore, liberation requires removing sex from any family responsibility and limiting it to selfish pleasure. 

Gender ideology is not about promoting the dignity of anyone, neither man nor woman, it’s just about inventing new individuals without families.

This movement succeeds in the realm of flexible words, but it only ends up contradicting itself successively, because selfishness is so corrosive that it dissolves the very exercise of freedom. It only admits instantaneous whims, it opposes free decisions intended to remain beyond the present moment.

As the previous pope, Benedict XVI, said in his last speech: “For the philosophy of gender, being a man or a woman becomes an individual decision. (…) In the struggle for the family, man himself is at stake. And it is clear that where God is denied, the dignity of man is also dissolved. Whoever defends God defends man.”

Pope Francis has insisted with ever greater frequency that “today, the most serious danger is gender ideology, which annuls differences and makes everything the same; to erase difference is to erase humanity.”

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José Maria C.S. André is a Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Instituto Superior Técnico (University of Lisbon) in Portugal. He researches in aerodynamics, vehicles and transport infrastructures. He also has a PhD in Philosophy from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, Italy. He is CEO of Goodspeed, a technical design company for advanced vehicles and transport infrastructures.

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