4.0870 Use of Metaphor in Justifications for War (1/80)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 8 Jan 91 15:11:28 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0870. Tuesday, 8 Jan 1991.

Date: Sun, 6 Jan 91 22:19:08 -0800
From: lakoff@cogsci.berkeley.edu (George Lakoff)
Subject: Use of Metaphor in Justifications for War

I am enclosing a work that I would like to be made available to members
of the Humanist Network. It is a piece I have just done on the use of
metaphor in the justifications given for war in the gulf. The
introduction explains why I am posting it to the net rather than just
publishing it in the usual fashion.

Thank you.

George Lakoff
Linguistics Dept.
U. of California at Berkeley

December 31, 1990

To Friends and Colleagues on the Net:

>From George Lakoff,
Professor of Linguistics,
University of California at Berkeley

January 15 is getting very close. As things now stand, President Bush
seems to have convinced most of the country that war in the gulf is
morally justified, and that it makes sense to think of ``winning'' such a

I have just completed a study of the way the war has been justified. I
have found that the justification is based very largely on a
metaphorical system of thought in general use for understanding foreign
policy. I have analyzed the system, checked it to see what the
metaphors hide, and have checked to the best of my ability to see
whether the metaphors fit the situation in the gulf, even if one accepts
them. So far as I can see, the justification for war, point by point,
is anything but clear.

The paper I have written is relatively short -- 7,000 words. Yet it is
far too long for the op-ed pages, and January 15 is too close for
journal or magazine publication. The only alternative I have for
getting these ideas out is via the various computer networks.

While there is still time, it is vital that debate over the
justification for war be seriously revived. I am therefore asking your
help. Please look over the enclosed paper. If you find it of value,
please send it on to members of your newsgroup, to friends, and to other
newsgroups. Feel free to distribute it to anyone interested.

More importantly, if you feel strongly about this issue, start talking
and writing about it yourself.

Computer networks have never before played an important role in a matter
of vital public importance. The time has come. The media have failed
to question what should be questioned. It is up to us to do so. There
are a lot of us connected by these networks, and together we have
enormous influence. Just imagine the media value of a major
computerized debate over the impending war!

We have a chance to participate in the greatest experiment ever
conducted in vital, widespread, instantaneous democratic communication.
Tens of thousands of lives are at stake. During the next two weeks
there is nothing more important that we can send over these networks
than a fully open and informed exchange of views about the war.

Here is the first contribution. Pass it on!


[A complete version of this paper is now available through the
fileserver, s.v. LAKOFF METAPHOR. You may obtain a copy by issuing
the command -- GET filename filetype HUMANIST -- either interactively or
as a batch-job, addressed to ListServ@Brownvm. Thus on a VM/CMS system,
you say interactively: TELL LISTSERV AT BROWNVM GET filename filetype
HUMANIST; if you are not on a VM/CMS system, send mail to
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more details see the "Guide to Humanist". Problems should be reported
to David Sitman, A79@TAUNIVM, after you have consulted the Guide and
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