George Lakoff, cognitive linguist, published a book in 2004 he called Don’t Think of an Elephant. It was about what people in the persuasion business call framing. His point was simple enough. If you don’t want your audience to think about elephants, avoid using the word elephant. I was reminded of this by the statement put out by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation concerning Parliament’s 241-83 vote to debate putting the government’s power of eminent domain — the US term for expropriation — on steroids. "Minister [Lindiwe] Sisulu calls on the international community not to panic," the statement was headlined, introducing the notion that something panic-worthy was going on and that the government and the normally imperturbable Cyril Ramaphosa might themselves be running around like headless chickens. The "don’t panic" panic button pressed, the rest of the statement was likely to be a blur for most observers — a pity, because the meat of the message was quite r...

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