Friday, January 09, 2009

Language is a truth concealer

Shifty language for a shifty politician? Today we have this-

"David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political adviser, along with campaign media adviser Jim Margolis, are encouraging lawmakers to use the word “recovery” instead of recession, and “investment” instead of “infrastructure.” Those recommendations came from focus-group research indicating that such framing would make the package more appealing to voters."

George Ure at Urbansurvival has noticed a change in the use of the term bailout since it first appeared in October. The term 'rescue' popped up almost immediately and by now, has overtaken it, according to Google search cache. He writes:

"When the word ‘rescue’ started (absurdly) appearing around the word ‘bailout’, you might remember that in a search, ‘rescue’ was being used only 18% of the time.

"Since we haven’t update this metric for a while, the current Google cache is 135,041 returns for bailout while rescue pops in with 164,129. Which is to say ‘rescue’ is now being used 54.86% of the time - a HUGE increase from first use tracking..."

Of course, I am not the first to note the purposeful change in speech for persuasive, suppressive, or propaganda purposes. George Orwell wrote a whole book about it, "1984" and called this tendency "newspeak." From the book's appendix

"Newspeak was the official language of Oceania, and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984 there was not as yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication, either in speech or writing. The leading articles of the Times were written in it, but this was a tour de force which could only be carried out by a specialist, It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050. Meanwhile, it gained ground steadily, all party members tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech.

"To give a single example - The word free still existed in Newspeak, but could only be used in such statements as "The dog is free from lice" or "This field is free from weeds." It could not be used in its old sense of "politically free" or "intellectually free," since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself"

crimethink - To even consider any thought not in line with the principles of Ingsoc. Doubting any of the principles of Ingsoc. All crimes begin with a thought. So, if you control thought, you can control crime...."

Before you pooh-pooh the idea that thoughcrime could ever come to the fore...and that 1984 is just a fiction book, consider this news item from a few months ago in the US:

"Last year, NewScientist revealed that the US Department of Homeland Security is developing a system designed to detect "hostile thoughts" in people walking through border posts, airports and public places. The DHS says recent tests prove it works."

It's a bailout, not a rescue. It's a handout, not a stimulus package.

"By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth." Amen, George Carlin.


Anonymous said...

The Bush administration relied on the far more deceptive concept of Doublespeak, which is far worse than Newspeak. Oh, and he relied on just arrogantly and cavalierly lying to the American people, and got over 4,000 of our young men and women killed for those lies in the process. Looking forward to seeing some in the Bush administration and perhaps even the little pea-brain himself prosecuted for some of their crimes.

luckyonesfilings said...

I find your writing very interesting.
Do you think that all the players in this deadly game, are blinded to what they are doing to this great country or is the greed just to overwhelming for common sense?
In your opinion, where does Gods plan fit in to the semiro?

Andrew said...

I don't disagree with the idea that language is an incredibly powerful tool in shaping public opinion, and I don't disagree that politicians use it to make their policies seem more favorable. I guess what I disagree with is the inference that the purposeful use of language makes Obama any more of a "shifty" politician than anyone who came before him.

Marketers and politicians have manipulated language for years (see Gingrich, Newt). To somehow attribute language manipulation as some unique, damning attribute of Barack Obama is laughable.

Besides...putting money into infrastructure is an investment, and hopefully we are in a recovery from the recession. Calling infrastructure money an investment is no less accurate than calling an escalation a surge.

Elizabeth Prata said...

You do make an excellent point, and well-phrased too. I agree. They all do it.

The difference is, in my opinion, Obama came to the fore touting that he was a different sort of politician. Fresh, honest, new, change. Well, right off the bat: no change. Business as usual. He's just a politician. And most politicians are shifty.

Elizabeth Prata said...

I think people know exactly what they are doing. Look at Madoff: hen the FBI caught up with him, the first thing he said was confess, saying "It's all been a big lie." I think greed has a lot to do with it, but also the evil times we live in has blurred the moral like of what is acceptable and what is not.

I think God IS the plan. He is always in total control.

But I am not sure what you mean when you write 'semiro"?