When language comes from certain groups – notably politicians, clergy, or marketers – we should be aware of how often it does not refer to anything in the real world and be sensitive to attempts to tell us what’s true or otherwise manipulate us.
The truth is what most people believe. And they believe that which is repeated most often
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
How often are individuals deprived of their rights because they didn’t really understand the Miranda warning?
In an earlier post, I offered some reasons why the Miranda warning, an 89-word text recited in less than a minute, is so often misunderstood, with the result that defendants give up rights they didn’t know they had.
A summary of the obstacles (many of which occur simultaneously):
Contains several complexities in vocabulary, grammatical structure
Calls upon analytic/synthetic, appropriate-response (as opposed to interactive) skills.
Confuses sequence of events – remain silent, have a lawyer present
The goals of International Pronoun Day and the means by which they are to be achieved are vague, but it sure is fun to invent new pronouns! Unfortunately, this is not feasible, given the role pronouns play in sentences.
Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.
Political speech relies on verbal manipulation, one prominent example: impersonal language that avoids assigning (or taking) responsibility.
“Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, a retired rear admiral, recently said that during the long U.S. undertaking in Afghanistan ‘the goals did migrate over time.’ Did the goals themselves have agency – minds of their own?”
When I listen to or read the speech of the people who represent the government and the military-industrial complex, I hear impersonal language and, typically, malicious obfuscation. By that I mean that they speak, as bureaucrats and politicians always have, in terms that, because people on the receiving end rarely subject them to critical scrutiny, are accepted at face value, though a moment’s consideration reveals how devious and deceptive they are.
Charles Dickens is famous for giving his characters whimsical names that often reflect their personalities. “Scrooge” is probably the best-known, unmistakably conveying a grasping miserliness in almost tangible terms.
If Dickens had written about a vulgar, aggressive billionaire intent on seeking power, crushing his enemies, and emblazoning his name around the world, he could hardly have chosen a better name than “Trump.”
But we’re not talking about a literary character. Trump is a real person who makes sure his name is repeated 24/7 in every possible mass-media outlet.