“Defense Department” or “War Department”? Repetition breeds acceptance. But what part of America are these soldiers “defending”?
“The truth is what most people believe. And they believe that which is repeated most often.”
Paul Josef Goebbels
The quote is from the man who served as Hitler’s Propaganda Minister and who (BTW, he was a linguist like me, with a doctorate in philology) would today feel quite at home in a PR or ad firm, or at the CIA or a related secret agency, or at one of the big tech companies.
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.
From mind to thought (and from there to the speech and auditory organs) .
‘Why can’t human beings live simply and naturally?’ The trouble is that, as Susan K. Langer has said, ‘The symbol-making function is one of man’s primary activities. . .It is the fundamental process of the mind, and it goes on all the time.’
S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action
If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for, even if it isn’t there.
Here is the text of a letter I sent to the Manchester NH Union-Leader (published 6/21/19):
March 19, 2019
Let me add my voice to the chorus of people outraged by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s comparison of immigrant confinement to concentration camps. This is worse than obscene and ignorant. It is an utterly irresponsible use of language. As a linguist, I am appalled by the deceptive reducing of two vastly different entities to a single point of comparison — confinement.