Tag: political speech

“The Biden Administration…”– evading responsibility through impersonal language.

"Pyramid of obedience": a better metaphor than "chain of command"

Bad decisions flow downward and outward in the organizational pyramid, spreading bad ideas through obedience and the suppression of cognitive dissonance.

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

― George Orwell

Governments and organizations of every kind evade personal responsibility by making the organization the subject of an active sentence, as if it moved of its own will.  Granted, it’s sometimes a useful shorthand: Procter and Gamble has introduced…, in which case the company as a whole pulled it off, presumably in adherence to an agreed-upon business strategy; we don’t really have to know just whose idea the product was.

Government creates a new “domestic terrorist threat.”  And where are the linguists?

Some of the many aspects of linguistics

Somewhere in this word cloud is “comment on language abuses in public discourse” and “resist political attempts at language and thought control.”
Nothing happens without language, and in the current social turmoil, one side is blatantly attempting control through language.
Linguists remain silent..

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

  • – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

“The goals migrated:” malicious obfuscation in political speech  

It's all too rare that political speech comes off as anything but "blah." It doesn't have to be that way.

Political speech relies on verbal manipulation, one prominent example: impersonal expressions which avoid 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?”

George Will

When I listen to or read the speech of the people who represent the government and the military-industrial complex, I hear 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.

On “semantic games” and “infrastructure”

What is a language?

A language is a vast, amorphous consensus among its users as to how words are equivalent to each other and associated with our subjective and objective worlds.

 When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

― Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

There is nothing “mere” about semantics!

Latest language abuse: “deprogramming Trump supporters”

Deprogramming is a brutal concept. For one side in American politics to urge it on the other is deplorable. An alternative is compromise on the part of both sides, so that Americans learn to live with each other.

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.

— Nietzsche

We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them.

— Goethe

To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.

— Stanislaus I of Poland

P.c. atrocities roll on; linguists still silent

The babble of political correctness

In the interests of political correctness Congress wastes our tax dollars scrubbing gender from its legislation. “Amen” is deemed to contain the offensive “men.” Why don’t other linguists speak out against this insanity?

Amen. < Old English, from ecclesiastical Latin, from Greek amēn, from Hebrew ‘āmēn ‘truth, certainty’, used adverbially as expression of agreement, and adopted in the Septuagint as a solemn expression of belief or affirmation.

[The version I learned in Hebrew School:] The Talmud teaches homiletically that the word amen is an acronym for אל מלך נאמן (ʾEl melekh neʾeman, “God, trustworthy King”), the phrase recited silently by an individual before reciting the Shma. (Wikipedia)

The welcome end of Presidential tweeting

It's all too rare that political speech comes off as anything but "blah." It doesn't have to be that way.

Politicians commit various language abuses considered “BS.” “Alternate facts” is the latest.

 

“Nothing is so unbelievable that oratory cannot make it acceptable.”

— Socrates

“It is terrible to speak well and be wrong.”

— Sophocles

 

Those of us who have worked first-hand at speechwriting (my experience was corporate, not political) understand what goes into a CEO/senior management speech, how it is assembled, how it must touch the audience or articulate a particular point of view or policy.

Triumph of the TelePrompTerTM: What has it done to public speaking?

Why do people vote for a Presidential candidate who has plagiarized all his life and has as much originality and authenticity as the guy in the picture?

 

Here comes the orator, with his flood of words and his drop of reason.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1735

[Disclaimers: I am not a conservative, a Republican, or a supporter of Donald Trump.  This is about the relationship of a speaker to his speech.]

The ubiquitous double screen has triumphed in Presidential politics. We now have a candidate who is totally reliant on script, whose public speaking skills do not enable him to compose and deliver an organized, coherent 30-second answer to a substantive or policy question.

“Alternate facts”: Latest language crime

Politicians commit various language abuses considered “BS.” “Alternate facts” is the latest.

 

You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.  (Daniel Patrick Moynihan)

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. (attrib. James Madison)

Just the facts, ma’am.  (Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday, Dragnet)

Overwhelmed by political BS

Politicians commit various language abuses considered “BS.” Biden is a prime example.

Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.

Henry Adams, 1907

The politician is an acrobat.  He keeps his balance  by saying the opposite of what he does.

Maurice Barres (1896-1923)

Political BS, a noxious blend of mendacity, manipulation, and meaninglessnss, is all around us, as it has been ever since we invented politics.  So let’s try to understand what it is, the better to identify and resist it (this is knowledge that all middle-school graduates should have, but it is in the interests of the ruling classes that they not have it).

On the retarded “retard” taboo

From mind to thought (and from there to the speech and auditory organs)
.

 When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less. ‘ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things. … ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

 

Political language 2019: simpler but no less devious

Political speech – simpler, but no less devious

Definitions of “politician”:

An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared.

Ambrose Bierce

(One who) divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies.  That means he knows only one class: enemies.

Friedrich Nietzsche

[Someone] who identifies the sound of his own voice with the infallible voice of the public.

Joseph K. Howard

A set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people and who…are, taken as a mass, at least one step removed from honest men.