Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend

Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites (# of views)   2 comments
Exclusive to OpEdNews:
OpEdNews Op Eds

Republican Newspeak

By       Message Carol V. Hamilton     Permalink
      (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com

Author 3174
- Advertisement -
Republican Newspeak

In his famous essay, "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell wrote, "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. "

- Advertisement -
The success of the Republican Party in the past two decades has stemmed significantly from their control of political discourse. As a result of their ingenuity and Democratic passivity, Republican words and phrases permeate the public sphere. Yet this political vocabulary is both intellectually dishonest and emotionally manipulative. It is "spin" operating at an atomic level. In an era of sound bites and attenuated, channel-surfing attention spans, linguistic micro-spin can have very serious consequences.

In his novel 1984, Orwell invented a language called Newspeak, his fictional State's method of controlling thought and suppressing opposition to its policies. Orwell describes Newspeak as being composed in part of "words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes ... words which were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them ... No word in [this] vocabulary was ideologically neutral. A great many were euphemisms. [Some] meant almost the exact opposite of what they were supposed to mean."

This is exactly how Republican Newspeak works. Just as 1984's Ministry of Plenty was really the Ministry of Scarcity, "the Clear Skies Initiative" is really "the Industrial License to Pollute Act." Just as the novel's Ministry of Love really refers to the Ministry of Coercion and Torture, the Patriot Act is really the Suppression of Dissent Act.

An ideological charge often resides in a spinning adjective. Activist judges, the Death Tax, compassionate conservative, pro-life, faith-based, Big Government--each of these attempts to dictate our responses. Such phrases ("cut & run" is the latest) are designed to push our buttons--to arouse emotional responses and override rational processes. What could be worse for a democracy? In The Federalist Papers, both Hamilton and Madison express particular concern about the emotional manipulation of the electorate.

- Advertisement -
Other examples of Republican Newspeak are more complex. One tactic is to represent an oppositional position as a positive one--to turn an "anti" into a "pro." The term "pro-life" is a case in point. It is inaccurate, because "pro-lifers" are not so much for something as against something much more circumscribed. "Pro-life" does not really stand for an advocacy of human life in general (such as an opposition to the death penalty); it only means "against abortion." In a related rhetorical move, and one just as emotionally manipulative, anti-abortionists refer to fetuses as "the unborn," "babies," and even "children." Their opponents, who call themselves "pro-choice," are honest. These people are not "for abortion," but rather for an adult woman's right to decide whether she is prepared to bear a child. They have, however, failed to point out, publicly and frequently, the distortions of their opponents.

The imperative Support Our Troops implies that if you disapprove of a particular administration's aggressive military policy, you lack solidarity with and concern for the young men and women in the armed forces. This slogan, in other words, conflates two distinct positions and simultaneously marks one of them as unpatriotic and heartless. It is pure emotional blackmail. In peace demonstrations, some protestors carry signs that read: Support Our Troops/Bring Them Home, but this riposte has not made the original slogan disappear.

What can be done about this insidious trend? Democrats and their allies need to fight back. When Republicans talk about an "ownership society," Democrats should say this means a "you're-on-your-own society." When the Bush administration says it wants to "reform" Social Security, Democrats should protest that Bush really want to "dismantle" it. They might add that putting our retirement money on the stock market will result in "anti-Social Insecurity." They could refer to Fox News as "Pravda," because Fox functions as a government organ, much as the Soviet news organ ("pravda" means "true" or "truth")did.

More importantly, Democrats should make meta-comments, calling attention to the manipulative character of Republican Newspeak. "Cut & run," for example, is high-school jock talk, completely inappropriate for a serious discussion of foreign policy. (What's next-- "meet me at the flagpole"?)

Finally, our media should scrupulously monitor their own use of political language, echoing neither political party and striving for neutral, objective descriptions of legislation and policies.
- Advertisement -

 

- Advertisement -

View Ratings | Rate It

Carol V. Hamilton has a Ph.D. in English from Berkeley and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. She also writes for History News Network (hnn.us) and CommonDreams.org.

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon



Go To Commenting
/* The Petition Site */
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Related Topic(s): , Add Tags
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Nixon, Agnew, Quayle, Cheney--and Now Palin?

Separation of Church & State: A Thumbnail Sketch

Pop Christianity

"Liberal" or "Progressive"?

Republican Newspeak

The State, That's Me!