Monday, July 23, 2007

Sound Familiar?

The following is taken from George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," 1946.

(If you're interested in words in general & not just how they relate to politics, I recommend the whole essay, which can be found
Here. It takes a while to get going, but once it does it's very good)


In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

________________


A few clicks & scrolls on www.whitehouse.gov showed the following:

The President's proposed standard deduction for health insurance will reform the tax code to make private health insurance more affordable and to level the playing field so those who buy health insurance on their own get the same tax advantage as those who get health insurance through their jobs. For those who remain unable to afford coverage, the President's Affordable Choices Initiative will help eligible States assist their low-income and hard-to-insure citizens in purchasing private health insurance.

President Bush's top priority is the safety and security of the American people. Though America and its allies are safer since 9/11, we are not yet safe. We have important challenges ahead as we wage a long-term battle not just against terrorists, but against the ideology that supports their agenda.

"The men and women of the Coast Guard know how to navigate the storm. We're counting on you to help America weather the challenges that lie ahead. As you begin your Coast Guard careers, you can approach the future with confidence, because our nation has faced dangerous enemies before, and emerged victorious every time. Terrorists can try to kill the innocent, but they cannot kill the desire for liberty that burns in the hearts of millions across the earth. The power of freedom defeated the ideologies of fascism and communism in the last century, and freedom will defeat the hateful ideologies of the terrorists in this century."

President George W. Bush
May 23, 2007

The Federal government will continue to provide assistance and guidance, but the people of the Gulf Coast and their elected leaders must drive the effort to rebuild their lives and their communities.

"The law allows our intelligence and law enforcement officials to continue to share information. It allows them to continue to use tools against terrorists that they used against -- that they use against drug dealers and other criminals. It will improve our nation's security while we safeguard the civil liberties of our people. The legislation strengthens the Justice Department so it can better detect and disrupt terrorist threats. And the bill gives law enforcement new tools to combat threats to our citizens from international terrorists to local drug dealers."

-- President George W. Bush
March 9, 2006

And just for fun:

"The world is seeing the promise and potential of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. I emphasize that word, peaceful use, because one of my predecessors, Dwight David Eisenhower..."
--President George W. Bush




2 comments:

Mary said...

ok.... so, everytime I read your blog-- which is often, because I have to read it at least twice, or as many as several times, because it's summer, and my mind is mush (and you write real smart-like) -- I have to read it twice. did I say that already? at least twice. your blogs remind me of how much i don't think about. and, yes, i know FULL well that there is noooooooo real grammar happening in this post. but oh my goodness. how did i get through graduate school? :)
i will continue to to read your blog, and likely, i will continue to struggle to craft a wise response.

Molly said...

Wow, that George Orwell quote is COMPLETELY awesome...and so so true.

About Me

David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (www.indigestmag.com), an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine (www.guernicamag.com). His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post, mnartists.org, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.

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