Political Language

Rachael Vorberg-Rugh

Greetings and salutations, fellow Bluebloggers, and many thanks to our "founding fathers" for bringing this about!

As an NPR junkie who listens (and apparently, blogs) at work, I thought I'd pass along a link to linguist Geoff Nunberg's commentary on today's Fresh Air re: the politicization of the word "values" (scroll down). This is something I've mused about over the years, ever since the term "liberal" became politically synonymous with "crazed psycho spendthrift communist" in the Dukakis era. (See also the conflation of "feminist" with "feminazi" a la Rush Limbaugh).


In this case, is the Kerry/Edwards campaign attempting to redefine the social conservative-coded "values" by presenting tolerance, social welfare, etc. as equally viable American values? Or are they attempting to capitalize on the soundbite confusion and promote themselves as more"family values" than Bush/Cheney (or alternative, less potty-mouthed veep)? Maybe it is a little of both.

All of this leads me once again to re-read George Orwell's 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language. A sampling:

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.

Ah yes, another case of everything old is new again.

Comments

  • Sandra (unverified)
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    Yes. I missed the NPR coverage but read an article in Harper's that concentrated on how conservatives have usurped previously progressively defined terms - and the whole "family values" meme from the conservative agenda is not, I believe, going to be quickly loosened from the minds of workaday Americans. I have no idea what the Kerry/Edwards contingent is up to with their values per se, but I hope they bring it to a larger scope around honesty and the traditional sense of honor amongst peers- that will speak more truly to the difference (we hope) to see between them and our current administration.

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    Can't you just hear the lugggage being dragged down the hall, filled with "values" just as the Democratic Convention begins. The veneer of invulnerability around the current administaration is no longer inpregnable, even in the discussion of "values."

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