2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Echoes of Orwell in 2008 Campaign

I’m done scanning the online media this morning, both the mainstream and the blogosphere. Completing this daily ritual required deciphering several recurring words and phrases in the 2008 campaign coverage. Below are two that I find most offensive:

Triangulation: currently used as a pejorative in attacking an opponent. According to Wikipedia it means “being above and between the left and the right sides of the political spectrum.”

In other words, this made-up word describes the process of seeking common (sometimes higher) ground with the opposition party in order to actually solve a problem – the only way Congress ever accomplishes anything.

Playing the victim: a pseudo-psychological term used in family systems therapy, which was developed in the treatment of alcoholics and other addicts and their families.

The phrase has often been used in politics by the extreme Right to dismiss complaints of victims of discrimination, physical abuse, and hate crimes. Lately, the extreme Left has latched onto it to join the Right in bashing Hillary Clinton.

The above tedious exercise prompted me to re-read George Orwell’s 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language in which Orwell wrote, “It {language} becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts…to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.”

Orwell listed a few rules that today’s bloggers, reporters, and pundits should revisit at least once a week, especially during a political campaign:

i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech, which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Rule (vi) reminds me that just this morning I came across some pretty barbaric statements offered as political commentary by respected blogs and MSM Web sites.

Maybe in a future post, I’ll use Orwell’s tips on language to analyze some of the Bush Administration’s more blatant verbal distortions, e.g., the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and “interrogation enhancement.”

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