January 21, 2005

Orwellian Double-Speak Pretzel-Twist

Susan Jacoby has an unintentionally funny article in the LAT, Hear 'Reform,' Think 'Destroy'.

In a 1946 essay titled "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell observed that all political language is designed "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

As President Bush begins his second term, he has already demonstrated the truth of Orwell's dictum by persuading much of the windy news media to attach the word "reform" to his plan for fundamental change in the way Social Security is financed...

It's reform in any sane sense of the word--most of the program will remain the same...
...Each time television or radio newscasters use the phrase "Social Security reform," as they do every day, they send a message to the American public that Social Security is a broken system in need of fixing.
You Dems agreed on that point until a Republican actually tried to DO something. Remember Bill Clinton saying "Save Social Security First?"
The general definition of reform is always positive, conveying the notion of changes designed to improve an institution...
It's the connotation that is positive, not the definition. But in fact we do intend to improve the institution. So "reform" fits.
...In its specific political sense, reform is offered as a moderate alternative to radicalism and revolution. Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, for instance, has been judged by history as a set of reforms that saved capitalism from its own worst excesses...
Only if you define history as "only the writings of Leftists." Many historians have different opinions on this point. The judgement of history has not been made yet.
...Neither common nor political usage justifies the application of the reform brand to such a controversial proposal as the Republican plan to privatize Social Security.
So now being "controversial" means it's not reform? The New Deal, of course, was never controversial.
A minority of newspapers (the Los Angeles Times among them) appear to have made a conscientious effort to keep the reform label out of their headlines and use more neutral terms like "change" and "revision."...
A majority of newspapers appear to have made a conscientious effort to call people who shred women and children with bombs "militants" or "activists," avoiding the T-word.
But most of the media have capitulated to the administration's understandable desire to soothe the public with the R-word, thereby displaying as profound a bias as if the Bush plan were routinely described as "Social Security destruction."...
It's not neutral to deliberately eschew anything that sounds positive. It's biased...

What's especially loony about this article is that Social Security was radical and revolutionary when it was started. Nothing like it had ever been done in America. It could not possibly have been called "reform" then, because there was nothing similar to be improved or tinkered with.

It's almost pathetic how these people let themselves be manipulated by President Bush. First he maneuvers them into allying themselves with the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan. Now he has them ready to die at the barricades to defend the very Social Security system that they were recently saying needed to be fixed. (Thanks to Juddblog)

Posted by John Weidner at January 21, 2005 8:40 AM
Weblog by John Weidner