Saturday, January 22, 2005

Q: How do you get a lot of good people to accept atrocious behavior by government?

A: Change the meanings of the language

"a carefully built up erection of statements, which whether true or false can be made to undermine quite rigidly held ideas and to construct new ones that will take their place. It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. What after all are a square and a circle? They are mere words and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas in disguise." - Joseph Goebbels, quote taken from the paper, Language Abuse and Human Consciousness

Word count in George W. Bush's 2005 Inaugural Address: 2,083

Number of times the word, 'freedom' is used: 27
Number of times the word, 'liberty' is used: 15
Number of times the word, 'security' is used: 4

Number of times the word, 'Iraq' is used: 0
Number of times the word, 'war' is used: 0

Number of times the word "rights" is used: 4
Number of times the word "ownership" is used: 2

Number of times the word, 'food' is used: 0
Number of times the word, 'clothing' is used: 0
Number of times the word, 'shelter' is used: 0
Number of times the word, 'hunger' is used: 0
Number of times the word, 'children' is used: 0
Number of times the word, 'elderly' is used: 0

Number of times the word, "employment" is used: 0
Number of times the word, "work" is used: 6, and is used as follows:

"The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations."

"A few Americans have accepted the hardest duties in this cause - in the quiet work of intelligence and diplomacy ... the idealistic work of helping raise up free governments ... the dangerous and necessary work of fighting our enemies."

"America has need of idealism and courage, because we have essential work at home - the unfinished work of American freedom."


Blogger robbie said...

I still think Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" while a little bookish and academic tends to be the definitive word on conservative language-meaning-changing via mass media. It's still totally worth a read even though the data is from earlier elections.

Also his excellent "What Uncle Sam Really Wants" is less bookish but covers some of the simpler themes without the underlying proofs which tend, for Chomsky, to be presented in a formally academic way.

Anyway, logically, there remains this main question e.g. whether or not our words have any particular meaning at a given time at all. This question seems to be open and remains one of the major problems of philosophy and linguistics and semiotics that this question doesn't have any obvious answer.

PS - great book, looking forward to chapter II!

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an obvious answer: Words have meaning. A more pressing question though might be not whether words have meaning but whether a person possesses integrity when they utter them. Look there and you'll find out when words have meaning and when they don't.

If you want to quibble that well, people have different twists on words, and meanings are so subtle and nuanced that we *reaaallly* can't ever be sure, go ahead. If you want to travel down the path of futile meanderings that's possible. But over time idle philosophy is no match for the pursuit of integrity in what you say.

If you believe that things like "conservatism" or "party" can have some sort of monopoly on a desire to "change the meaning of words" then you yourself have committed the very crime that you accuse. Your "conservatism" is not the conservatism of true conservatives, because it's not a conservative position at all. Classic liberalism on the other hand is far afield from what many people mean when they consider themselves "liberal" today, and notice the desperate need of most who run from conservative ideas to heap blame and hate on their opponents through a process of defamation by words than to simply pursue a positive agenda and promote their ideas with confidence.

Words do mean something, even when people try to run from them.

5:09 AM  
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