The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

politics and the English language

From an exchange between Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Chuck Hagel on Thursday:

HAGEL: I think this speech, given last night by this President, represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out.

RICE: I think that I don't see it and the President doesn't see it as an escalation. What he sees...

HAGEL: Putting 22,000 new troops, more troops in, is not an escalation? Would you call it a decrease? And billions of dollars more?

RICE: I would call it, Senator, an augmentation that allows the Iraqis to deal with this very serious problem that they have in Baghdad.

So is it a "surge"? An "escalation"? Or an "augmentation"? Why not an "embiggenment"?

Does Orwell just get MORE RIGHT the farther away we are from his time?

"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." ("Politics and the English Language," 1946)

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1 Comments:

  • At 1:20 PM, Blogger zp said…

    Just heard this exchange on the news this morning. Ugh.

     

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