2008-01-03

Propaganda muss nicht Newspeak sein

--- Lesenswerter Aufsatz von Nicholas Lemann über Sprache, Rhetorik, Information und Politik unter anderem am Beispiel des "Kriegs gegen den Terror": The Limits of Clear Language. Orwell worried about polluted language, but polluted information is more toxic:
There are really two distinct kinds of bad political writing: the overcomplicated, unclear kind, and propaganda. The first kind is dangerous because people in power can use it to fuzz up what they are doing and thus avoid accountability—think of a word like “rendition”—but it is usually not persuasive, because persuasion is not its intent. Propaganda, on the other hand, is often quite beautifully and clearly written. When it works, it works by virtue of being simple and memorable. What is dangerous about propaganda is that it is misleading. ...

Bush was responding to a successful terrorist attack by declaring war, not against the attackers themselves but against unspecified “enemies of freedom.” Thus, as in 1984, the United States was in a war without a definite beginning or end point, against whomever Bush wanted it to be against. Still, the speech wasn’t exactly Newspeak—its rhetoric was neither purposely obscure nor flat and simple to the point of meaninglessness. It was meant to have a genuine, persuasive emotional effect, and it did. ...

All politicians use slogans. Most significant legislation is given a meaning-obscuring name, for instance, the USA patriot Act and the No Child Left Behind Act. The way we respond to these uses of language is partly conditioned by our political preferences. Conservatives, who admire Orwell today no less than liberals do, find Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society (pretty names for great expansions in the charter of the federal welfare state) to be Orwellian uses of language. Every recent president has seemed to his opposition to have used political spin at an unprecedented and alarming level, and every party out of power believes that if it can only use language more effectively (as opposed to more honestly), it will win again. ...

To my mind, an even more frightening political prospect than the corruption of language is the corruption of information. Language, especially in the age of the Internet, is accessible to everybody. ... Information, on the other hand, is much less generally accessible than words. When the process of determining whether the facts of a situation have been intentionally corrupted by people in power (whether, let’s say, Saddam Hussein had the ability to produce nuclear weapons, or whether a new drug has harmful side effects), there often is no corrective mechanism at hand, as there is in cases of the intentional corruption of language. Intellectual honesty about the gathering and use of facts and data is a riskier and more precious part of a free society than is intellectual honesty in language.
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1 Comments:

At 8:25 nachm., Blogger Tilman Hausherr said...

Nachdem die USA ja behaupten, "im Krieg" zu sein, reise ich nicht mehr dorthin. Wer will denn schon in ein Kriegsgebiet reisen?

 

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