"When they allow a talk show host to play them like a two-dollar banjo, they demonstrate what kind of backbone they'll bring to the job later on, if we elect them. After they get elected will they continue to allow Jeff Crank to put a nickel in them and wind them up every Saturday morning?"

Barry Noreen, former columnist, Colorado Springs Gazette

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

THE POLITICS OF PURE WIND



By

ROBERT HARKINS

There should be a pure wind award presented yearly to that politician who excels in the emasculation of the English language. Special recognition should be given to those creatures who create such empty, wordy trash as “Overseas Contingency Operation” or “Man Made Disaster.” These are the apostles of deceit who as they obliterate meaning from words show their contempt for Americans. They are the apparatchiks who answer the Jihadist slaughter of Americans with the admonition that “Islam is a religion of peace.” They are the military bureaucrat, like General Casey who admonished the grieving families of the dead and dying that the Jihadist mass murder of American soldiers must not compromise the diversity which is our “strength.” After all, “That would be even worse!”

The characterization of political speech as pure wind harks back to the political prophet George Orwell who wrote that

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind….” One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs.”

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.”[1] [Therefore], “If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.” Americans should simplify their use of the English language and insist on simplicity from their government.

If Americans engage the discipline of oral and written clarity they will avoid the mental vicesof government language. They will,

…think more clearly, and 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.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman in his “maiden speech” to the Senate exemplifies a fusion of two rhetorical methods calculated to sound impressive and convey nothing. First, Senator Portman uses metaphors that are so old and worn out they are devoid of meaning. Second, Senator Portman, like most politicians, spends virtually all of his time telling Americans what they already know. When Americans hear a politician drone on about how Americans are in a fiscal crisis, they are tempted to shout, “We know that! But what exactly are you going to do about it!” Americans will not find the answer in Senator Portman’s maiden speech.

The object of this rhetorical technique, as Senator Portman so well demonstrates, is to sound sincere, appear intelligent, project a decorous Roman gravitas and above all avoid commitment to any strategy or promise by which the politician’s success or failure, faith or betrayal may be measured. While the politician specifically decries the social and economic crisis, his speech always ends in vacuous platitudes. Of a specific strategy there is nothing.

During the 2010 elections, the Republicans’ factual attacks on President Obama’s slow motion destruction of the American economy won them the House of Representatives and a bigger chunk of the Senate. However, while Republicans certainly identified the facts of the crisis, they have failed to identify any strategy that will extinguish a 15 trillion dollar deficit. The cuts they intend for 2011 will have precisely the same impact on the deficit as will a garden hose upon a California forest fire.

Furthermore, Republicans apparently do not intend to cut the 25 billion dollars appropriated to begin the imposition of Obamacare upon an American people who have rejected it at the polls. Americans, in fact, know next to nothing specific about what Republicans will actually do to reduce the deficit. Will there be a VAT tax or yet another tax on gasoline? Will Republicans go along with most or all of the 1.6 trillion dollar tax increase proposed in President Obama’s “austere” budget? Of course, we know what the Democrats intend to do: They will increase taxes and the deficit for the next twenty years and otherwise arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The mere reiteration of the problem, however, because it does not specifically address solutions, is little more than misdirection. “Words of this kind,” Orwell wrote,

… are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them as his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different….

In particular, when a politician starts using metaphors,

“…it can be taken as certain that [he] is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking.” [We must admit to] “…a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy…. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved, as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying…. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity….”

Orwell could have written his Preface to Animal Farm with Senator Rob Portman in mind. In his “maiden speech” Senator Portman first assured everyone that he has a “fantastic wife” and “great teenagers.” He explained that he was a senior partner in a law firm so prestigious that former President Howard Taft was once a partner. In a speech that was far too long, he then informed his American audience of well… nothing. I paraphrase his speech and place in quotes the actual language he used.

People have lost their jobs and are “feeling pain.” The Stimulus is no good. The government is “out of touch” with the people. We are suffering from “record deficits.” We are in a “fiscal crisis.” What we need is “real change.” We have to face the “twin challenges” of jobs and deficits, so as to create an “economic miracle.” If we don’t create an “economic miracle” we will “extinguish the American dream.”

The problem is we’re facing a “fiscal time bomb” We politicians need to “work together!” We need to “cross the aisle.” What we need to solve this fiscal crisis is “entrepreneurship.” We need to get rid of “economic chaos” and a “climate of uncertainty.”

The leadership not only needs to “restore the American Dream” it needs to address “unsustainable entitlement programs” that “mortgage the future” of our children. We have to reject the “status quo.” We need to meet these economic problems “head on” so that we can all have “better tomorrows.”

It’s too late to “rest on our laurels.” We must deal with the “bureaucratic regime” and end “social engineering.” What we really need is “structural reform.” Indeed, we have to fix a “broken system.”

America must become a “beacon of hope,” Why my old partner Howard Taft would have raised his voice in a “full throated” protest, so great was his “love of liberty” that doubtless, he would have taken arms against “the heavy hand of government” so that Americans could “go forward together.”

Does anyone know what the good Senator is talking about? Where is there a single sentence that speaks to a specific act or plan that will address America’s imminent financial collapse? Beacon of Hope? Economic Miracle? Going forward together? Fixing a “broken system.” “Restoring the American Dream” and “Better Tomorrows?” These are not solutions Senator Portman. Your metaphors are as empty as President Obama’s “Sputnik Moment” or his inane campaign theme “We are the ones we have been waiting for!” As you know too well, Senator your words are worn out and vacuous, meaningless and misleading. Americans have asked their leaders for specific plan, a strategy that will address the damage government has wrecked on America and its people. Where is this strategy. And, why do you answer with pure wind?



[1] Excerpts are from Orwell’s unpublished Preface to Animal Farm.

No comments:

Post a Comment