Friday, November 26, 2004


Courtesy of Altercation: The National Council of Teachers of English has announced the winner of its 31st Annual Doublespeak Award, and for the second year in a row the Ornate Orwellian Oblation goes to . . . . what, we have to spell it out for you?
Bush, the Committee on Public Doublespeak decided, "has set a high standard for his team by the inspired invention of the phrase, 'weapons of mass destruction-related program activities' to describe what has yet to be seen."

In its official announcement, the committee also took note of the president's description of an open forum as a place where "you're able to come and listen to what I have to say."

It also gave dishonorable mentions to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for describing the torture of Iraqi citizens at Abu Ghraib as "the excesses of human nature that humanity suffers" and for changing the Vietnam-era term, "body bag" to the innocuous sounding "transfer tube" . . . .

Charles Bazerman, chairman of the NCTE Committee on Public Doublespeak, said by phone last week that politics had nothing to do with its award to Bush. Nominations were submitted by individuals in the 60,000-member organization and "there was wide agreement that the administration was the source of many misrepresentations and manipulations obscuring the facts. This was not a controversial decision by the committee," the professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara said.

Bazerman agreed with the suggestion that one could legitimately call into question the administration's often repeated statement that U.S. troops are fighting for freedom in Iraq. Whose freedom? America's? Iraq's?

"Precisely," he said. "They are taking words that are very meaningful and powerful and applying them where they are totally inappropriate, so that they are not only misusing the word but the force of the word. And what's even more troubling is that it undermines the meaning of the word so you can no longer think clearly with it.

"If that word becomes tainted as acclaim about the removal of one regime ("Operation Iraqi Freedom") without any sense of the new conditions of life the Iraqis have been put in, it loses meaning," Bazerman said. "Does it mean the actual ability of people to make choices in their lives or simply the removal of order? That is actually the meaning of doublespeak: to create a condition of doublethink so you are not troubled by contraries. You're not troubled by contradictions" . . . .

At the other end of the spectrum, the English teachers will honor writers Seymour Hersh and Arundhati Roy with their George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language. "Only when we can properly name what our global corporations, international financial institutions and governments do in our name, can we struggle intelligently for a more moral, more just, more equitable world. Clear language makes possible clear planning, and clear planning can direct us towards effective action," Bazerman said in a prepared statement.

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