Read Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” last night.
I was reading in Luntz’s “Words that Matter,” and he prefaced a chapter with an interesting quote from Orwell’s essay.
God bless the net. I googled it and came up with above link. It looks like someone has hurriedly typed it in (lots of typos) but I got the idea (There are quotes in the previous post).
I continue to enjoy Luntz’s observations, though I read it with my guard up. I know the power of language and it’s ability to fool the reader or listener. But I prefer to do a lot my own reading and thinking and testing my brains against the person who I am reading.
Luntz’s political stands are practically the opposite of my own. But he insists that he is not a polemicist. Instead he is trying to contribute to clarity in language.
I think this is a good goal. I know that I watch my own language and try to make it more clear.
Luntz’s has this notion that it’s not what you say or what you mean to say that ultimately matters it’s what people hear or perceive. I think that this is true a lot of the time.
But it is just a step away from saying that perception trumps reality. Or that perception is reality.
This step discards content in favor of manipulation of the reader or listener.
I don’t think Luntz is doing this.
But I think he is close to other people who advocate the idea of “framing” (which I think means choosing language to shape your audience’s response and staying “on message” avoiding any exchange of ideas that does not serve your ends). His arguments are right at the edge of the terrible word waltz where words do the leading and listeners slip helplessly into their dance without thinking.