Propaganda: It’s here to stay When the word ‘propaganda’ is used, negative connotations are generally brought to mind. People think of politicians using propaganda to force their agenda on others or to slander their opponent’s name as in the new election coming up between Obama and Romney. Yet is this all propaganda really is? Or is there something more that is never discussed about propaganda? This essay will be summarizing and discussing three from Orwell, Lutz , and Woolfolk about propaganda and the English language.
The reader will gain a better understanding about what propaganda really is and how it is used and how to avoid getting tricked by it. The first article by George Orwell is out of his book of 50 essays entitled “ Politics and the English Language. ” George Orwell is an English journalist and novelist, who wrote such famous books as 1984 and Animal Farm. His article begins by talking about four parts of writing that are misused in the English language. The first topic discussed is dying metaphors.
Orwell says, “A newly-invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. ” If someone does not understand a metaphor because it is one that is not used anymore, it loses its effect and should not be used in writing or in propaganda (Orwell). A perfect example is the metaphor of the Hammer and the Anvil. When this metaphor is used most people think it means that the anvil gets the worst of it, when really it is the hammer that always breaks on the anvil.
It is a metaphor that has lost meaning because hardly anyone uses an anvil anymore, causing this metaphor to be technically “dead”. The next subject discussed is verbal false limbs. Orwell says verbal false limbs “save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. ” A few examples Orwell gives include our phrases ‘such as’,’to make contact with’, ‘play a leading part in’, and ‘be subjected to’.
The problem is using these phrases takes out simple verbs that give meaning to a sentence and add extra fluff to them in order to sound “better” (Orwell). When writing it is important to avoid these verbal false limbs so the reader can truly understand what you are trying to say. The third item discussed is pretentious diction. Words such as ‘promote’, ‘constitute’, ‘exploit’, ‘utilize’are used to dress up simple statements and make the person saying them sound dignified. It also is used to add scientific terms to a biased judgment. It is a common trick we see in propaganda all the time.
You will see such things as “It is inevitable if you elect Obama, our country will fail. ” The word’ inevitable’ is an example of pretentious diction (Orwell). It is taking a scientific term and adding it to a biased opinion in order to convince the voter that voting for Obama is bad. The fourth item discussed is meaningless words. These are words that are used in which the definition of is unclear. You see this in political ads words such as fascism or socialist. These words are used, but do the readers really know what the author is trying to say by using them. Another one common in political ads is the word ‘patriotic’.
Do we have a real definition of what it means to be patriotic or is that a word that is just thrown around. Orwell says that words such as these need to be used carefully and taken out of writing if unneeded. As Orwell ends this article he gives six rules of writing to avoid these crucial mistakes seen in the English language today. The rules are as follows “(1) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. (2) Never use a long word where a short one will do. (3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (4) Never use the passive where you can use the active. 5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. (6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous. ” These rules may seem easy enough but if you grew up writing today it will be harder than you think to change habits and stick to these rules. If you can stick to these rules you will become a better overall writer (Orwell). The second article we will discuss is Doublespeak by William Lutz. William Lutz is an American linguist who specializes in the use of plain words and avoiding doublespeak or deceptive language.
Lutz begins talking about how language is a human tool and may be the most important of all the human tools. Yet like any tool, it can be used to build society but can also be used to destroy it (Lutz 25). One quote that Lutz says describes this perfectly, “ Language can easily distort perception and influence behavior and thus be a tool, or weapon, for achieving the greatest good or the greatest evil. ” Lutz goes on to talk about how language is power and whoever controls language controls society (Lutz 26). There are four kinds of doublespeak that Lutz talks about the first being euphemism, which is designed to avoid reality.
When different words are used to make a situation sound better, this is euphemism. Lutz brings up the subject in 1984 where reports on human rights would remove the word ‘killing’ and replace it with ‘deprivation of life’. This helped the government avoid the subject of government sanctioned killings that happened in other countries that the United States had supported. This is a prime example of doublespeak, using different words to mislead the reader as to what has really happened. The second type of doublespeak discussed is jargon.
Jargon is used all the time by doctors and lawyers; it is speech used that only those in a specialized group can understand. When used in these groups it is not considered jargon because all members understand what is being said. Yet when jargon is used with members outside the group it is then considered doublespeak as all members do not fully understand what is being said (Lutz 27). When companies use lawyer terms to describe something that has happened in their company to the public it is considered doublespeak; they know most people do not understand what they are saying and could use it to cover up what is really happening.
The third type of doublespeak that is mentioned is gobbledygook. This is the practice of piling on words, the bigger the better to purposely overwhelm the audience as to what is actually being said. This is common when something bad happens in our economy. Politicians use big words in long complicated sentences so that their readers do not really know what is going on. The fourth type of doublespeak discussed is inflated language. This is the process of making ordinary words seem fancy and better than what they are.
This is often used in advertising to make a product sound better than it is in order to make the audience want to buy it. For example, a used car may be described as experienced (Lutz 27). This is one of the most common ways you see Doublespeak in America today, whether it be in advertising for a product or for a politician. Lutz then discusses how doublespeak is used in politics. “Political language is the language of public policy and power. Our direction as a nation is defined for us by our elected leaders through language,” says Lutz. Therefore if our leaders are not always honest and pright, we the people do not have the proper knowledge and understanding to make the decisions we need to make. This language has been distorted in the past such as in Vietnam instead of calling them bombings they called them “protective reaction strikes. ” Orwell said, “This language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ” This is why you have a negative reaction when you hear the word propaganda. It’s always easier to remember the bad things that have happened and forget the good things (Lutz 29).
Not all propaganda is used to mislead or hurt people. It can be used to get people to vote for something that is good and truthful or convince people to recycle. Yet the things that have happened in the past will always give propaganda a bad reputation. The third article is “Propaganda: How not to be bamboozled” by Donna Woolfork Cross. Donna is an American writer known for such novels as Pope Joan. Woolfork says that propaganda gets a bad reputation because people simply don’t understand what it really is. It is a means of persuasion that can be used for good or evil.
Propaganda is used to tell people what toothpaste to buy, the type of movies to see, and the one most people think of, and who you should vote for in an election (Woolfolk Cross 1). Cross says, “People are bamboozled mainly because they don’t recognize propaganda when they see it. ” Cross gives thirteen different ways to recognize propaganda. The first is name calling; this is a simple one to understand. It is when someone or group says something bad about another person or group. You see this in political ads all the time or you might hear a politician referred to as “foolish” or “fascist”.
This is used to make the reader not think but just believe what is being said. Cross then talks about glittering generalities, this is simply the opposite of name calling, it is using terms to make someone look good, it is used to make you want to vote for someone in an election. A political ad may say “Vote for Romney; It’s the American way. ” This sounds good but when actually examining what they are saying what does it really mean (Woolfolk Cross 2)? The next issue Cross discusses is the plain folks appeal. This is where a politician wants the viewer to think he is a person just like them.
A good example is when you see presidents going around to blue collar workers and shaking hands and working with them and kissing babies (Woolfolk Cross 2). They want you to believe that they are the same as you so you will vote for them. Cross also talks about the Argumentum Ad Populum; this is simply telling the people what they want to hear. This can happen in elections as well; you will hear politicians say you all are “good tax-paying Americans” or “the backbone of America. ” These phrases are things that all people want to hear and our used to distract the voter from what is really being said (Woolfolk Cross 3).
The next use of propaganda is the Argumentum Ad Hominem. Cross says, “Argumentum ad hominem means “argument to man” and that’s exactly what it is. When a propagandist uses argumentum ad hominem he wants to distract our attention from the issue under consideration with personal attacks on the people being involved. This happens often; if the issue being discussed by a politician is health care reform, then another politician may make an attack about that politician’s bad family life. His bad family life has nothing to do with health care reform, yet things like this will distract potential voters from what is actually being said.
The next item discussed is Transfer; (Glory or Guilt By Association) this is simply associating something that is good with the issue at hand even if it has no relevance to that situation. The next propaganda technique is bandwagon. We have all heard the term bandwagon fan to describe someone who likes a certain sports team only because they are doing well. The same applies in propaganda; it is used to convince people to like something because it is the popular thing to do (Woolfolk Cross 4). This happens with fashions and is used by getting celebrities to endorse a product.
Cross then talks about faulty cause and effect relationship. This is where propaganda says one thing causes another thing to happen even if it really did not. You see this in politics all the time, sense Obama has been in office our unemployment rate has gone down. Now this may be true, but was it caused by Obama or were there other factors in place? It is used to convince people to believe something without actually checking the facts. The next propaganda item discussed is false analogy. An analogy is a comparison between two ideas, events or things (Woolfolk Cross 6).
A false analogy is simply comparing two things that really have nothing to do with each other. It is often used in politics to link one thing with another that really has no reason to be associated with the other thing. The next propaganda technique, begging the question, this is a common technique used in politics. You may see a political ad that says, “No true American could turn down proposal 4. ” This is forcing the viewer to say do I not want to be a true American (Woolfolk Cross 6). It’s basically answering the question for a person instead of letting them answer it for themselves. The 11th item discussed is the two extremes fallacy.
This is where you make a situation seem like there are only two options to choose from, either black or white. This forces the viewer to choose one side when really there might be a multitude of options to choose from. The next propaganda technique is card stacking. It’s a easy technique of showing only what you want people to see. It’s used where politicians only want you to see the good parts of their plans and not the negatives such as raising taxes, they will show you all this great things that will happen but not where the money is coming from (Woolfolk Cross 7). The last propaganda technique is called the testimonial.
This is where you get someone who is famous or loved to endorse a certain product or person, even if they are not an expert in the field. You see professional athletes endorsing medical products, even though they are not a medical expert. Woolfolk lays out all thirteen examples of propaganda to show people what to look out for. In conclusion, propaganda is misunderstood. Propaganda itself is not a a negative thing, it is just a means of persuading someone that can be used either for a positive effect or a negative one. Yet in today’s society propaganda is used for many different reasons.
This is why it is important to understand what propaganda really is. Orwell, Lutz, and Woolfolk give good insight into how propaganda is used and how to avoid being confused by it. After reading this you will have a better understanding of propaganda and how to identify it, and how to understand what the author is really trying to say. It will make you a better thinker, and help with important decisions that you have to make. Sources: 1. Lutz, William . “Doublespeak. ” Public Relations Quarterly . 33. 4 n. page. Web. 2. Orwell, George. “Fifty Orwell Essays . ” Gutenburg. n. page. Web. 13 Sep. 2012.