Monday, February 21, 2011

Freedom and the English Language by Cara Hoffman

Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin has proposed a bill that would take the word “victim” out of cases involving rape, stalking, domestic violence and obscene telephone contact with a child, and replace it with the word “accuser.”

Franklin’s bill comes on the heels of an attempt to redefine the word rape itself in the H.R. 3, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Bill which was proposed by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey earlier this month. The attempt failed of course, but the overall strategy by the state to employ inaccurate language in the cause of creating inaccurate perceptions, and aiding in violent actions is doing just fine.

As Orwell wrote, “Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4. All else shall follow.”

That’s not a freedom any of us should be taking lightly today.

Rather than getting sucked into debates with propagandists, it’s important to stay on top of the accurate use of language, especially in political and economic use. I truly believe, that all else will follow from this.

Here again is George Orwell, one of my favorite authors of all time from his seminal 1946 essay Politics and the English Language. Nothing could express my thoughts and feelings on these issues impacting women more accurately.

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

“Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- 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.”

No comments: