Political Language

  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 12:04 AM GMT
    Occasionally I get annoyed at the way politics is discussed and how terms are used incorrectly. You could interpret it as political pedantry, but I think it's important we all use terms correctly so what we are trying to express and communicate is clear.

    - People using "Liberal" and "Left" interchangeably as if they're the same thing
    - People using "Libertarian" and "Right" interchangeably as if they're the same thing
    - People using "Political Correctness" to describe events outside of language: i.e. political correctness is about manipulating language for political ends, so changing chairman to gender-neutral chair-person...Now...Gay people getting married or health and safety legislation is considered "PC MADNESS OMG" or "GUYS IT'S POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD"
    - Lazy things like calling Obama a socialist
    - (Perhaps this one is me being way too pedantic) But people using phrases like "the West" and "the East". For starters, it's not really specific, but more annoyingly, when some people say "the West", what they really mean is "the USA"!

    In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called "Politics and the English Language", where he feared that the language was being exploited for the purpose of propaganda - now language is being exploited for the purposes of misinformation, confusion, incoherency and all round stupidity.
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    Sep 15, 2014 3:01 PM GMT
    I agree. It's really maddening to hear words like "socialist" and "fascist" being being used as attack words by people who want to justify themselves. And even basic terminology like "democracy" often seems poorly understood. The thing that drives me most nuts is in economics where terms like "socialism" and "capitalism" are talked about as if these are real things, and not simply utopian 18th century ideas made by smart people who lacked all of the insights we should have gained since then.
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 4:52 PM GMT
    Nivek saidI agree. It's really maddening to hear words like "socialist" and "fascist" being being used as attack words by people who want to justify themselves. And even basic terminology like "democracy" often seems poorly understood. The thing that drives me most nuts is in economics where terms like "socialism" and "capitalism" are talked about as if these are real things, and not simply utopian 18th century ideas made by smart people who lacked all of the insights we should have gained since then.


    I think it's equally funny how some economists personify the market as if it were a person: "let the market decide", "the market is always right"...

    But yes, I actually got so annoyed with this, I went out my way to pen a blog-post on the issue:

    http://ablogaboutpolitics.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/politics-and-the-cliched-language/
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 4:52 PM GMT
    Nivek saidI agree. It's really maddening to hear words like "socialist" and "fascist" being being used as attack words by people who want to justify themselves. And even basic terminology like "democracy" often seems poorly understood. The thing that drives me most nuts is in economics where terms like "socialism" and "capitalism" are talked about as if these are real things, and not simply utopian 18th century ideas made by smart people who lacked all of the insights we should have gained since then.


    Also, you're right. I find that the word "democracy" is used as a political 'buzz-word' to cheaply win an argument.
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    Sep 15, 2014 5:49 PM GMT
    jaroslav123 saidOccasionally I get annoyed at the way politics is discussed and how terms are used incorrectly.

    ...In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called "Politics and the English Language", where he feared that the language was being exploited for the purpose of propaganda - now language is being exploited for the purposes of misinformation, confusion, incoherency and all round stupidity.


    Then why, Oh Wise One, why don't you define the terms as you would like them to be used so as the rest of the unenlightened do not annoy your delicate sensibilities.

    As for old Georgie, I don't think the exploitation of language for the purposes of propaganda was anything new in 1946. It was just that the Information Age was nascent and the manipulation of language for political purpose was become more widely disseminated though radio and TV.
  • Lincsbear

    Posts: 2605

    Sep 15, 2014 8:30 PM GMT
    A fascinating topic.

    Agree with UndercoverMan. The ancient Greeks would have known about, used and abused language this way.

    'Political correctness' is an interesting case. It may be the preserve of the left(or liberals), but the right has its own; that might be termed 'traditional correctness'. The giveaway in both cases is often tone rather than content. Listen to those who support the monarchy in the UK in any debate about what kind of head of state we should have.

    Listening to politicians talk is a lesson in propaganda, its creation and useage. It always goes up several levels during elections as the stakes rise. The language surrounding the referendum debate in Scotland is a good example, with overheated words and dire warnings from both sides.

    Even this word, propaganda can be misused, as its not always a negative thing as usually portrayed. It`s simply the propagation of an idea or practice, good or bad; to some extent depending on your viewpoint. The best propaganda comes from democracies, partly because it`s the most plausible. The politicians don`t have the easy resort to brute force as dictatorships have, relying instead on persuasion, and their media would soon expose anything totally false. This keeps them on their toes.
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    Sep 15, 2014 8:32 PM GMT
    Explain Liberal and Left. I'm guilty of that; I don't see any difference between them.
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    Sep 15, 2014 8:42 PM GMT
    Lincsbear saidListening to politicians talk is a lesson in propaganda, its creation and useage.

    One of my favorite examples of that is when George Bush Sr. was president, when AIDS was huge, he or someone on his staff came up with the phrase "Innocent victims of AIDS" which meant meant people who got it from blood transfusions and babies who were born to needle using drug addict mothers. The clever insinuation was that people who got it from sex and needle using drug addicts were implicitly guilty.

    A similar and older one is white trash. I tried explaining to a friend that it's a term from the South back when the only races there were blacks and whites. It implies that blacks are trash. But the friend didn't understand or I didn't explain it well.
  • Lincsbear

    Posts: 2605

    Sep 15, 2014 8:54 PM GMT
    Lumpyoatmeal saidExplain Liberal and Left. I'm guilty of that; I don't see any difference between them.


    The defintions may vary somewhat between the USA and UK, but to some extent, they do overlap.

    The following descriptions are necessarily stark and extreme.

    A Liberal believes in the private market, small government, low taxes and regulation, the importance of profit, maximum individual responsibilty, freedom, and choice, private philanthropy rather than public services, and in the UK, electoral reform to a proportional voting system.

    In some ways they share the same views with Conservatives.

    Someone from the Left would believe in social responsibility, mutual solidarity, and collective action, public ownership of industry, public services, equality and redistribution of some kind, the role of class in society, an international rather than nationalist outlook on the world

    The Liberal, unlike the Conservative, does see the failings of the private market, and is prepared to take governmental action(or other agencies) to correct this(welfare systems, free healthcare, etc.) They share this awareness with the Left, which, of course, goes much further along this way of thinking.
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:09 PM GMT
    Lumpyoatmeal saidExplain Liberal and Left. I'm guilty of that; I don't see any difference between them.


    Liberalism is about free-speech, freedom of the press and individualism. It is the notion of the individual raging against an oppressive large government. This is why liberals are big on their free-press and free-speech as it allows them to use their expression to critique and dissect the powers that be. Read JS Mill's "On Liberty" it's a good place to begin.

    Left-wing politics is about collectivism, thus acting as a group. Thus it's the notion of a big power not oppressing an individual but a whole group - or rather, class - of people. Liberalism was about the government vs the individual, Left-wing thinking is about government vs the PEOPLE.

    In terms of economic policies this means the following:

    Liberalism (which started as a social idea) then developed into an economic one - Neo-Liberalism: Free Markets, the theory being that individuals who are strong enough can create products and be successful. It's thus based on the belief that people who work hard can benefit the capitalist system. Thus a neo-liberal wants smaller governments so that the free/individualist markets are as free as possible and work to their advantage.

    Left-wing economics is essentially a critique of Neo-Liberal economics stating that working class people could work as hard as possible but still won't be able to climb up the ladder. Thus a left-wing economy is technically no economy as Marx proposed a society with no class (no class = no money = no economy). Thus left-wing economics is about equality for all. Everyone becomes equal economically according to this theory, thus it is about collectivism as opposed to individualism. Left-wing thinking in a sense could be called "structured anarchism" - as there are other ideas such as direct-democracy and running a society horizontally as opposed to vertically...etc etc...


    Then very bizarre weird things began to happen...

    Just how originally a social idea like Liberalism (free speech, free press) then developed into an economic idea (free markets)...the same happened with the left.

    Originally left wing thinking was based more or less on economic issues (there were some social issues which marx discussed - i.e. religion - but he was mainly an economic philosopher). Left wing thinking then developed. So Marxism developed into "Cultural Marxism".

    Under traditional Marxist thought concerned with the economy, the theory was that capitalists oppressed the proletariat...developing into "Cultural Marxism" it's about how societal pressures and norms oppress minorities. For example Heteronormativity oppresses homosexuals. patriarchy oppresses females...etc etc...

    So when people interchangeably mix up "left" and "liberal" they're unintentionally urinating over a whole history and development of political thought.


    Thus in simple terms:

    Classical Liberalism (free speech) became economic: Neo-Liberalism (free markets).

    Marxism (everyone is equal - no class) became social: Cultural Marxism (Civil rights movement, Frankfurt school of thinking, suffragettes, LGBT liberation etc etc etc)
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:10 PM GMT
    southbeach1500 said
    Lincsbear said

    A Liberal believes in the private market, small government, low taxes and regulation, the importance of profit, maximum individual responsibilty, freedom, and choice, private philanthropy rather than public services


    What??????


    Yup this is true. No wonder SouthBeach is confused...he's been using Liberal wrong all these years.

    People should really read up on political theory and use their terms correctly. icon_rolleyes.gificon_rolleyes.gif
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:12 PM GMT
    UndercoverMan said
    jaroslav123 saidOccasionally I get annoyed at the way politics is discussed and how terms are used incorrectly.

    ...In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called "Politics and the English Language", where he feared that the language was being exploited for the purpose of propaganda - now language is being exploited for the purposes of misinformation, confusion, incoherency and all round stupidity.


    Then why, Oh Wise One, why don't you define the terms as you would like them to be used so as the rest of the unenlightened do not annoy your delicate sensibilities.

    As for old Georgie, I don't think the exploitation of language for the purposes of propaganda was anything new in 1946. It was just that the Information Age was nascent and the manipulation of language for political purpose was become more widely disseminated though radio and TV.


    It's not about pedanticism it's about getting the facts right darling icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:26 PM GMT
    Thus, it's really amusing when people claim Obama is a socialist. If he was a socialist he would genuinely be trying to overthrow capitalism, replace it with socialism: a system where the workers control the means of production (as opposed to a big boss at the top), and where society was structured and organised by numerous direct democracies all working together. Thus, he'd be attempting to make society run "horizontally" rather than vertically....

    People seem to think he's a socialist because a bit to the left of the republicans.

    This is the thing with mainstream politics, the names (or the way the parties are advertised) are lies.

    In the UK the two main parties are the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. The Labour Party's own title is a lie as it isn't a party which is trying to help the workers, and the conservative party's title is a lie as it's social policies don't conserve traditionalism (David Cameron introduced gay marriage).

    In simple terms, both parties are near enough ideologically the same. Crudely speaking they are both socially of the left (culturally Marxist), and economically of the right (neo-liberalism).
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    Sep 15, 2014 9:28 PM GMT
    Jaroslav123 and Lincsbear are both in the UK. I'd say that they have a different interpretation of liberal and left than we do over here in the US.

    I tend to think of liberal and conservative as being two sides of a coin, with the issues primarily being about A) government control of morality (e.g., abortions), B) government control of business (e.g., minimum wage, child labor laws), and C) more taxes for doing (hopefully or presumably) socially good things (e.g., health care). Liberals (i.e., Democrats here in the US) favor stronger government involvement with B and C, and less government involvement with A. Conservatives (Republicans here in the US) are just the opposite, favoring more government involvement for A, and less for B and C. It's a bit simplistic but that's generally how I see the two camps.

    In the US we also have this thing where there are different governments. The federal government (the US government) and the state governments. Conservatives generally are against the federal government doing things that overrule state governments; the so called states rights. Especially if a state government passes a law that's conservative.
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:30 PM GMT
    Nope. My political theory books are written by people of multiple nationalities.
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:30 PM GMT
    The terms are actually universal but parties lie about their own ideologies and the media confuses terms so frequently it's laughable.
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:33 PM GMT
    Lumpyoatmeal saidJaroslav123 and Lincsbear are both in the UK. I'd say that they have a different interpretation of liberal and left than we do over here in the US.

    I tend to think of liberal and conservative as being two sides of a coin, with the issues primarily being about A) government control of morality (e.g., abortions), B) government control of business (e.g., minimum wage, child labor laws), and C) more taxes for doing (hopefully or presumably) socially good things (e.g., health care). Liberals (i.e., Democrats here in the US) favor stronger government involvement with B and C, and less government involvement with A. Conservatives (Republicans here in the US) are just the opposite, favoring more government involvement for A, and less for B and C. It's a bit simplistic but that's generally how I see the two camps.

    In the US we also have this thing where there are different governments. The federal government (the US government) and the state governments. Conservatives generally are against the federal government doing things that overrule state governments; the so called states rights. Especially if a state government passes a law that's conservative.


    This is where it gets confusing...technically liberal and conservative are similar (they're different movements, but they're both influenced by similar schools of thought).

    Both disagree with big governments. Both are about "the individual".

    But conservatism is strongly linked to Christian morality - i.e. Check out Edmund Burke. Thus conservatives - usually (not always) are against abortion, LGBT rights, some aspects of feminism, gay marriage, etc etc

    Conservatives are usually Classical Liberals.
    But not all Classical Liberals are Conservatives.

    I'm a Classical Liberal and a Marxist: thus I agree with free-speech, free-press (and all the "social freedoms") but I disagree with the concept of market-freedom (as I'm a Marxist).
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:43 PM GMT
    southbeach1500 said
    jaroslav123 said
    southbeach1500 said
    Lincsbear said

    A Liberal believes in the private market, small government, low taxes and regulation, the importance of profit, maximum individual responsibilty, freedom, and choice, private philanthropy rather than public services


    What??????


    Yup this is true. No wonder SouthBeach is confused...he's been using Liberal wrong all these years.

    People should really read up on political theory and use their terms correctly. icon_rolleyes.gificon_rolleyes.gif


    Then our current Democrat party is misusing the term liberal because:

    Private market: Obama has vowed to bankrupt coal companies and most Democrats want a "single payer" health care system which will drive private health insurance companies out of business, to name just 2 examples.

    Small government: Government agencies have grown tremendously during the Obama years, as well as new agencies being created as a result of Dodd-Frank and Obamacare.

    Low taxes and regulation: Taxes increased during the Obama years (both Federal income taxes as well as a multitude of new taxes in Obamacare). The amount of new regulations as a result of just Obamacare and Dodd-Frank is stunning in their number.

    Maximum individual responsibility: Obama and the democrats have taken away the need for individual responsibility in terms of the Federal school lunch and school snack programs, greatly expanded the number of people on food stamps and greatly expanded the number of people who have their health insurance paid for by the government.

    Freedom and choice: Thanks to Obama and the Democrats the door has been opened for the Federal government to dictate what you MUST purchase. And as mentioned earlier, the Federal government now dictates what "choices" students will have available to them for lunch.

    Private philanthropy rather than public services: Again, see above in terms of Obama and the Democrats vastly expanding the number of people dependent on public services.

    There are many, many more examples.






    Most parties exploit the term "liberal" because it's caught on as a nice buzzword which sounds nice and mushy and wishy-washy and "let's all get along together". It's term has been sucked dry of meaning entirely.
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:45 PM GMT
    Essentially "liberal" has become a political buzzword used for propaganda purposes, rather than a political ideology.

    It's very much like the word "fascism". Originally fascism was a political movement which could be described ideologically. Now "fascist" is just a political-insult applied to everyone regardless of political ideology. George Orwell (him again) wrote a damn fine essay on this:

    http://orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 9:47 PM GMT
    southbeach1500 said
    jaroslav123 said
    southbeach1500 said
    jaroslav123 said
    southbeach1500 said
    Lincsbear said

    A Liberal believes in the private market, small government, low taxes and regulation, the importance of profit, maximum individual responsibilty, freedom, and choice, private philanthropy rather than public services


    What??????


    Yup this is true. No wonder SouthBeach is confused...he's been using Liberal wrong all these years.

    People should really read up on political theory and use their terms correctly. icon_rolleyes.gificon_rolleyes.gif


    Then our current Democrat party is misusing the term liberal because:

    Private market: Obama has vowed to bankrupt coal companies and most Democrats want a "single payer" health care system which will drive private health insurance companies out of business, to name just 2 examples.

    Small government: Government agencies have grown tremendously during the Obama years, as well as new agencies being created as a result of Dodd-Frank and Obamacare.

    Low taxes and regulation: Taxes increased during the Obama years (both Federal income taxes as well as a multitude of new taxes in Obamacare). The amount of new regulations as a result of just Obamacare and Dodd-Frank is stunning in their number.

    Maximum individual responsibility: Obama and the democrats have taken away the need for individual responsibility in terms of the Federal school lunch and school snack programs, greatly expanded the number of people on food stamps and greatly expanded the number of people who have their health insurance paid for by the government.

    Freedom and choice: Thanks to Obama and the Democrats the door has been opened for the Federal government to dictate what you MUST purchase. And as mentioned earlier, the Federal government now dictates what "choices" students will have available to them for lunch.

    Private philanthropy rather than public services: Again, see above in terms of Obama and the Democrats vastly expanding the number of people dependent on public services.

    There are many, many more examples.






    Most parties exploit the term "liberal" because it's caught on as a nice buzzword which sounds nice and mushy and wishy-washy and "let's all get along together". It's term has been sucked dry of meaning entirely.


    Well, the fact is our Democrat party here self-identifies as liberal. So I guess you need to go explain to all the Democrats here that they are using the term incorrectly. In the meantime, I will still refer to Democrats and their policies as liberal - until you set them all straight.




    If you're going to do that at least do it in ironic quotation marks.

    Having seen your posts, I'm assuming you're neo-liberal and a classical liberal (assuming, could be wrong). Thus if you say "bloody liberals!" you're insulting yourself!
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    Sep 15, 2014 10:30 PM GMT
    jaroslav123 said
    UndercoverMan said
    jaroslav123 saidOccasionally I get annoyed at the way politics is discussed and how terms are used incorrectly.

    ...In 1946, George Orwell wrote an essay called "Politics and the English Language", where he feared that the language was being exploited for the purpose of propaganda - now language is being exploited for the purposes of misinformation, confusion, incoherency and all round stupidity.


    Then why, Oh Wise One, why don't you define the terms as you would like them to be used so as the rest of the unenlightened do not annoy your delicate sensibilities.

    As for old Georgie, I don't think the exploitation of language for the purposes of propaganda was anything new in 1946. It was just that the Information Age was nascent and the manipulation of language for political purpose was become more widely disseminated though radio and TV.


    It's not about pedanticism it's about getting the facts right darling icon_lol.gificon_lol.gif


    Do you realize how priggish you come across?

    And I'm not your darling.
  • topathlete

    Posts: 882

    Sep 15, 2014 11:50 PM GMT
    I don't doubt the OP can find books to support specific definitions of political terms. However definitions change over time and vary among disparate populations. There are general definitions as used today by US media, political analysts and writers, politicians and political parties and the general population. These definitions generally work because those of us in the US are able to communicate among ourselves the various political concepts.

    Given this site has an international audience it is fair to point out differences but where the OP goes astray is in attempting to adjudicate the correctness of terms.
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    Sep 15, 2014 11:54 PM GMT
    The Bible tells us the God of this world is the devil. The influence of Satan is the reason 90 percent of the press and Hollywood elite are liberals who vote exclusively for the Democratic Party. The one-minded eagerness of the left to influence the electoral process should act as a warning sign to the conservative base of this nation.
    https://www.raptureready.com/republican.html
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 15, 2014 11:55 PM GMT
    randwander saidThe Bible tells us the God of this world is the devil. The influence of Satan is the reason 90 percent of the press and Hollywood elite are liberals who vote exclusively for the Democratic Party. The one-minded eagerness of the left to influence the electoral process should act as a warning sign to the conservative base of this nation.
    https://www.raptureready.com/republican.html


    Oh go away you annoying troll.

    You do a great disservice to Christians who face abuse because they're all lumped in with psychopaths like you.

    In other words: kindly bugger off and stop giving Christians a bad name.

    (Also, you're mixing up left with liberal icon_rolleyes.gif )
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Sep 16, 2014 12:00 AM GMT
    topathlete saidI don't doubt the OP can find books to support specific definitions of political terms. However definitions change over time and vary among disparate populations. There are general definitions as used today by US media, political analysts and writers, politicians and political parties and the general population. These definitions generally work because those of us in the US are able to communicate among ourselves the various political concepts.

    Given this site has an international audience it is fair to point out differences but where the OP goes astray is in attempting to adjudicate the correctness of terms.


    Nope.

    These terms are universal actually - liberal has the same definition by Noam Chomsky as it does by Christopher Hitchens (i.e. a Brit and an American use the same terms identically).

    We can of course have descriptivist approaches to language, but without wishing to be a total bastard it's better in political discourse that we all use terms correctly and identically. But besides that, even if terms meant different things in different areas, people still seem to inconsistently use the terms (as they use left and liberal interchangeably). Prescriptivism approaches to language are certainly needed so that it makes political discourse easier.