Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for March 5th, 2007

Which options are on the table in Iran?

Posted by metaphorical on 5 March 2007

When it comes to military action against Iran, George Bush has said that “All options are on the table.” When asked, John McCain agrees, calling the president’s statement “entirely appropriate.” Hillary Clinton agrees as well, saying “no option can be taken off the table.”

Even John Edwards and Barack Obama agree. Edwards: “We need to keep ALL options on the table. Let me reiterate – ALL options must remain on the table.” Obama: “I think we should keep all options on the table.”

George Lakoff asks a simple question: Is one of those options a nuclear strike? The answer turns out to be yes. And so when all these politicians say “All options are on the table,” what they’re really saying is, “nuclear war is on the table.”

Lakoff is a professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley. So his article, over on Dissent, notes that employing the colorless, detail-free word “all” is a form of euphemism, one that politicians are using to avoid talking directly about nuclear war, and one that the press is giving them a free ride on by not forcing them to answer questions asked specifically about nuclear war. Dissent posted the article with the tag “Orwell,” which seems amply appropriate.

As Lakoff says,

A familiar means of denying a reality is to refuse to use the words that describe that reality. A common form of propaganda is to keep reality from being described.

His argument that “all” includes nuclear war is easily summarized. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in language, Orwell, politics | 22 Comments »