Language Politics and Political Language: A Deconstruction of Political Rhetoric
Yarger, Andrew J.
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Why say "estate tax" when you can say "death tax," why "tax cuts" when "tax relief' sounds better? Why say "school vouchers" when people would rather support "opportunity scholarships?" Why defend "drilling for oil" when you know fewer people will object to "exploring for energy?" Moreover, who wouldn't support a "war on terror," other than a terrorist? Is "reframing the debate" like this disingenuous? Does it mislead people? Does it allow politicians to gamer unwarranted support? One can be freed from the influence of rhetoric. This can be done by understanding the relationship between language and thought, and analyzing the structure and function of language in society. With this goal in mind, the following piece will argue two things. One is that too great an emphasis is placed on the ability of individuals to mold public thinking through language. Because when one considers that language is a system, and takes into consideration the conditions of that system, the idea that individuals can shape public consciousness through rhetoric is not as viable as it is often perceived to be. The second is that language systems rely on terms developed through convention to ascribe meaning to situations. This leads to a conservatism of thought, a proclivity to perpetuate existing conditions, limit change, and avoid novelty, not purposefully but because of the system.
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