Monday, July 17, 2006

"Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading..."

Some comments about Geoffrey Nunberg's book by readers on Amazon:
Robin Orlowski, "political activist" (United States) :
Liberals won both the Great Depression and World War II. We fought against Joe McCarthy's witch hunts--well against everybody--We stopped segregation against African American men and all women. This is a very impressive rap sheet which most Americans approve of.

However, we discounted the power of base emotion in politics and it's affectivity in winning elections. While we were being 'intellectual' the far right honed their 'fear' and repacked it into appeals to the 'average American'.

So, ironically while they were closing up factories and shipping those same jobs overseas for cheaper labor--and CEO benefits, Republicans could pretend they were the blue collar worker's new best friend. That it was the opposite mattered little as long as their preferred image came across and voters were not doing research to double-check.

The voters who did not do that double check were not stupid. Like all people hurting, they simply were going towards whatever was promising to make things better. If we actually do want things better in America, we liberals need to understand how to sell our policies in everyday terms.
and Bart King (Portland, Oregon):
A scholarly expose of the linguistic nuances of political doublespeak could prove deadly boring. But in TALKING RIGHT, Geoffrey Nunberg proves himself an able and funny commentator and educator on the topic. He traces and annotates the evolution of political and media euphemisms, lingo, and nomenclature in the U.S. with a gimlet-eyed stare. Yet even with the brio that Nunberg brings to his theses, one wonders: Is the failure of liberals (or "progressives," if you prefer) really an inability to get a good motto on a bumper sticker? Or is it simply that since Clinton, there has not been a compelling leader to take charge of the Democratic Party?

Anyway, regardless of your party affiliation, if you're politically aware and/or enjoy thinking about the meaning of words and/or have an interest in American history and current events, you will get something from this book. (Did I leave anyone out?)

SIDELIGHT: With a book that deals with linguistics and meaning, one hopes that the author is an expert in his field. Impressive academic credentials aside, Geoffrey Nunberg chairs the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. That's good enough for me. (Imagine the rousing discussions they have in that group!

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