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 Language as Social Weapon

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PostSubject: Language as Social Weapon   Mon 01 Mar 2010, 10:47 pm

Language as Social Weapon
Where are We going when Words are used to Hide Truth?

  • Language is used to obscure
  • Newspeak offered people fewer and fewer words to describe their experience.
  • By carefully limiting the use of words, and by defining their meaning, you can limit ones reality... obscure what is going on by calling it something else
  • Digital talk creates an atmosphere where ideas are communicated summarily.
  • One of the ways in which we’re beginning to suffer newspeak is "new-think", where people are thinking less and less deeply. Ideas are being communicated more and more glibly
  • People are not considering what’s going on in the deepest way and in the fullest way and in the widest way
  • The closer we come to using symbols instead of thought, the further away we are from deep thinking.
  • Mass communication pushes society towards the use of symbols. And a symbol is a shorthand for an idea. And an idea is, if it were elaborated, is full of ramifications. A symbol is one simple idea, it’s a headline, it’s not an article.
  • We are coming to think in shorthand, limiting social discourse
  • Political discourse is focused more and more on the image of the candidate rather than the substance of the issue, so real political discourse is limited as well.
  • Forums will become more essential so people can really explore ideas in depth (note: interview was in 1987)



Daniel Goleman
Vital Lies - Simple Truths, The Psychology of Self Deception
Full Interview can be seen at:
http://www.theopenmind.tv/searcharchive_episode_output.asp?id=574

Following is transcript from Youtube Interview excerpt.

Heffner: But that’s almost a prescription for health. And what I’m really asking begins because of the…of what is going on in the present…in this past year, where words seem to be a means of manipulating others, rather than of ascertaining and expressing the truth. I’m not asking what’s better or best. I’m asking you where you think we are going at t time when words are used, not to reveal truths, but generally to hide them.

Goleman: Yes. I think that’s exactly what’s happening. It’s showing up in the last, oh, twenty years in government that things, you know search and destroy is not search and destroy, it’s “Win the hearts” or whatever the glib phrase is or the neutral bureaucratese that language is used to obscure. And if you remember in George Orwell’s 1984, he has a really brilliant appendix, where he talks about the function of newspeak, the language that was invented by Big Brother. Newspeak offered people fewer and fewer words to describe their experience. There was double plus good, plus good, and good and so on for bad. And that was the whole of positive and negative experience. And the rationale was that by limiting the words and by carefully defining the words that were used in public discourse, you limit the reality, you define the reality. And you obscure what’s really going on, by calling it something else. And we’re in real danger of that happening.

Heffner: Well, I’ve wondered whether digital talk doesn’t really do that to us. That it is essentially obscurantism rather than anything else. I mean the title of this program THE OPEN MIND, it seems to me we are working as a society more and more and m roe to close our minds and to leave, as you suggest, room for less and less.

Goleman: That’s right and I think it’s very important that there be forums where people can really explore ideas in depth. One of the ways in which we’re beginning to suffer newspeak, is newthink, is people are thinking less and less deeply. Ideas are being communicated more and more glibly. Fewer and fewer people are really reading books, for example. And I think that that is another barometer of something happening in the society where people are not considering what’s going on in the deepest way and in the fullest way and in the widest way.

Heffner: Do you think that is at all a function of the fact that we are almost, in this country at least, a quarter of a billion strong or weak, as the case may be? That sheer numbers make us use symbols and the closer we come to using symbols instead of thought, the further away…

Goleman: Yes.

Heffner: …we are from the kind of thought that you’re talking about.

Goleman: Yes. I think that mass communication pushes towards symbols. And a symbol is a shorthand for an idea. And an idea is, if it were elaborated, is full of ramifications. A symbol is one simple idea, it’s a headline, it’s not an article. And I think we are coming to think in those shorthands and that the social discourse is being limited in the same way. I think the political discourse by focusing more and more on the image of the candidate rather than the substance of the issue, is doing the same to our political life.

Heffner: Neil Postman did a book in which he begins with the Biblical injunction against pictures and representations rather than “the word”, the experience itself, but that seems to be the direction in which we are going.

Coleman: That’s right, exactly.

Heffner: So that I come back to the question…usually at this table there sits across from me someone, not with an axe to grind ideologically, but someone who’s very much involved in public life. You are, but as a journalist and as a scientist. What’s the level of your optimism concerning this question of which direction we’re going? Or pessimism?

Goleman: Well, these days I think I’m tending a little towards pessimism and the reason is this. There are two absolutely crucial, vital stories on this planet, which are not really being covered. One is the closeness of nuclear war, that the trigger is already cocked.

And the other is the slow death of the planet through ecological misuse of what’s going on. And what that means is that we’re at a very rare, unheralded world historical moment. And that is that in our lifetime or soon, things could end. And yet we live our everyday lives as though nothing had changed. And that I find very, very alarming.

Heffner: A vital lie? Or a simple truth?

Goleman: Simple truth about a vital lie.

My Note. Open Mind not only refers to a person being more receptive to new thought, it also can be interpreted to mean open to external programming.

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PostSubject: Re: Language as Social Weapon   Tue 02 Mar 2010, 10:36 am

Quote :
Digital talk creates an atmosphere where ideas are communicated summarily.

What is meant by "digital talk"? Would that be electronic communications-like Email, Twitter and the like?
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PostSubject: Re: Language as Social Weapon   Tue 02 Mar 2010, 11:56 pm

Explorer wrote:
Quote :
Digital talk creates an atmosphere where ideas are communicated summarily.

What is meant by "digital talk"? Would that be electronic communications-like Email, Twitter and the like?
I would think Digital Talk refers to: Twitter; Email; Youtube comments; Blog stories and comments, Texting (including texting acronyms like "LOL"), forum posts, etc.

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PostSubject: Re: Language as Social Weapon   Wed 03 Mar 2010, 12:26 pm

C1 wrote:
Explorer wrote:
Quote :
Digital talk creates an atmosphere where ideas are communicated summarily.

What is meant by "digital talk"? Would that be electronic communications-like Email, Twitter and the like?
I would think Digital Talk refers to: Twitter; Email; Youtube comments; Blog stories and comments, Texting (including texting acronyms like "LOL"), forum posts, etc.

Iow, the *entirety* of the Internet. I would disagree with Mr. Goleman that "digital talk" is destructive to clear thought in that Blogs, for example, can go on for pages and pages, elaborating on an idea, and that Forums, for another example, allow all the digital space in the world for amplifying on ideas. It's more a matter of what the writer's choice is, than any limitations by the medium.

I would tend to say that the variety available is very "American", there is freedom-of-choice, and I can send the equivalent of a 'postcard', or of a very lengthy letter, over this digital (electronic) medium. Actually pretty darn neat, all in all, IMO.
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PostSubject: Re: Language as Social Weapon   Wed 03 Mar 2010, 2:29 pm

Explorer wrote:
Iow, the *entirety* of the Internet. I would disagree with Mr. Goleman that "digital talk" is destructive to clear thought in that Blogs, for example, can go on for pages and pages, elaborating on an idea, and that Forums, for another example, allow all the digital space in the world for amplifying on ideas. It's more a matter of what the writer's choice is, than any limitations by the medium.

I would tend to say that the variety available is very "American", there is freedom-of-choice, and I can send the equivalent of a 'postcard', or of a very lengthy letter, over this digital (electronic) medium. Actually pretty darn neat, all in all, IMO.
Well, the interview was conducted in 1987, so he wasn't specifically referring to the Internet because the public wasn't really exposed to that until 1995, in its preliminary form. I think Goleman was more making a statement about the trend toward digital communication.

I also think, as part of the NYTimes staff, and given his area of research, Goleman was privy to inside information about the direction of future society, and I think that the social planners have been actively trying to shorten our attention span through digital tools.

I agree, however, that the digital tools don't have to impact us in this way, and that some use the tools to expand their thought processes. Unfortunately, we seem to be raising a generation of kids on 2nd life, Twitter and text messaging... all which seem to promote shortened and abbreviated thought.

As to "freedom-of-choice", I would say that we've always have the freedom to choose WITHIN a given inventory of choices. My point has been, and continues to be that those "choices" are planned well in advance of their release and limited based upon close study and social engineering design.

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PostSubject: Re: Language as Social Weapon   Wed 03 Mar 2010, 11:09 pm

Quote :
I also think, as part of the NYTimes staff, and given his area of research, Goleman was privy to inside information about the direction of future society, and I think that the social planners have been actively trying to shorten our attention span through digital tools.
I agree with both of these statements. He seems now to be in the heart of the Beast, employed by Google in some gigantic think tank (?) somewhere, so all in all I don't really trust him much. His message is a little too mixed for my taste, but still there is some truth in what he's said.

Quote :
I agree, however, that the digital tools don't have to impact us in this way, and that some use the tools to expand their thought processes. Unfortunately, we seem to be raising a generation of kids on 2nd life, Twitter and text messaging... all which seem to promote shortened and abbreviated thought
The text-messaging seems to me to be a great Sad dumbing-down device, but it's only one of the areas in which our kids are subjected to assault. As you know, they have a whole arsenal of weapons that they use against the kids' healthy development.on a DAILY basis. Very frustrating & sad.

As to controlling our choices, yes indeed. Full Spectrum Control, all ways all the time, is their motto. I'm not sure, though, that the Internet didn't get just *a little* out of hand...or maybe that's just a thought that is comforting to me, and so I keep it. Could be..
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