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The Language of Politics 

Politics is the manner in which a group of people is organised to pursue their interests, whether it be governing a country, running an organisation or merely structuring their interests into a club.  In a democratic organisation, the members usually adopt a set of rules called a CONSTITUTION.  In non- democratic organisations, the rules are often arbitrary and capricious, depending on the mood of the strongest and imposed on the rest by force.

Democracy requires an engaged well informed population that gives consent of the governed. To avoid an illusory democracy we must be prepared to participate in a deliberative public discourse.  Issues need to be raised in thoughtful debates, publically scrutinised, to influence decision-making, rather than merely casting your vote every few years.    What we believe to be a democracy may be a charade, an illusionary process that fails to reflect the will of the people. Despite Lincoln's clear message from the Gettysburg Address:

..that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

there is a great danger that most of the power has been already hi-jacked and we share little of it.   

See also:  The Failure of Democracy

Modern technology provides the means for powerful forces to manipulate popular opinion and pervert or debauch true democracy through language; weasel words, spin, - "to simplify and to mystify" 

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be no better governed than we deserve.”   George Bernard Shaw.

H. L. Mencken

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people … On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” (July 1920.)

Most political organisations can be charted on a political spectrum with the extreme ends at the right and left POLES.  People who adopt extreme opposing views become polarised, and any one who argues an extreme position is expressing a polemic.

 

Left Pole                          Centre                                          Right Pole

Extreme radical               Moderate                                     Extreme radical

 

These terms originated from the French Revolution’s Estates-General where the supporters of King Louis XVI sat on the right of the speaker and the reformers, the Bourgeoisie sat on the left.  Since then, right wing implies the status quo or conservatism and left wing supports change.

Right wing groups not only prefer the status quo and order but believe that all altruism should be restricted to their own group rather than outsiders.  They maintain core values of tradition, ceremony and custom at the expense of universal freedom, free expression and justice.

Jonathan Haidt in THE RIGHTEOUS MIND: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion has compiled a catalog of six fundamental ideas that commonly undergird moral systems: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. Alongside these principles, he has found related themes that carry moral weight: divinity, community, hierarchy, tradition, sin and degradation.

The worldviews Haidt discusses may differ from yours. They don’t start with the individual. They start with the group or the cosmic order. They exalt families, armies and communities. They assume that people should be treated differently according to social role or status — elders should be honored, subordinates should be protected. They suppress forms of self-expression that might weaken the social fabric. They assume interdependence, not autonomy. They prize order, not equality.   NY Times Review of Books 

Left wing thinkers tend to have more inclusive values of universal freedom, equality and justice.  They believe in progress, rationalism, open-mindedness, enlightenment and egalitarianism.  Left wingers can be romantic idealists with little regard for practicalities.  

Politicians can be:

          Idealists, or visionaries with altruistic values or;

           They can be corrupt self-seeking power mongers without any scruples. 

People who fall in between these two extremes are called Pragmatists or Realpoliticians.  Their Machiavellian philosophy is that the ideal is seldom attainable so the compromise is that as you work toward the ideal, you may use questionable means.  They believe in expediency; the ends justify the means.   They may play dirty politics as long as the end result could be considered worthy.  They are not interested in the process; only in outcomes. Pragmatists believe that “righteous ends justify violent means.” Machiavelli maintained that unscrupulousness in Politics was necessary because men are “ungrateful, fickle, false, cowards, covetous” and Pragmatists agree that mankind is essentially bad.

Some advice from Machiavelli to rulers:

"The promise given was a necessity of the past; the word broken is a necessity of the present." "He should appear to be compassionate, faithful to his word, guileless, and devout. And indeed he should be so. But his disposition should be such that, if he needs to be the opposite, he knows how."

Groucho Marx’s version: 

The secret of success in business is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.

In modern Democracies, the rise of pragmatism especially in left leaning parties has given rise to a disillusionment in their followers characterised by disengagement, apathy and alienation.  George Orwell maintained that the genuine threat of totalitarianism came not from the right wing, rather from the left - English Socialism.

 When the Tories screw the workers, they get angry, when the socialists do it, they get sad.   

Only a socialist could have so much contempt for the people.

At times we detect a resigned cynicism in the electorate:

Populism is so popular with politicians because regardless of their political base they need to convince voters from the other side to vote for them.  Noel Turnbull1 claims populism “gives the appearance of responsiveness to the populace while simultaneously making sure the public puts up with policies that are against their own best interests”.

Framing issues in Political debate:

We are bombarded with increasing amount of overt and covert (subliminal) information or disinformation (propaganda) that could be considered aural and visual pollution.  When political advertising becomes so ubiquitous its invasive, intrusive presence can cause conditioned behaviour that may be psychologically damaging.  The 24 hour news cycle is manipulated by political media units to make their masters palatable. 

Goebbels’ 14th Principle of propaganda, which reads:

Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.

Goebbels stressed the value of particular phrases to characterise events. These phrases “must make use of painting in black-and-white, since otherwise it cannot be convincing to people”. For example, to portray English unrest in 1942, he used the phrase ‘schleichende Krise’ [creeping crisis] as widely as possible in German propaganda”, both domestically and internationally.

Australians have been swamped by such phrases in the domestic immigration context over recent years; we have to “stop the boats”, we need “border protection”, we must repel the “illegals” and “unauthorised arrivals” so we can ensure “secure borders”. The Coalition government fear mongers about “losing control of our borders”, an audacious propagandistic translation of “letting refugees flee to safety”.

Noel Turnbull, 1adjunct professor, media and communications, RMIT University writes:   2010 Crikey.com

Throughout Australia -- and the world -- there are hordes of PR people, think tanks, politicians and others who spend their days and nights thinking about the holy grail of PR: how to frame issues, events, products and ideas in ways that set the agenda for debate and action.

Framing is PR people’s single most important, and most significant, activity. Framing -- with phrases, attitudes or ideologies -- sets the frame of reference within which the news report events and statements and how people see things.

At its simplest level it employs the use of words and phrases. Examples are the Bush-Howard phrase "cut and run", as a way of describing the otherwise sensible policy of getting out of Iraq. Similarly, when Christian fundamentalists stopped referring to their anti-Darwinism as "creationism" and started to call it "intelligent design" they were re-framing their position hoping to change how you thought about it.

Matthew Knott of The Power Index writes   : Feb 06 12

Lurking behind the big decisions that get made in this country are the hidden persuaders. The people who plot the words, actions and body language of our CEOs, politicians, chairman and other public figures. The people who -- by providing and denying journalists information -- help shape the news we read, see and hear. The people who wield extraordinary power by proxy despite often having no official claim to authority.

They spruik, they schmooze, they strategise. And although they've got a dodgy reputation -- thanks largely to pop culture portrayals such as Thank You For Smoking and The Thick of It -- they aren't going anywhere.

As former finance minister Lindsay Tanner argues in his book Sideshow : "Spin is intensifying. Its significance is growing ... People are complaining about something that they once ignored or took for granted because it now dominates our public culture."

Media units in government departments, police forces and businesses have expanded dramatically in recent years. Corporate affairs managers in large companies -- once little more than mouthpieces -- increasingly report directly to the CEO and play an important role in company strategy. Public relations practitioners now outnumber journalists by around 3:1.

Language Techniques

Clichés are particularly popular with politicians because of the limited demands made on listeners and the simple messages (slogans) can easily resonate with wide audiences.

Reality is also at the mercy of representation by words; language can never actually accurately reflect what is real. distortions distance us from reality.  It is the deceit of words and sleight of hand which may not involve any deliberate falsehood, but inferentially manipulates our perceptions, what Wittgenstein calls the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language and eristic argument. “Sometimes the exquisite finery of the law can take your breath away.” 

Richard Ackland: The authority of language is threatened, subverted and even violated by perception manipulation like this.

Politicians also love “motherhood statements”; simplistic platitudes, circumlocutions, rhetorical sleights of hand,; using words and phrases that are fully reversible  – vague, fluffy comments that everybody can agree with. It’s a common political tactic because the statements give the impression that the politician has said something, when in fact he or she has not. You deliver them in the hope that everyone who hears you will impose their own meaning on your sentences, which allows you to please everyone without saying something for which you might be held to account. 

“Homelessness is a cancer and we will not take a backwards step in our battle against it,” for example. Rhetorically catchy, worthy sentiment, means absolutely bugger all. 

Actress Julia Louis Dreyfus of Veep describes how “We tried to come up with the most banal, vacuous, meaningless piece of drivel to make things more palatable – the slogan, "continuity with change".  

Another example:  A respectable American family has an uncle to be electrocuted for a heinous crime.  To save the reputation of the family they negotiated the following press release:

At the time of his death, Uncle Charles occupied the chair of a well connected Electrical Institution.  The ties that bound him to his position were strong indeed.  His death came as a great shock.

We need to call out the language; the examples of disrespect, the language of the put down, wherever it is practiced. It is critical for our success that we see here and now that as citizens, we respect each other. And we expect to be respected by our governing leaders.

A healthy Democracy requires an engaged well informed population that gives consent of the governed. Much of the media deliberately misinforms its audience for ideological reasons.   Modern technology provides the means for powerful rich forces to manipulate and subvert popular opinion and debauch true democracy.  

Mungo MacCallum defines a politician thus: 

          “someone who genuinely and sincerely believes the worst thing that could happen to the country is for him or her to lose his or her seat.” 

A statesman looks to the following generation; a politician only to the next election.

It doesn’t matter who you vote for, a politician always wins.

Don’t vote; it only encourages them.

A politician approaches every problem with an open mouth.

How do you know when a politician is lying?  Their lips are moving.

"A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for Conservation"  -- Adlai E Stevenson

"Politics is the systematic organisation of hatreds"  Henry Adams

If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.   Jay Leno

The problem with political jokes is they get elected.  Henry Cate

            

There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour. Benjamin Disraeli

         

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.  –Oscar Ameringer

Since a politician never believes what they say, they are surprised when others believe them.  Charles de Gaulle                                              

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.  Plato, ancient Greek Philosopher

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them.  Bertrand Russell

"Politics itself is mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia"      George Orwell

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul.  George Bernard Shaw

Democracy must be more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. James Bovard 1996 

We hang petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. Aesop, Greek slave & fable author

Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.  John Quinton, American actor/writer

I offered my opponents a deal: "if they stop telling lies about me, I will stop telling the truth about them"~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952..

A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country. Texas Guinan. 19th century American businessman

I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.  Charles de Gaulle, French general & politician

Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks. Doug Larson

I am reminded of a joke: What happens if a politician drowns in a river?
That's pollution.
What happens if all of them drown? That's a solution!!!

 

Attributed to Fred Daly and earlier Labor politicians:

"those opposite are your opponents. Your real enemies are all seated behind you  - with a knife ready to plunge into your back."

Margaret Thatcher, who, when she was prime minister, came and sat beside a newly elected MP to welcome him to the House of Commons. He made the now famous comment about his political enemies all being seated opposite and she apparently replied:

"Oh no my dear, those opposite are your opponents. Your real enemies are all seated behind you."


Politics doesn't make strange bedfellows - marriage does. 

"The first rule of being a political junkie is to always remember that you are a very weird person, and most people are not like you."

Ezra Klein

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
Groucho Marx

"if voting made a difference; would let us do it?"


“No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session”.   Mark Twain  1866

Billboard sighted in New Zealand

FREE

Bungy Jumping for Politicians

No strings attached

 





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Lewis Carroll - Alice In Wonderland

Alice takes us down the rabbit hole to that other Tea Party, where Humpty Dumpty patronisingly explains to Alice that the meaning of a word is simply determined by “who is to be master -, that is all” and Alice learns from the White Queen, that with more effort and practice in these post-modern, post-ironical times and post-cynical times, “we can all be expected to dutifully believe at least six impossible things before breakfast”.  Alice yearns for “something to make sense around here” but finally concludes that “This is just a house of cards”.

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Ineptocracy:  A system of government where the least capable are led by the least capable of producing and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

John Richardson writes :  Crikey  15/05/12

I’m sad to say that Keane's thesis that a code would miraculously lift parliamentary standards and enhance the integrity and honesty of our politicians and their enablers is simply naive at best.

For other optimists and wishful thinkers out there, the proof of my assertion rests on the all-too-obvious fact that our elected leaders are simply incapable of agreeing to or supporting any idea, proposal, suggestion or initiative that is not their own, regardless of its merit, unless of course it involves adding to their own already outrageous levels of personal reward or somehow acts to enhance their vainglorious impressions of themselves; such as posing hand-on-heart at remembrance ceremonies or kissing babies.

In my view, it would never occur to a politician to act honestly, particularly when our political theatre rewards them so well for behaving in exactly the opposite fashion.

George Megalogenis believes that “both sides of politics are now in a negative feedback loop -- they are both afraid of the electorate and [simultaneously] trying to appease it".

H. L. Mencken  Quotes

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.


The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.

If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.  

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

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Demagogues tend to play on our basic, primordial, primal fears or “gut” instincts.  They appeal to the animal or savagery in us. The most effective lure is the drum beat of war.  For some reason the anticipation of war fosters impressions of strength and resolution while rational debate is portrayed as a sign of weakness. Demagogues are leaders who resort to “dog whistle” issues that appeal to our gut instincts and divide  (wedge) the community against “the other” – people who are different. They appeal to our fear of enemies, outsiders, and we become xenophobic  (fearful of foreigners). 

John Howard exploited the asylum seeker issue brilliantly as a form of a bait-and-switch -- he took a tough line on asylum seekers, while massively cranking up permanent and temporary immigration, as the economy demanded. He convinced One Nation voters he was one of them, while doing the very thing that they were most aggrieved about, in the interests of good economic policy. It was one of Howard's political masterstrokes. Bernard Keane – Crikey March 24, 2011.

Dictionary. com’s definition of a demagogue

dem•a•gogue     [dem-uh-gog, -gawg] noun, verb, -gogued, -gogu•ing. 

1.       a person, esp. an orator or political leader, who gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.

2.       (in ancient times) a leader of the people. –verb (used with object)

3.       to treat or manipulate (a political issue) in the manner of a demagogue; obscure or distort with emotionalism, prejudice, etc.  –verb (used without object)

4.       to speak or act like a demagogue.  Also, dem•a•gog. 

[Origin: 1640–50; < Gk démagōgós a leader of the people, popular leader, equiv. to dêm(os) people + agōgós leading, guiding; see -agogue ]

 

A coup de’ etat  is  literally  an  overthrow of the state.  Often it is a military Junta who take over the government from a civil one by brute force. 

Political Labels:

Democrat              power to the people.

Fascist                 all power is given to the leader of the government.

Conservative        wants to keep everything as it has always been. "someone with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward."Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Socialist               believes that government is there to support all people especially the poor.

Reactionary          is against every attempt to change things. "a somnambulist (sleepwalker) walking backwards. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Communist          Common ownership of all forms of production and distribution.

Pragmatist            Practical solutions rather than idealistic. Whatever works.

Populist                governs by whatever is the most popular ideas at the time.

Liberal                  equality of opportunity.

Republican           rejects having a hereditary monarchy.

Radical                 wants extreme change "someone with both feet firmly planted  in the air". Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The following political labels apply to different ideologies. Study them and then cover up the names and practice them.                                                                                                                                                                                   

 2.  Match the following forms of government to their definition:

           Autocracy    Totalitarian  Theocracy   triumvirate   Anarchy

 

          Technocracy         Democracy  Monarchy    Gerontocracy        gynarchy

 

 a)  Monarchy        rule by an hereditary ruler anointed by God.

b)  Triumvirate     Three people (troika) share all the power.

c)  Autocracy        One ruler has all the power.

d)  Gerontocracy Rule by old people.

e)  Totalitarian     The government has control over all aspects of people’s lives.

f)   gynarchy         Rule by  women.

g)  Theocracy       Only religious people are allowed in positions of power.

h)  Democracy      Rule by power of the people.

i)   Anarchy           No order or government.

j)   Technocracy   rule by people who are technicians or workers. 


Here are some more difficult (obscure) names for forms of government: 

                   Ochlocracy  Kakistocracy,  Oligarchy,  Hetaerocrachy,  Oligopoly  

a)  Concubines run the government     Hetaerocrachy     

b)  fathers  run  the  government         Patriachy

c)  Aristocrats rule                              Oligarchy

d)  worst people rule                           Kakistocracy

e)  rule by rich or wealthy                   Plutocracy

f)  Sporty people rule                          Athletocracy

g)  A monopoly rules                          Oligopoly

h)  crooks  rule                                   Kleptocracy

I)  mob  rule                                        Ochlocracy

j)  rule by mistakes.                            boobocracy

k) pollsters (psephological)                 punditariat

l)  motivated by honour timocracy

Ineptocracy:  A system of government where the least capable are led by the least capable of producing and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

5.  Collect other political terminology  record it and  find a definition.

Throughout history the race has gone to the rich. Power in the paws of the plutocrats, be they be monarchs, popes or secular tycoons. Modern democracy promised things would be different. But the meek did not inherit the parliaments. Nor did the Soviets deliver the promised dictatorship of the proletariat.  Now we are witnessing the rise and rise (and occasional fall) of the oligarchs.

Despite our objections to inequality, to the one per cent, billionaires are buying political supremacy.  And we, the strugglers are voting them in.

Berlusconi, and Donald Trump.  Both have oodles of loot, legendary sexual appetites, stratospheric vanity, awesome vulgarity and funny hair.  Both play the media for fools by shamelessly manipulating gross celebrity.  Both are also seen as fools outside their own countries.  Phillip Adams 

He seeks a world in which “fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means.”

In my many years I have come to a conclusion that, one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a government.    John  Adams



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