Daniel C. Dennett
Words That Work
What Orwell Didn't Know
Szántó, Ed. Jan 2008
Daniel C. Dennett Dec 2007
C1 - Natural Freedom
A quote from the Italian, "Yes, we have a soul. But it's made of
lots of tiny robots." Humans are alone, amongst all the animals,
in knowing what we are. In knowing this we can think beyond
ourselves and create the civilizations that we have. Do we know
it all, not by a long shot. We may know who we are, but we are
much more than we know. We are made up of many interrelated
parts, many of which we will never know fully. Suggestion:
in an argument look for the rhetorical questions, they usually
mark the weakest link in any defense. One can often embarrass the
asker of a rhetorical question by simply trying to answer it: "I'll show you how!"
The remainder of the chapter is a discussion of free will. He
thinks we have it but he refers to several of his critics and tries to
explain why they are wrong. The rest of the book will cover this
in more detail.
He refers us to the Tufts Center for Cognitive Studies
http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud . The Comic Relief section is
very big and takes a long time to download.
C2 - A Tool for Thinking About Determinism
Determinism: "there is at any instant exactly one physically possible
future. Wrong, wrong, and double wrong. More on free will
and determinism, discussion of Conway's Game of Life, more bouncing
around and back about determinism.
C3 - Thinking about Determinism
Much ado about determination and free will. I am sure that
some people will find this fascinating - I don't. We can have
both determination and free will.
C4 - A Hearing for Libertarianism
More slicing and dicing of words about determinism, free will, and even
philosophical liberalism. Logical "knots" that are designed to
C5 - Where Does All the Design Come from?
A consideration of freedom looking at a modern symphony orchestra - he
uses the Boston Symphony as an example. It is composed of a
large number of fine musicians all playing all playing exactly the same
piece just as it was designed; but each of the members lives in her own
world, thinking different thoughts, moving their bow (fingers, etc.)
slightly differently exhibiting their own free will while the piece
Lots more stuff, evolution of life, the prisoner's dilemma, Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel. The more "determined" (as in more data -genes- it takes to create it) life becomes, the more freedom (free will) it has.
C6 - The Evolution of Open Minds
Genes, cultural transmission (in insects, animals, primates, and
humans), memes and the joys of culture. How each is a transmitter
of determination but at the same time opens more opportunities for free
C7 - The Evolution of Moral Agency
He coins a new term; we have all heard the quote from Ben
Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: "We must
indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang
separately." Was this a founding statement of America, fine, noble,
inspirational, etc. or was it a carefully crafted call to the
self-interest of his listeners? Dennett calls this "benselfish".
We don't really know what it was.
He mentions a number of other issues regarding free-will, altruism,
being good, truthfulness, genetic relationships (the genetics of
mules), the Prisoners Dilemma, social insects and other animal models
of morality. "Jesus is coming. Look Busy!" Bumper Sticker.
Being good vs. seeming good. Delayed gratification and some
experimental approaches. Internal controls: "Would you prefer a
dollar right now or a dollar-fifty tomorrow?" Would you prefer a
dollar next Tuesday or a dollar-fifty next Wednesday?" The
hyperbolic discount curve vs. the exponential discount curve.
Humans (and many other animals) seem to be genetically inclined
towards altruism but there are many (partial?) backsliders - are we
just not yet fully evolved or is it something deeper? Freedom is
not a simple thing.
C8 - Are You Out of the Loop?
Thought is not instantaneous. It takes a measurable amount of
time - which includes several periods of brain activity - before we
react to even simple events. Arguments against the "Cartesian
Theater" model of brain and mind. The model of a mind-brain that
must carry out a series of linked calculations before activity can
occur. The changes in this model over numerous different animal
C9 - Bootstrapping Ourselves Free
"Human consciousness was made for sharing ideas." The evolution
of the brain-mind made possible the sharing of experience (ideas) and
morality. Hume: ethics as a kind of human technology which allows
us to revise our natural instincts. Discussion of natural
selection. Is it education or brainwashing?
C10 - The Future of Human Freedom
Why are some people afraid of the advances of physical (and biological
and social) science? They try to establish absolutist doctrines
to keep these evil ideas at bay.
The problem of breaking laws and being punished. What if you have
a "medical" condition that makes it impossible to "know" you are doing
something improper. Does a culture punish this or treat this?
Again, fixed laws in a changing environment just don't work for
long. More discussion of responsibility, both for good and for
14 pages of bibliography and 23 pages of index. The book had an
interesting feature, Following every chapter was a short section
of further reading and a summary of the chapter with a preview of the
Words That Work
Subtitled: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear
feeling about the book. George Lakoff is a scientist, he proceeds
by making observations, hypotheses and then collecting data to
(hopefully) confirm his hypothesis. A step-by-step process that
will eventually succeed in creating a science. Luntz is an
engineer, similar to the builders of the Romans or the builders of the
Cathedrals of the Middle Ages. He is building methods and
techniques that work today before the science has been created.
He is interested in building Words That Work, not theories that work. The words may not work tomorrow, but they work today and thats where he lives.
I have numerous
issues with his philosophy but I am forced to respect him as a superb
tactician. He has a superb ear for communication issues and he
is well educated in using the appropriate tools to measure what he
wants. Question? Were the Democrats really that bad and the
Republicans really that good over the last 40 years? Can the
Democrats - if they follow Laykoff's ideas - beat Republicans using
Luntz's ideas? If the Republicans hire Luntz back, will they beat
Introduction In Sept. 2004
Arianna Huffington invited 35 invited 35 of Hollywood's most important
Democratic power players to her home to hear Luntz speak. Why
him, why a Republican pollster and consultant? Because previously the
Democrats were too dumb to hire him and the Republicans weren't.
It's not what you say, it's what people hear.
This is his most important message. Jimmy Carter never used the word "malaise" in his "crisis of confidence" speech on July 15, 1979 and Colin Powell called his "Powell doctrine" a theory of "decisive force" not a theory of "overwhelming force".
It was the professional journalists, historians, and academics
who used these terms. If you want to get your message across you
need to go beyond your understanding and look at the world from your
listener's point of view.
Political rhetoric should be direct and clear, it should be interactive
and not one-sided, it should speak to the common sense of common people
- with a moral component but without being inflammatory, preachy, or
divisive. Political language should favor those with enough
respect for people to tell the truth and enough intelligence not to do
so in condescending tones. In 2005 he wrote a 170 page memo on
language - A New American Lexicon,
(Note: This is searchable on Google) which raised a storm of
protest in liberal circles. He tried to establish a common
language for a pro-business, pro-freedom agenda. He doesn't
believe that using carefully designed language is immoral, it is
immoral to use a poor argument when when a stronger argument is
available. All language is manipulative - it is only immoral when
you purposely try to deceive and hide the truth.
He cites a number of examples that he will use later in the book, "estate tax" vs. "death tax", Giuliani's "crime agenda" became his "safety and security platform", "drilling for oil" became "energy exploration", and how "gambling" became "gaming".
C1 The Ten Rules of Effective Language The name of the book is "Words that Work",
language needs to be functional, successful language is not a method
for displaying your academic degrees. Some policies are
inherently not too popular. Your job is to present both popular
and unpopular policies in a positive manner.
Your phrase or slogan must meet several of these criteria to have a
chance. If it can meet all ten it has the possibility of being a
home run. For major campaigns visuals are very important.
- Simplicity: Use Small Words If somebody has to reach for a dictionary, they won't.
- Brevity: Use Short Sentences Short is harder to write than long, make the effort.
- Credibility Is As Important As Philosophy Your words have to be believable. "Say what you mean and mean what you say."
- Consistency Matters
Repetition . . . Find good words or phrases that get your
point across and continue to use them. It may be old to you but
it is new to each person who hears it for the first time. However
for complex ideas it may get old after 2 or 3 years.
- Novelty: Offer Something New It may be old but it must sound new. If your message generates an "I didn't know that" response, you have succeeded.
- Sound and Texture Matter
The sounds and texture of language should be as memorable as the
words themselves. Grammar and spelling don't matter if the phrase
- Speak Aspirationally
Personalize and humanize the message to trigger an emotional
remembrance. People may forget what you said but they will never
forget how you made them feel. What does the message mean to
individuals (JFK's Peace Corps messages_.
- Visualize Either describe what you mean so that people form a visual image (hard) or create a visual that they can identify with.
- Ask a Question "Can you hear me now?" (Verizon Wireless), "Got Milk?", "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" (Ronald Reagan about Jimmy Carter in 1980)
- Provide Context and Explain Relevance
Lakoff would call this framing and Drew Westen might call it
network. Luntz calls it context. The words must relate to
conditions that others can relate to.
Words That Worked -- Case Study: "Talk to Me"
Research in 1993 showed that Americans viewed Republicans as too
uptight and staid and their candidates as too distant and humorless.
He have the incumbent Republican candidates Nerf footballs
labeled with the words "Talk to Me".
They were to have town meetings and when someone wanted to talk
the candidate would toss the football to him. Then they would
toss it back for an answer. It was fun, got people active, and
and really got across the point that the candidates really wanted to
have a dialog with the voters. And they matched almost all of the
C2 Preventing Message Mistakes
The main mistake that most politicians make is to treat voters
like they live and work in Washington DC. The often use many code
words and acronyms that most outside of Washington DC and journalists
do not know. Voters need to be educated before they can be
motivated or even given information about an election.
Get the Order Right The
sequential order of information creates the meaning of the information.
Presenting material in the wrong order can change the perception.
The right order equals the right context.
The Battle of the Sexes
Too many male politicians fail to realize that many (most?) of
the voters are female. They use sports analogies, they use war
analogies, women care about the same things as men but they don't think
of them in the same manner. Don't just discuss "women's issues",
the worst thing you can do with women is pandering. Women
generally want candidates to listen, more than men do.
It's About the Children If you want to get to women focus on children. It is probably the single most important issue for many women.
How you Define Determines how you are Received
"Positioning an idea linguistically so that it affirms and
confirms an audience's context can often mean the difference between
that idea's success and failure." Not all words defined the same
evoke the same response, find the most appropriate word for the
context. Example - welfare vs. assistance to the poor, and emergency room care should not be given to illegal aliens vs. should deny emergency room care.
The 10 rules of effective communication are a necessary first step but
they are not sufficient. Communicators need to put themselves in
the mind-set of their audiences. What the social status of the
listeners, what they have heard from politicians in the past, what
their level of education is, what is their gender.
C3 Old Words, New Meaning
Again, it's not what you say, it's what people hear. Why
was President Bush a success? His syntax and grammar are often a
mess, he has trouble completing an off-the-cuff thought. He
succeeded against opponents that were his intellectual superior because
voters knew where he stood and this was not always clear with Al Gore
or John Kerry. Orwell's language rules:
Luntz picked Killer Words as the title for this book. He tested this title along with others (including Words That Work)
and it lost every time. It violated Orwell's last rule. It
had many negative links. The author has several lists of words,
contemporary youth language and new words for old meanings. He
discusses the derivation and changes for several words and phrases.
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
C4 How "Words That Work" Are Created
He wrote one speech and had four senators deliver it. Then
he went before the Republican Senate Conference and showed a video
analysis of the speech. The results were consistent, good
language was well received and bad language was not, no matter who read
the speech. A brief history of political and corporate polling.
Telephone polling is cheap but not very precise. A focus
group is around eight to twelve participants which are observed while
discussing a topic. They are typically paid $50 per hour or so.
A moderator controls the session. He prefers the "Instant
Response Dial Session" or "People Meters". They are usually
composed of 25 to 30 people and conducted classroom style. In
2006 a dial session could cost between $27,500 and $40,000 and a focus
group would cost between $7,500 to $12,000. Each dial participant
has a small wireless box with a dial labeled 0 (negative) to 100
(positive). Their responses are tabulated by computer on a
second-by-second basis. The totaled results can be viewed on a
video recording of the presentation. Dial groups are resistant to
some of the problems of focus groups. The most valuable results
are often words and phrases that detract from the presentation.
C5 Be the Message In
many cases it's not what people explicitly say, it's how they say it.
In an example from the Bush - Clinton campaign, Bush said, "I
care" but Clinton showed that he cared in many little ways - and people
made their own decision. Another - Bush 2 vs Kerry, Kerry kept
telling people about his war record and his injuries. Bush, who
evaded the Vietnam War, talked about terrorism and Iraq and came off
sounding tougher. When Kerry traveled with his "band of brothers"
- people he served with, it worked, on stage it didn't. Luntz's
suggestion: when the Swift Boat Veterans attacked, he should have
told his attackers, naming Bush and Cheney, to "go to hell". This
would have caused a controversy over the use of profanity but that
would have been a better debate for Kerry.
He describes how personality and authenticity have to match, using
Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, Clinton, and McCain as examples.
Numerous corporate examples of how the corporate message needs to
be consistent and related to the products. He uses the term
"language alignment". The products, the company, the words used
must all fit together and satisfy some want or need of their customers.
There is a list of companies and phrases that everyone recognizes.
C6 Words We Remember
A whole lot of phrases that politicians and corporations have
used and why they work or don't work. Including some that didn't.
If they are bad phrases and the press picks them up they can be
repeated forever and they can haunt a politician for years.
C7 Corporate Case Studies
Chapter six expanded: if attacked, always respond: "Silence =
Guilt"; how "gambling" turned into "gaming"; "liquor" is now "spirits";
"banks" vs. "credit unions"; "honest data" vs. "accurate data"; how to
respond to labor unions and strikes.
C8 Political Case Studies More Chapter six: "The death tax", "energy exploration", "opportunity scholarships", "save, strengthen, and simplify Medicare", "Personalizing not privatizing" Social Security. A personal history of the Contract with America.
THE CONTRACT WITH AMERICA
As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens
seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies,
but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the
people and their elected representatives.
That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer
instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment
with no fine print.
This year's election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party
control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the
way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government
that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money.
It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and
shares the faith of the American family.
Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act "with
firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." To restore
accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace.
To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.
On the first day of the l04th Congress, the new Republican majority
will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring
the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
* FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
* SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
* THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
* FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
* FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
* SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
* SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
* EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.
Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall
bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and
open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be
immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny.
1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT:
A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item
veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out-of-control Congress,
requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families
2. THE TAKING BACK OUR STREETS ACT:
An anti-crime package including stronger truth-in-sentencing, "good
faith" exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty
provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer's "crime" bill
to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep
people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools.
3. THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT:
Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to
minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while
on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough
two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote
4. THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT ACT:
Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening
rights of parents in their children's education, stronger child
pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce
the central role of families in American society.
5. THE AMERICAN DREAM RESTORATION ACT:
A $500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty,
and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle-class
6. THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION ACT:
No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential
parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national
defense and maintain our credibility around the world.
7. THE SENIOR CITIZENS FAIRNESS ACT:
Raise the Social Security earnings limit which currently forces seniors
out of the work force, repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security
benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care
insurance to let Older Americans keep more of what they have earned
over the years.
8. THE JOB CREATION AND WAGE ENHANCEMENT ACT:
Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral
cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the
Regulatory Flexibility Act and unfunded mandate reform to create jobs
and raise worker wages.
9. THE COMMON SENSE LEGAL REFORM ACT:
"Loser pays" laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of
product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation.
10. THE CITIZEN LEGISLATURE ACT: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.
Further, we will instruct the House Budget Committee to report to the
floor and we will work to enact additional budget savings, beyond the
budget cuts specifically included in the legislation described above,
to ensure that the federal budget deficit will be less than it would
have been without the enactment of these bills.
Respecting the judgment of our fellow citizens as we seek their mandate
for reform, we hereby pledge our names to this Contract with America.
Three ways of discussing Medicare spending, a) increase from $178 to
$250 billion, b) increase by 6.4% each year for six years, or c)
increase from $4,700 to $6,200 per person per year. "C" is the
best because it is personalized for each person and easy to understand.
He lists 1.5 pages of presidential campaign slogans - many are
forgettable, most apply communications rule 7 (aspiration) but they
fall short because of rules 3 or 10 (credibility or context).
Case studies of "Estate Tax" vs. "Death Tax", "Drilling for Oil" to
"Exploring for Energy" and "Domestic" to "American", "Social Security"
to "Retirement Security", "Illegal Immigration", and "Crime" and
"Criminals" to "Public Safety".
A second discussion of his Ten Rules for of effective language using
language that he used in a 24 page confidential memo he drafted for
Republican members of Congress concerning illegal immigration.
C9 Myths and Realities About Language and People
First of all, on the things that are important all Americans are
much more alike than our differences would suggest (race, income,
gender, etc.). He first describes an Average American, a 33 year
old white married female with 2 children and a job and a high school
diploma. This hasn't changed much in 10 years. He describes
how the Ten Rules for effective language are relevant to her. He
specifically lists simplicity, brevity, credibility, consistency, novelty, sound (alliteration), aspiration, and relevance. He then goes on to describe the Ten Great Myths About Americans.
C10 What We REALLY Care About
Words that work are powerful because they connect ideas,
emotions, hopes, and fears. Luntz lists a number of factors that
Americans believe in.
- Americans are Educated:
Less than 30% have a college degree. Very high percentages
of people cannot answer simple questions about our government.
- Americans Read: Statistics relating how few people read.
- American women respond to messages the same: Women change their voting patterns more as they age and their life situations change. Men are more constant.
- Americans divide neatly and accurately into urban, suburban, and rural populations:
Recently a new group has arisen, those living in the exurbs, they
tend to "think rural" but "act suburban". The exurbs tend to be
Republican and the suburbs are becoming more liberal.
- American consumers respond well to patriotic messages: Sort of: American pride (workmanship and "Made in USA" sells stuff) but not blatant patriotism.
- Retro sells products and politicians: Doesn't work, if you reserect an old idea sell it as renewing a concept and revitalizing it.
- Americans vote according to a candidate's stands on the issues:
The media uses this idea because it is easy to discuss.
Most people vote based on the candidates' attributes --
personality, image, authenticity, vibe. Most Americans don't know
the substance behind the issues. Neither Ronald Reagan or George
W. Bush were considered intellectual giants but they still won twice.
Americans select common sense over other attributes including
- Americans are happy: No! Many (most?) are unhappy about how things are going in America and they want a change.
- Americans prefer big organizations:
Americans don't trust big corporations, big government, big
unions, big (unfeeling) everything. They want promises that
organizations can stand behind.
- Americans have finally gotten over 9/11:
9/11 changed everything forever. First was the anger, then
our shared loss of national confidence. Then when our leaders
(Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) boasted of how we could capture and defeat the
forces of Saddam and bin Laden but failed to deliver and we wait in
line for an airline we can never take our personal security for granted
C11 Personal Language for Personal Scenarios
- Principles: Principles are rigorous, examined, serious, they have weight. If your principles match their values, the details won't matter.
- Opportunity (more than fairness): Bush has used the term "freedom"
so much that it is specifically linked to Republican foreign policy.
Since the days of FDR (and LBJ and until now) have used the term "fair" or "fairness". If a politician uses the term, you can be pretty sure that he is a Democrat. Currently "opportunity" bridges the partisan gap. Its use doesn't guarantee a win, Democrats have success with "level playing field", Republicans succeed with "equality of opportunity". So far it hasn't been captured by either side.
- Opportunity (more than ownership): Again Bush used the term "ownership society", too many Americans realize that this just doesn't apply to them. the "opportunity of ownership" is a way to include more Americans.
- Community: This no longer simply means where you live.
With modern communications, internet chat rooms, email listservs,
and blogs, a community is no longer defined by a Zip code.
- Common Sense: "common sense" is almost as difficult to define as pornography. Perhaps it is "self-evident" like in the Declaration of Independence. In 2006 the Democrats used, "America Can Do Better", "Common sense, common values" tested out better but both are good. It cannot be defined in formal terms - it would no longer be "common".
- Getting "value" from government: "getting value from government" tests out better than "limited government"
that the conservatives like. Democrats are right in that there is
a positive role for government but Republicans are right in that we
don't want to give up our personal freedom or our right to choose for
ourselves. Americans generally trust local government. Big
bloated national bureaucracies get them upset.
- Convenience: This has replaced "time is money" for most people.
- Main Street not Wall Street:
Wall Street is great for fiscally conservative Republicans, but
not for most of us, we want the Main Street of mom-and-pop stores.
This distinction typically works great for Democrats.
- Family Values: This scores better than similar phrases like "traditional values", "American values", or "community values".
"Moral values" has been partially hijacked by the fundamentalist
religious community but it is still partially available. There is
a certain amount of backlash if people inject explicit religious ideas
and terms into the debate. The best terms to use are - "Family",
"Freedom", "Opportunity", "Responsibility", "Community", "Sacrifice".
"Hollywood values" or "Hollywood liberal" are terms that should NEVER be used and rejected if they are.
- The Future (not the past):
Americans are not about the past or the status quo, we are only
interested about the past to see what we could do better.
- Positive Messages:
Elected officials need to be for something, not against
something. (Negaivity only works when we show how our opponent's
plan will not work.) He refers (and quotes) Robert Kennedy's
speech to a black audience in Indianapolis, Indiana immediately
following Martin Luther Kings's assassination.
Following seven years of Bush Americans have become suspicious of
the motives of Washington and that it won't react correctly.
- Respect: We must have leaders whom we respect, and they must respect us.
- Solutions: A product or a service is nice but what we really need is a solution. A "service" helps you with a problem, a "solution" alleviates the problem.
In these situations the immediate reaction is the only reaction that
matters. The first impression is always the most important.
These rules are all ad hock, they work in many situations but not
all. All of these have to be evaluated in terms of the context in
which the situation occurs.
- How do you say I'm Sorry?
(aimed at men) Men want to speak, women want to be heard.
Women argue by asking questions, men argue by making assertions.
If a man truly wants to win an argument with a woman he will give
a heartfelt "I'm sorry" and follow it up with flowers.
- How do you ask for a raise or a promotion?
When your boss evaluates you for a raise, it's not what you have
done, it's his speculative investment in your future performance.
Ask him to imagine what would have happened if you wouldn't been
available to work on Project X. (And now imagine Project Y.)
- How to avoid a (traffic) ticket? You
didn't get pulled over because you are presumed innocent, he saw you do
it (or at least thought he did). It's a hassle for the cop to
write up a ticket. If you apologize and admit your error (and it
wasn't too bad) he just may give you a warning and avoid the hassle of
writing up a ticket. Maybe.
- How do you talk your way onto the plane?
Unlike the cop, the airline employee is done with his work, it's
a hassle for him to open the door. A demand or aggressive stance
will not work. You need to apologize and explain that it is vital
that you make your plane. If you are a frequent flyer on
this airline say so. You will forever be grateful.
- How to get a table at a packed restaurant:
An emotional hard luck story helps. Try to create empathy
with the hostess. Keep talking, the longer you talk the longer
she has to see your point.
- Writing an effective letter:
1) Start out with a paragraph consisting of a single
authoritative sentence. 2) The next most important part is the
postscript. This tells the reader if the letter is a personal
letter and if it has any relevance to his personal life. If not,
the letter will be thrown away. 3) Use text that is
enumerated, bold, and italicized.
When we read our eyes jump around, this gives them something to
orient to. You need to do something to catch and focus the
attention of the reader. 4) The shorter the paragraph the more
likely it is to be read.
C12 Twenty-one Words and Phrases for the Twenty-first Century
He starts out by repeating a Verizon ad which uses three of his
terms (innovation, efficient, accountability) in a single 60-second
C13 Conclusion He is unhappy with how people use language. Again, It's not what you say, it's what people hear.
- Imagine: This
brings each person into the phrase, it's their version, and it matches
up with their desires and thoughts. Bush used it to "imagine the
government doing nothing about Social Security and having a 5-year old
- Hassle-free: We
don't like the hassle of (haggling over used-car prices, not having
batteries included, getting the plastic of CD's, etc.).
- Lifestyle: We all want to "style" our own life. We want our own choices.
Americans don't like the perpetual motion machine of bloated
bureaucracies. We want them to be accountable. Be cautious
with this. If a company says that it is accountable that is
halfway to admitting that something is wrong with their product or
- Results and the Can-Do Spirit: We are practical, we want results and we want it done right the first time.
- Innovation: This is
moving towards the future. More work, product for less money.
Technology has been the path towards the future but as technology
becomes pervasive innovation has become more important.
- Renew, Revitalize, Rejuvenate, Restore, Rekindle, Reinvent:
The "re-" words. They take the best ideas of the past and
apply them to the present and future. They imply action,
movement, progress, and improvement.
- Efficient and Efficiency: These imply getting more for less. Conversly "conserve" and "conservation" implies paying more to get less.
- The Right to ... :
This goes all the way back to the Bill of Rights. We have
and are adding more to this list. People want the right to choose.
- Patient-Centered: The opposite of "managed care". Compare this to "The Right to ..." above.
- Investment: Credit
this to Clinton. "Spending" implies waste, your money is gone and
it will never come back. An investment comes back to you many
times over. Buying is now, investing is forever.
- Casual Elegance:
Primarily business. We don't want to pay for elegance or
learn sophistication, we can aspire to elegance by being casually
- Independent: No
constricting ties, no conflicts of interest. Similar to
imagination and lifestyle. America wasn't born with a Declaration
of Independence. We had to declare it and defend it. We
don't want our politicians to be dependant on some group, we want them
to represent us.
- Peace of Mind: This
will eventually supplant "security" as a primary political value.
Security is scary and militant. "Peace of Mind" is positive
and appealing. Peace of mind is the destination, security is the
six hour road trip to get there.
- Certified: We need
this because our businesses and polilticians have not been honest with
us. "Certification" is an official written guarantee.
- All-American: This
and the appeal to American pride is not universally appreciated but for
the "flag wavers" among us it is very popular. More popular with
the over 50 crowd than the under 30 crowd.
- Prosperity: Very
popular in the 1920's, it died during the Great Depression. The
term is now making a comeback. It implies financial wellbeing,
success, and perhaps peace of mind. It is earned through hard
- Spirituality: More
inclusive than religion or faith. Talking about a specific
denomination is guaranteed to irritate some segment of the population.
- Financial Security:
Financial freedom used to be in this place. Stock market
problems, poor housing market, 9/11, etc. have made freedom less likely
and security more important. We all hope that financial freedom
will stage a comeback.
- A Balanced Approach:
We want a balanced approach to our problems. Americans tend
to be conservative with an incremental, cautious approach to political
- A Culture of ... :
This is a term almost guaranteed to create conflict. Almost
any term placed behind it will be a negative. Culture of
corruption, culture of inaction, culture of hate, even culture of life
is taken as a negative. "Social" issues have become "cultural"
The Memos He would prefer
to show examples based on his actual work but many of the documents are
proprietary and cannot be revealed. There are a few however that
were not covered by confidentiality agreements. He includes three
in the Appendices.
The 2003 California Gubernatorial Recall
His job was to demonstrate that the voters were angry at Gray
Davis and then come up with language turn the recall movement into a
- The voters in California are angry and they are particularly angry at Davis.
- The intensity level of this anger is higher than any he has measured before.
- The issues attached to this anger work against the governor.
- No one had anything nice to say about the governor or his record.
He wrote the recall petition and he reprints it here, with comments. It is easy to see why Davis lost the recall.
The 21 Political Words and Phrases You Should Never Say Again . . . Plus a Few More
Words never to say again and their replacements from a memo he
wrote in Jan. 2005 to Republican congressional spouses. They are
listed below without comment.
The Clinton Impeachment Language
Private health care
Free market health care
|Free market economy
||The root causes:
|Drilling for oil
||Exploring for energy
|Lawsuit abuse reform
Personal injury lawyer
Equal opportunity in education
|Health care choice
||The right to choose
Luntz was a part of an ad-hoc advisory group for Senate Majority
Leader Trent Lott during the Clinton Impeachment hearings. He
wrote a five page memo describing his feelings following the House
impeachment vote but before the Senate action. His feeling was
that the whole process was a disaster for the Republican Party.
An interesting document to read.
There are 5 pages of notes, many with web addresses, and 12 pages of index.
Addendum Luntz came to
Washington and operated as a power in Republican "language" issues
under the auspices of Newt Gingrich. As the confidant of a very
powerful person he made enemies. With the demise of Gingrich many
of the "enemies" remained. The author is not extremely polite in
describing the major mistake the Republicans made by firing him.
Luntz is not a very self effacing person. It is clear what
he thinks of those who refuse to listen to him. He credits, and
is quite possibly correct, in stating that a portion - certainly
several seats in the House and/or Senate - of the Republican loss in
2006 was because they refused to listen to him. Perhaps the
Democrats should not congratulate themselves too much on their dramatic
win, perhaps the Republicans got cocky and shot themselves in their
What Orwell Didn't Know
Szántó, Ed. Jan 2008
Subtitled: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics
Editor's Note András Szántó
The deans of five prominent journalism schools got together to discuss
public debate in America. They were worried. This was about
the time that the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of George
Orwell's classic essay, "Politics and the English Language" (1946).
They decided to use his essay to orient a conference at the New
York Public Library (webcast) and the publication of this book. A
number of authors were invited to present and/or write papers/articles.
The Journalism schools which cooperated in this were at USC,
Columbia, UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Northwestern
Introduction: Follies of Orthodoxy Orville Schell
Orwell was intensely interested in propaganda. The term originated in
1622 when Pope Gregory XV established a committee of cardinals, called
the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the
Faith), later several Communist parties created Departments of
Propaganda. What are we doing today? That is the subject of
this book. Orwell thought that there was some "inner heart" whose
workings remained isolated from outside influences. Orwell didn't
know that the world was changing around him. The communists were
creating "Mao Thought" and "brainwashing". Freud was working on
the mind, his nephew, Edward Bernays, was later known as the "Father of
Public Relations" and he used some of Freud's insights. Bernays
wanted to wean customers from what he called a "needs-based" culture to
one which was "desire-based".
When these techniques were applied to the new electronic technologies
of radio, television, and the internet there are many more
opportunities for abuse. The communists, primarily Chinese,
unwittingly used many of these techniques more effectively than anyone
else. Westerners are learning rapidly.
Part One: Language and Politics
Orwell Then and Now David Reiff
Why do we still read books by Orwell? Why do we read books by any
author after they have been dead for many years. What political
orientation would Orwell support today? We don't know but his
books are still widely read because of what and how he said them.
The Limits of Language Richolas Lemann
An evaluation of Orwell's essay, a comparison of it (for this book I will henceforth call it "the essay") with his 1984 which he wrote shortly after the essay. Newspeak is much more developed in 1984. The essay is much more approachable today. It is easier to see today's politicians in the essay.
Words in a Time of War: On Rhetoric, Truth, and Power Mark Danner
1) In 1984 Orwell talks about what we would now call a Virtual War.
The problem for Bush etc. is that it is harder to hide the facts
of a real war than it is with a Virtual War.
2) The moment when Bush hangs the Medal of Freedom around the necks of
General Tommy Franks, proconsul L. Paul Bremer, and CIA director George
Tenet is positively Orwellian.
3) Bush's "Mission Accomplished" performance and the comment of Karl
Rove describing the "reality-based community"vs. the administrations
4) The images of 19 young men hijacking airliners and crashing them
into the Twin Towers and their later collapse. This is a
television moment. Why Bush etc. felt they had to visibly attack
Iraq to satisfy their egos.
5) How did a few young men humiliate the USA so badly. They did
it because the policies of the US made such a thing possible and
created the conditions for a rebel force to grow.
6) How did the US fail to find at least one example of a
"Weapon of Mass Destruction"? Was the "virtual reality" existing
in the White House so pervasive that this whole thing was imagined?
7) In our age scandals are doomed to be revealed. Was the
belief of the Republicans so strong that bad news just didn't register
in their consciousness?
8) The reality of the streets in Baghdad, searching through remains to find the missing half of a family member.
An Egregious Collocation of Vocables Patricia J. Williams
Orwell complained that poor language use resulted in foolish thoughts
which made one susceptible to political manipulation. She says
that Orwell (who was born as Eric Arthur Blair) had been a professional
propagandist for the BBC. This led him to attach other such
efforts. The article describes our recent past (Bush, Iraq, War
on Terror, etc.) and lists some of its poor language which is leading
our leaders into foolish thoughts and their efforts at political
Freedom, Liberty, and Rights: Three Cautionary Tales Aryea Neier
The Bush administration is famous for its use of the terms, freedom, liberty, and rights.
This follows the lead begun by Reagan. The original meaning
of rights as in our Constitution spells out things that the national
government cannot do. Many of the rights that we want now are closer to a right
for people to have something. Both the Right and the Left use
these terms. We need to carefully consider what we mean by rights and how we enforce/pay for them.
Sloppiness and the English Language Francine Prose
Interesting writing but I am not sure what it says. What am I
missing if I do not read this? I don't really know. Can you
explain it to me.
Part Two: Symbols and Battlegrounds
What Orwell Didn't Know About the Brain, the Mind, and Language George Lakoff
Lakoff loved Orwell as a student. He loved it. Now, 50
years later, he finds it (my words) the maundering of a illiterate in a
preliterate society. Orwell was a product of an education based
on the Cartesian Fallacy. Great literature, but very little
scientific fact. Reasoning is unconscious, thought is physical
and is structures are formed of metaphors and frames. Thoughts
and facts are linked to other thoughts by metaphors. To change
these linkages you need to provide new links. This can't be done
by the process of reason alone. The other mechanisms of the mind
need to be employed just as they are by conservative think tanks.
We need to apply world views, frames, metaphors, emotions,
images, personal stories, and cultural narratives. We need to go
beyond the understanding of Orwell and apply the knowledge of the 21st
The New Frontier: The Instruments of Emotion Drew Westen
Orwell screwed up, he said 1984 when he should have said 2004.
The use of Orwellian techniques by the conservative right since
the days of Reagan. Comments on the Reagan, "Its morning again in
America" ad. Similar ads and comments by the Bush administration
and its supporters.
Stellar Spin Frances FitzGerald
A brief history of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars),
some of the inaccurate and misleading data presented, and the
Bad Knowledge Alice O'Connor
After the obligatory discussion of how Orwell would have viewed the
issue, the author reports on five short descriptions of statements that
present moral or ideological conviction presented in the language of
social scientific and historical inquiry. They are all misleading
and some demonstrably false. These discuss abstinence pledge
programs, eliminating welfare for unmarried mothers, the benefits of
global warming, (conservative) indices of government which support
economic freedom, and discussion of desegregation and integration.
O'Connor discusses these in terms of 1) hidden premises, 2) misleading
"indicators", 3) methodological creep (using the words of statistical
measurement incorrectly) , 4) pretentious diction (changing the meaning
of terms especially statistical significance), and 5) historical
vacuums (ignoring the historical record and any other external data).
She offers five guidelines for weeding out these bad habits along with their bad science.
Black and White, or Gray: A Polish Conundrum Konstanty Geberet
- Never trust statements of faith or ideological doctrine when presented as scientific fact.
- Be equally skeptical of claims to ideological neutrality, especially those that skirt or ignore ideology.
- Before giving credence to measurable outcomes and indicators, find out what they measure, who is doing the measuring, and why.
- Never accept finding stripped of social and historical context,
especially for the sake of narrow principle or statistical precision.
- Resist the temptation to defer to the authority of scientific
jargon -- or to studies that report a confidence level of 99.9 percent.
A description of the manoeuvring of recent Polish politics. Not
enough to really understand what is going on but enough to see that it
is truly Orwellian. The only lesson I can draw is that Americans
should back off because of recent evidence that whichever side we back
will probably be bad for both the country itself and America.
After the Falwellians Susan Harding
Harding recently wrote a book in which she failed to use the term
"Farwellians", she now feels that she missed an opportunity. She
discusses the language and communications activities of the religious
right and tells how those on the secular left have not challenged them
because they did not know how to attack a self styled religious leader.
Now they are being challenged numbers of theologically
conservative evangelical Christians who believe the Falwell and others
are betraying the fundamental message of the Christian faith. A
description of the Evangelical Environmental Network
Descriptions of creation-care under the auspices of the National Association of Evangelicals, An Inconvenient Truth
by Al Gore and its religious and moral tone. The only way to
successfully counter the fundamentalist religious right is by fighting
them on their own play field. To use their own play book (the
Bible), and by cooperating with other religious leaders.
Part Three: Media and Message
Welcome to the Infotainment Freak Show Martin Kaplan
Kaplan feels that the only way to get/stay on television is to make
money and the surest way to make money is to become a good showman.
We are all selling our souls to the God of Mammon in the
Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor
Gloom of Night Will Stay the Couriers from the Swift Completion of
Their Appointed Rounds -- but What About Big Media? Victor Navasky
Orwell warned us against two dangers: 1) the totalitarian state; the
closed society, censorship, book banning - everything represented by
Big Brother, and 2) the abuse and misuse of the English language; the
doublespeak of 1984 and the possibility that the corruption of English
could corrupt clear thinking. Navasky warns of a third danger:
Big Media which may be replacing Big Brother. In 1983 a book
reported that the majority of all major American media was controlled
by 50 corporations. He then goes on to describe the political
control of these media companies with respect to the Post Office.
He goes on to describe the political manoeuverings of primarily Time
Warner in their ten year effort to get cheaper postal rates for
themselves while raising the rates for smaller magazines. He
doesnt think that the internet will be a sufficient counter to these.
- The Post Office Act of 1792 charged newspapers only a nominal fee, below the cost of delivery.
- The Post Office Act of 1879 created second class mail and put
newspapers and magazines on the same footing which helped create the
mass circulation magazine.
- The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 established the U.S. Postal
Service as a semi-independent corporation. The Nixon-appointed
Board of Governors decreed that each class of mail must pay its own
way. This was completely implemented in 1984.
- The postal rate increase of 2007 effectively charged very large
circulation magazines less to be mailed than smaller circulation
Reporters and Rhetoric Geoffery Cowan
He starts out discussing the issue of applying the term "civil war" to the fighting in Iraq, showing how Bush didn't want to use the term. Next is the use of the term escalation instead of the Bush term surge.
Lessons from the War Zone Farhnaz Fassihi
The author is a New York Times correspondent and has spent considerable
time in Iraq beginning in 2002. She describes her training as a
journalism student and how it sometimes conflicted with the reality she
found in Iraq. She discusses her feelings and motives as she
covered the fighting and the American soldiers.
Our Own Thought Police Michael Massing
The Bush administration has attempted to control the news coming out of
Iraq but the advent of the internet has to a large extent frustrated
this effort. (News coming out of Iraq has been slowed down
however.) Many of the negative aspects of the war (soldiers
committing atrocities, etc.) have not been fully reported. He
describes the methods that some have used to realistically portray the
more disturbing facts of the war. Some of these are drug us among
US troops, pornography, US soldiers stealing from Iraqis, contempt for
the Iraqis, mistreatment of Iraqi citizens, killing of innocent Iraqis
at checkpoints, and the high civilian death toll.
Epilogue: What I Didn't Know: Open Society Reconsidered George Soros
Complaints about the terms War on Terror, Clear Skies Act, Health Forest Restoration Act, No Child Left Behind Act, etc. He describes two aspects of the mind. The first, the cognitive function, takes a situation as given and seeks to form a view that corresponds to it. The second, the manipulating function,
takes desires as given and seeks to make situations correspond to them.
They are both useful and valuable. The scientist uses the
first and the engineer or builder uses the second. However when
they are not used appropriately we can get into trouble. When the
situation is ambiguous we can sometimes be mislead, we can imagine
things that are not true and cannot be manipulated into reality.
Dogmatic ideologies remove doubt but they are invariably false in many
aspects. One of these is the Enlightenment fallacy. Reason
is good and can produce marvelous results in many cases such as
physical and biological science. However in the social sciences
(and parts of biological sciences such as evolution) humans tend to get
too tied up in their emotions to be able to understand that we are
biological beings and that thought is a biological process.
Ironically this has benefited the Republican party more than the
Democrats because they tend to be less caught up in the Enlightenment
fallacy. Republicans are more prone to use something because it
works and not try to over think the issue. It was easy for Bush
to declare a "War on Terror" and proceed to bomb Iraq Into The Stone Age
but understanding that this will not solve the problems for American
oil companies attempting to make money in Iraq takes a more open
attitude towards reality.
Soros was able to quickly realize the signs of deception in the Bush
rhetoric because he was exposed to Nazi and Communist propaganda in his
youth. Has our seven years of Bush inoculated the American voter
against such excesses in the future? He has identified a number
of recurring deceptive devices and rhetorical techniques which have
He then goes on to describe some of the more egregious uses of these
techniques. The main one is transference, accusing your
opponent of having the same motives or using the same techniques that you do.
- Conflating facts and opinions:
- Guilt by association:
- Conspiracy theory:
- Mixing sources:
- False labeling:
- False patriotism:
Appendix: Politics and the English Language George Orwell
The complete essay by Orwell is printed. It is 18 pages long.
There were about six pages of notes and six pages of author
biographies. I thought the notes section was quite limited for
this type of writing.