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POLITICAL LANGUAGE: Words are often manipulated to make us feel, act, or vote a certain way. Evaluat

August 16, 2008

Words are the most important tool in the service of a democratic government and its political system and they are often manipulated to make us feel, act, or vote a certain way; words are a means of controlling the public's perception of government or political initiatives. For example, the Tax Simplification Act of 1993 ran hundreds of pages with section titles like "Diminimis Exception to Passive Loss Rules. The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act of 1995 was actually a cost-benefit analysis to limit new regulations. A group called Northwesterners for More Fish were not intending, "as its name suggests, to protect the area's dwindling salmon populations, but to uphold the complex of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River blamed for decimating salmon numbers" (High Country News). Efforts to limit welfare have been titled the Work Opportunity Act, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, and the Family Self-Sufficiency Act. Public Citizen called the Common Sense Product Liability Reform bill the "Death to Americans Act" because "The legislation is based on a complete set of myths and phony anecdotes about lawsuits." Being a good citizen means analyzing every word that comes from politicians, elected officials, and government representatives for the truth. It is helpful to consider: who is saying it, what do they have to gain by persuading you this way or that way, where did they obtain their information, what is being left out of the picture, and what might "the other side" say?  Be aware of how political language makes you feel. Feeling optimistic, pessimistic, triumphant, hopeless, or patriotic is not a good way to judge the truth of what you hear ("That must be right because it makes me want to stand tall as an American!"). Evaluating political language needs not feeling, but thinking.