Isn’t it nice when somebody succeeds in doing something exceptional with tools that are at the disposal of practically everybody? Tools like a cheap digicam, or the 26 letters of the alphabet. The effort needn’t even be deliberate. In that sense – by, albeit involuntarily, creating a reality previously unknown – some “Bushisms” border on pure art, not unlike some well known quotes by former Vice President Dan Quayle. But what about the much more calculated techniques of professional political speechwriting?
After two conventions and less than 60 days left until election day, I thought this is a good time to (re-)read the Appendix to George Orwell’s masterpiece “1984,” on “The Principles Of Newspeak.” It seems that speechwriters for any party, if they are any good, have studied their Orwell with great scrutiny. Quote: “The [purpose of Newspeak] was to make speech, and especially speech on any subject not ideologically neutral, as nearly as possible independent of consciousness. For the purpose of everyday life it was no doubt necessary, or sometimes necessary, to reflect before speaking, but a Party member called upon to make a political or ethical judgement should be able to spray forth the correct opinions as automatically as a machine gun spraying forth bullets. His training fitted him to do this, the language gave him an almost foolproof instrument, and the texture of the words, with their harsh sound and a certain willful ugliness which was in accord with the spirit of [the Party line], assisted the process still further.”