In order to court favor, a campaign by some to make truth subjective
Let’s talk sustainability. Not of the type I usually write about here, but of that special type of language called propaganda. Consider this one-two punch of a formula: 1) Lie to make yourself look better among your constituents, 2) Label anyone who reveals your lie as a teller of “fake” stories—a liar, in essence. Amazingly easy and mathematically infinite. The constituents in this example are known as “true believers”—the only truth comes from their leader. It’s the most important feature of a cult.
Before the Internet boom of the 1990s, U.S. politicians played populations in geographical areas favorable to them in a general way. They would visit towns and give pandering speeches but, after that, their messages to the country were motivated primarily by what they genuinely believed would be good for the whole nation. Today, 24/7, it’s about manipulating language for the purpose of manipulating people.
The following might produce a little discomfort, but I assure you that my generalizations are based on myriad reports from varying sources overs several decades. The U.S. between the east and west coasts—generally—is populated by less-schooled, hardworking people. “Less-schooled” doesn’t mean less-smart or even less-educated. (Mark Twain celebrated the distinction in his famous admonition that one ought “Never allow [one’s] schooling interfere with [one’s] education.”)
The are to which I refer is also the agricultural and industrial heartland of America. So, because of tendencies towards less schooling and more work on farms and factories, folks in these areas tend to communicate using smaller words and shorter sentences.
You’ll notice, if you haven’t already, that the politicians who are most popular in the Midwest, the South, and Texas speak using one- or two-syllable words and keep their messages brief. This accounts for the tremendous success of Twitter (with its 140-character limit) as a primary medium for these communications.
YourDictionary.com has put out a list of the most commonly used words in tweets by top-level executive branch officials. Single-syllable words include: “we,” “they,” “weak,” “win,” “tough,” “smart,” “huge,” and “bad.” Double-syllable words include: “zero,” “lightweight,” “moron,” “loser,” and “stupid.” Notice that the one-syllable words tend to be more positive. The more “cumbersome” words are almost always negative. When they venture out to three syllables, it’s only for the worst case scenarios: when something or someone is “out of control.” Control is huge for these people.
This is a powerful and sneaky form of pandering. It ramps up the power of language, which has always possessed innate power. Let’s be frank, those who despised President Obama also hated his calm, measured tone and rhetoric. Any salesman will confirm that connecting through language closes deals. Middle America, when it heard its own voice in a candidate, signed on the dotted line.
My upcoming novel, ULTIMATE ERROR, is about the manipulation of regular folks into allowing big industries to do exactly as they please. Too often, what pleases the largest corporations destroys the planet for our future generations.