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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 1 - Input Junkie
March 15th, 2012
08:21 am

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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 1


I recently posted about this lecture, and I've gotten some interest in a text version. Here are main points, since I'm not willing to do a full transcript. My comments are in square brackets].

Kathryn Ruud Lecture, Part 1

Change of names for the other party (Libtards and Rethugs vs. Democrats and Republicans). [I'm old enough to remember a time when Americans weren't nearly as nasty about politics. It took me getting some decades under my belt to have a gut understanding that things can change, and I expect I'm not the only one.]

"Only he who can describe the problem can resolve the problem."

Background: linguist with specialty in polticial speech, and who specifically studied Nazi and East German rhetoric

Talked with people who remembered listening to Hitler speak, and people who were shot at escaping east Germany

She's also been a long-term listener to talk radio

2:26 [slide] Linguistics:
Scientific study of the features of language and its use
Spoken language
Sociolinguistics: language in groups
Political linguistics: language of persuasion

Linguists look at language the way meteorologists look at clouds-- ever-changing amorphous subject matter which nonetheless can be somewhat classified

4:41 Political speakers put themselves at the center as truth speakers, and range from there into the past and the future, and from self to others.

"Listeners have built in baloney detectors." [I'd say that a large part of persuasive speech (just on the other side, of course) is an effort to subvert baloney detectors.]

"The listener is never entirely passive."

Rise of fascism: hyperinflation, the great depression (unemployment 36%, disputed border areas, monarchy and a history of authoritarianism, during the Enlightenment Germany was 500 principalities so that the ideas didn't spread [I'm not sure this makes sense, but maybe Enlightenment ideas are more of a centralized government thing than I appreciate], the Versailles treaty....

But still, why Hitler? Why so much enthusiasm for him?

7:51 In 1982, a German professor teaches her about some Nazi propaganda and recommends Missbrauch der Sprache (Misuse of Language): Tendenzen nationalsozialistischer Sprachregelung (Tendencies in national socialist language control).

Reading the book was a very vivid memory-- she'd never seen German used like that. The book was a dissertation written in 1970 about the common use of Nazi language in the press and such, not the official propaganda.

The propaganda was in small chunks, and framed before and after by discussion of the techniques of persuasion.

Even so, she could only read it 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and then she'd look at the gray skies to let the propaganda wash out of her mind, and she'd remember her Jewish friends.

She never wanted to read the book again, she thought she'd never have a use for it, but she photocopied it because it seemed important. [A fast googling doesn't turn up a translation in English-- if there isn't one, I wonder if there's a publisher who'd like to take a crack at it.]

About 10 years after the class, she heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio, and something seemed familiar....

Limbaugh isn't a Nazi-- the intense racism isn't there, he's not a fascist....and his riffs on conspiracy theories were funny, but she reread the book on misuse of language and started recording Limbaugh and Ken Hamblin.

More research.... things are getting worse, and moving into the left and poplular discourse.

12:39 Graphic of talk radio in one week-- more than 90% of it is right wing.

Provocative talk sells....

[The lecture is broken into six chunks, and the breaks are at arbitrary points.]

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/531837.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:madfilkentist
Date:March 15th, 2012 01:57 pm (UTC)
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Bork's Missbrauch der Sprache sounds interesting. I looked in the Harvard Library online catalogue, and there's a copy listed as "lost / long overdue." Sigh.
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From:kalimac
Date:March 15th, 2012 02:28 pm (UTC)
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The term "Libtards" crosses my path occasionally, but I have never seen the term "Rethugs".
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From:vvalkyri
Date:March 15th, 2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
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i've seen 'rethuglicans' and such, usually in context of behavior, though.
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From:agrumer
Date:March 15th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
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I know one person who uses it a lot.
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From:caper_est
Date:March 15th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
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I've seen it several times, and I'm not even an American. But "Repuglicans" seems almost as frequent.

"Dim-o-crats" or "Dumb-o-crats" - typically with hyphens, and frequently with the first syllable in CAP-itals for the hard of hinting - seem to be the corresponding terms of choice for sectaries perching over the other side of the ditch.

Edited at 2012-03-15 09:28 pm (UTC)
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From:asakiyume
Date:March 16th, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)
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The Misuse of Language book sounds fascinating and sobering--and I think I may have heard of it.
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