“Words Can Obscure Rather than Illuminate”

(p. C6) In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell shows how language is a tool of political control, how words can obscure rather than illuminate. Mr. Swaim explains how that applies to Mr. Sanford’s office. At one point, constituents start writing in to ask whether the governor plans to run for president. While Mr. Swaim is expected to answer the letters, he is also expected to deploy a whole lot of “platitudinous observations” and “superfluous phrases” to say, basically, nothing.
“The trick was to use the maximum number of words with the maximum number of legitimate interpretations,” he writes. “Words are useful, but often their meanings are not. Sometimes what you want is feeling rather than meaning, warmth rather than content. And that takes verbiage.”

For the full review, see:
SARAH LYALL. “Pumpting Up Hot Air to the Governor’s Level.” The New York Times (Thurs., JULY 30, 2015): C1 & C6.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date JULY 29, 2015, and has the title “Review: In ‘The Speechwriter,’ Barton Swaim Shares Tales of Working for Mark Sanford.”)

The book under review, is:
Swaim, Barton. The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

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