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Political Language

Some examples of the way language is used to obscure, slant, provoke, condemn and praise.


“Restatement of earnings”
– The expression used by executives of a number of American corporations in 2002. The law calls it “fraud”.


Positioning For Growth
– The expression used by the National Australia Bank in April 2002 when announcing the closure of more branches and the retrenchment of several thousand employees.


Asylum-Seekers Acronyms
– SIEV: Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel

– PUAs: Potential Unauthorised Arrivals


“Card-carrying environmentalist”

From the Sydney Sun-Herald, (December 2, 2001):

“Ms Nettle, who pipped Senator Vicki Bourne of the Australian Democrats for the sixth NSW Senate seat, has worked as a community welfare officer in western Sydney, taught English in East Timor, fought uranium mining in Jabiluka, campaigned against the construction of a women’s jail at Windsor and joined Critical Mass in blocking traffic in central Sydney in defence of cyclists’ rights.

“She is a member of the Greens and it is the first time NSW voters have sent a committed, card-carrying environmentalist to Federal Parliament.

“But just because she will be joining the party’s other senator, Bob Brown from Tasmania, doesn’t mean she will give up her career as a full-time activist.”

Spin: whereas commitment is usually praised as a positive characteristic, in this instance Ms. Nettle’s commitment is portrayed as zealous, excessive behaviour. She isn’t simply a Green, but a “card-carrying environmentalist” who has made a “career” as a “full-time-activist”.


“Battlefield Detainee”
– the term used to describe John Walker, the American captured while fighting for the Taliban in November 2001. The term is used because they don’t know whether to call him a ‘prisoner of war’, a ‘traitor’ or a ‘criminal’.


“Enemy Prisoner of War”
– EPW was used during the Gulf War in 1991 in place of ‘Prisoner of War’. Notice the redundant use of the word ‘enemy’.


“Collateral Damage”
– another term coined during the Gulf War to describe the loss of civilian lives in military attacks.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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