Language/Communication

 


 

[1895]  Gustave Le Bon,  Psychologie des foules, Quadrige/Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1998

-  "La puissance des mots est liée aux images qu'ils évoquent et tout à fait indépendante de leur signification réelle." "La raison et les arguments ne sauraient lutter contre certains mots et certains formules. On les prononce avec recueillement devant les foules; et, tout aussitôt, les visages deviennent respectueux et les fronts s'inclinent."
"Avec un petit stock de formules et de lieux communs appris dans la jeunesse nous possédons tout ce qu'il faut pour traverser la vie sans la fatigante nécessité d'avoir à réfléchir." (p. 60)

-  "Une des fonctions les plus essentielles des hommes d'Etat consiste donc à baptiser des mots populaires, ou au moins neutre, les choses détestées des foules sous leurs ancien noms. La puissance des mots est si grande qu'il suffit de termes bien choisis pour faire accepter les choses les plus odieuses. Taine remarque justement que c'est en invoquant la liberté et la fraternité, mots très populaires alors, que les Jacobins ont pu installer un despotisme digne du Dahomey, un tribunal pareil à celui de l'Inquisition, des hécatombes semblables à celles de l'ancien Mexique." (p. 62)

 

[1938]  Ignazio Silone,  La scuola dei dittatori, Mondadori, Milano, 2001

-  "Vi sono speciali mantelli di stato, che attribuiscono a chi li indossa la dovuta autorità e reverenza, e si chiamano salus populi, bonum publicum, conservatio religionis, secondo che servono a spillare dai sudditi nuove imposte o a mandare in esilio ed espropriare gli oppositori, sotto il pretesto sempre efficace che essi sono diffusori di dottrine eretiche." (p. 14)

-  "Dittatura viene da dettare, ch'è anch'esso un esercizio scolastico. Con l'aggravante che la dittatura è una classe unica e gli sbagli di ortografia vi sono puniti dalla legge." (p. 20)

-  "Un partito che sorge per combattere il socialismo e sostenere gli interessi dei proprietari, avrà cura di mascherarsi col nome di sociale, popolare e perfino socialista; se un partito si chiama radicale, è senza dubbio moderato; se un gruppo scissionista si separa da un vecchio partito per fondarne uno nuovo, non si chiamerà in nessun caso partito scissionista, ma partito unitario; se un partito riceve sovvenzioni e direttive dall'estero, potete essere sicuro che parlerà in ogni occasione d'indipendenza nazionale. Grazie al nominalismo politico, la cronaca dei nostri giorni s'illumina spesso d'ironia macabra. L'invio di truppe per alimentare la guerra civile in un paese amico si chiama, voi lo sapete, non-intervento. L'arresto di avversari politici, talvolta destinati ad assassinio 'per tentativo di fuga', si chiama 'Schutzhaft' oppure camera di sicurezza. I tribunali di partito incaricati di terrorizzare l'opinione pubblica, si chiamano tribunali popolari. Gli armamenti si giustificano dappertutto col pretesto della pace; la mancanza di parola, col pretesto di difendere il proprio onore; l'Italia asservisce l'Abissinia per sopprimervi la schiavitù; il Giappone invade la Cina per aiutare il popolo cinese a liberarsi della dittatura del Kuomintang. La menzogna è diventata così abituale, da generare perfino noia." (p. 103)

-  "A mio parere non v'è nulla di più stupido delle espressioni terrore bianco, terrore rosso, terrore nero. Il volto di masse impaurite ha un colore che non ha più nulla a che fare con la politica." (p. 131)

 

[1946]  George Orwell,  Politics and the English Language, in,  Inside the Whale and Other Essays, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1962

-  "A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." (p. 143)

-  "The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable'. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another." "Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way." "Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are : class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality."  (pp. 148-149)

-  "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties.  Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemisms, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets : this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry : this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.  People are imprisoned for years without trial, shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps : this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, 'I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so'. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this : 'While freely conceding that the Soviet régime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigours which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement'." (p. 153)

-  "... if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." (p. 154)

-  "... one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end." "Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." (p. 157)

 

[1948]  George Orwell,  Nineteen Eighty-Four, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1999

-  "WAR IS PEACE / FREEDOM IS SLAVERY / IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH."

-  "Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?" "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it." (p. 55)

 

[1980]  Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman,  Free to Choose, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1983

-  "Payroll taxes are labeled 'contributions' (or, as the  Party might have put it in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, 'Compulsory is voluntary')." (p. 132)