I heard Roy Hattersley on the radio the other day. The old tub of lard spluttered out aphorisms with his usual bluster and what one can only assume is unthinking optimism regarding Labour's electroal chances. He even felt comfortable enough to use a favourite lefty word and described his beleaguered leader, Ed Miliband as ‘progressive’. Progressive is, of course, a coded word intended to convey the exact opposite of the real intent; political taqiyya, dissimulation designed to mislead. A hallmark of the Labour stalwart is the degree to which they believe the deception themselves.
Once again we are drawn inexorably to draw comparisons with Winston Smith’s dark world of withdrawn words, altered meanings and unsubtle subterfuge to conceal the reality of lives controlled entirely by committees. Hattersley and the other relics of Labour’s militant Marxist past are beyond redemption and should heed well the George Eliot quotation: “Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.” Or as Churchill may have put it: "… he has so much to be modest about."
Distorting the truth by mangling, or re-purposing words is nothing new, indeed it has probably been happening since soon after language came about. In the world of the progressive, language is just another tool whose ‘weaponisation’ is at its peak in politics. In Orwell’s Politics and the English Language he translates a verse from the bible: “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
The result in modern English is the asinine “Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.” It’s uncanny… almost as if Chuka Umunna himself had entered the blog.
To a politico making a commitment to anything means almost the exact opposite of ‘promising’. ‘Full and frank discussions’, while sounding like robust debate means a monologue was delivered and ‘cast-iron’ may as well be a form of silly putty, malleable to resemble any form other than, say, cast-iron. When people mutter gruffly that they don’t believe a word politicians say they perhaps ought to rephrase the sentiment to indicate that they are most likely to believe the exact opposite.
Come on Roy, spit it out!
So maybe, in order to best understand what our so-called leaders are saying to us we ought to filter their words through Google Translate with the destination language set to ‘antonym’. Or in the case of 'Woy' Hattersley perhaps we should filter his words through a sieve – if words are weapons his come with lumps thrown in.