Sunday, November 3, 2013

Discussion on "The Word Lab" by Nicholas Lemann

This week, we read an article called The Word Lab, by Nicholas Lemann. It addresses the ways that political campaigns are generating phrases and rhetorical strategies to appeal to their constituents. It focuses on the idea of “Word Labs”, which are methods of taking what American citizens say, redistributing their words as campaign jargon, and using their opinions to form policies.

A republican pollster, Frank Luntz, states:
“The way my words are created is by taking the words of others – average Americans, not politicians”
***Do you believe this system is democratic? Are the ideas politicians put forward in their campaigns an attempt to address the needs of the public, or are they simply a PR stunt attempting to garner the most votes possible?

It appears that candidates’ inability to express their own opinions makes them simply a face in the game of politics. They must first and foremost appeal to their voters.

“There are divisive, troublesome issues is America that we’ve swept under the rug. One day, we’ll get around to them! But now it’s campaign season, and the Word Lab rules.”

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, rhetoric is language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable.
*** Where can the line be drawn in appealing to the public through legitimate policy plans versus appealing to the public through rhetorical strategies and artificially fabricated phrases?

Finally, the article talks about how personalizing campaigns will win the most votes. When speaking of a proposed tax cut by George Bush, Luntz says:
“If he defends the numbers, he loses. If he personalizes it, he wins big.”
***With this emphasis on personalization in appealing to the public, why is the system today so calculated?

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