Politician Speak Translated: Part 1

Its difficult even for politicians to keep up with some of the jargon, spin and rhetoric these days so, in order to help, there follows a brief description of some of the more common phrases.

Pre-emptive Strike: this is the new term for attacking people who haven’t touched you yet. To put it in a more social setting it is equivalent to going up to a man in a bar and punching him just in case he happens to spill your beer later on.

Preventive War: this means denying everyone but yourself and your friends the chance to even buy a beer.

We Will See How The Situation Develops: we do not have the time, the money, or the inclination to do anything about this at the moment.

Liar/Lying: in the bizarre politics of the early 21st century one of the strangest manifestations in the language is that the one thing that the politicians are trying to outdo each other in is the one thing they aren’t allowed to call each other or accuse each other of (in the UK parliament).

Convention rules that even words such as “untruth” are frowned upon. Due to this some rather strange language has grown up around the subject. Lying has come to be known by such terms as “being economical with the truth”,
“putting an interpretation on events that was at significant variance with the facts”, “terminological inexactitude” (Winston Churchill) or even “making a press statement”.

“I’m glad you asked me that.”: that was the one question I hoped you wouldn’t ask me.

Hearts And Minds: These days we are often told that the battle for “hearts and minds” is more important than the physical battle with weapons. This seems a little confusing — presumably the western armies are hoping to pick
up the pieces of these hearts and minds from the towns and villages where they have blown them up? Any other explanation seems unlikely, as it is difficult to convince people of your good intentions when you are bombing them.

Or perhaps it relates to what Chuck Colson, former aide to Richard Nixon said, “When you’ve got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow”.

European Partners: European enemies

Multiculturalism: respecting the symbols, values and idiosyncrasies of all colors, creeds and religions — provided that is, that they can be co-opted into a neoliberal economic order and packaged in plastic and sold off. If it is not possible to do this then the adherents of whichever ideology it is
must be considered to be “depraved opponents of civilization itself.”

A Constructive Discussion: this means nothing at all. The phrase “a constructive discussion” is only used in circumstances where no agreement of any sort has been reached. We know this because if a solution is reached,
even if its during a conference about the width of traffic cones then it is still called “an historic agreement”

An Historic Agreement: see entry for “A Constructive Discussion.”

Collateral Damage: this means no more or less than dead people. This phrase released many politicians and military people from potentially difficult situations in that it is much easier to say “the operation was a success although we did sustain a small amount of collateral damage” than to say “we bulldozed our way through a civilian area and though we killed a few camel-f*ckers, we did get what we went in there for.”

Weapons of Mass Destruction: do you remember doing French at school? This phrase only applies to “they” not “we” or “I”. It’s like an irregular verb.

– They have weapons of mass destruction
– You are either with us or against us and
– We have strong defensive capabilities,
or if you prefer “we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be.”

Strong Government: ignoring everybody else. Thereby when the country doesn’t want to go to war and you do, you can say you are not being bloody minded or a warmonger — it is in fact “strong government.”

We Are Putting The Matter To Consultation: This can mean one of 3 things,

1) We are hoping everyone will forget this unpopular measure we are proposing, and then we can bring it back when the media is concentrating on something else and try and slip it to them that way.
2) We, simply, hope the matter will go away.
3) Employ consultants that you know will agree with your initial hypotheses, and then when they report back you can claim your original policy has been vindicated.

Scotland's Michael Greenwell has worked, at various times, as a university tutor, a barman, a DJ ("not a very good one,"), an office lackey, supermarket worker, president of a small charity, a researcher, a librarian, a volunteer worker in Nepal during the civil war there, and "some other things that were too tedious to mention." Nowadays, he explains, "I am always in the education sector in one way or another." Read other articles by Michael, or visit Michael's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Chris said on May 2nd, 2007 at 9:05am #

    That post was doubleplusgood.

  2. the durnMoose blog » the junkyard - may 2, 2007 said on May 2nd, 2007 at 11:43am #

    […] if ya think you really wanna know what a politician is saying, mike greenwall is here to help you […]

  3. POLITICIAN SPEAK TRANSLATED - Part 2 « Michael Greenwell said on May 8th, 2007 at 4:22am #

    […] Part 1 […]