Destroying meaning and undermining language…

I have absolutely no idea whether or not Americans actually feel that Hilary Clinton is a Big Brother style control freak with a desire to enforce some kind of conformity or not. And in a way that’s not the point of the video detournment below. What I find absolutely gripping is that it’s an active demonstration about how easy it is to take the empty language of contemporary politics—language that is so circumspect about what it asserts as to be fundamentally meaningless—and make it seem to mean pretty much anything.

Contemporary satirists have known for a while that it’s really quite easy to take the vacuity of these soundbites and put them under a harsh spotlight that makes them shrivel and die. What’s new is the ease with which they can be made to appear not to be depressing or hypocritical but genuinely creepy and evil.

In this the 1984 associations seem genuinely apropos—this is language deformed and broken, language as a fog of reassuring noise where the words no longer have even the slightest hypothesised reference to the real world. I have, of course, no evidence that Barack Obama is any better.

7 replies on “Destroying meaning and undermining language…”

Um. Was the iPod in the original commercial? ‘Cause that would be freaky if it were. (And a bit iRonic…)
Anyway, this sort of critique (the video) is unfair demagoguery. It’s also vacuous. Authorless, ultimately messageless, but drawing its meaning from it’s intention and associations, it has all the ambiguous hallmarks you’re bemoaning in simplified Politioiese but with the added bonus of being entirely anonymous. But look at its effect! Guerrilla marketing at it’s finest! How many of these on YouTube?
That language of the professional politician you despair over is a language of constraint and self-censorship, and not really the fault of the politician themselves. It’s their environment, and the best politicians know their ecosystems. Unless their electoral base is amongst those who consider themselves mavericks or outside of the ‘mainstream’, it’s the sort of non-offensive language the populace demand from them–lest they have their own makaka moment. Damned if you do, damned of you don’t, I guess.
In the end, I would not be surprised if the creator of this ad had little intention of voting for either Obama or Clinton. But, that is just speculation.

I’ve read some background to this film – apparently it is not an official Obama video and he and his team have moved quickly to distance themselves from it. The guy who made it has lost his job as a result because the company he worked for had been engaged by the Obama team to do techy stuff.
More at this BBC article.
In any case, it does show how political language can be twisted to suit any purpose – the politicians know that, so that when their own words are quoted back to them in the future, they can say "what I really meant was…".
I think we are going to see more of this sort of thing. With the democratisation of media, politicians and others in the public eye have not only to be very careful about what they say but also what they do (look for the video doing the rounds at the moment of Gordon Brown sitting on the front bench picking his nose – apparently this has been featured on mainstream TV in France and the US). Whether this is a good thing or not is a moot point.

Good point. This has absolutely nothing to do with what Hillary Clinton has said or done, and everything to do with what she didn’t say and didn’t do. That would be REALLY interesting to see what happens if Al Gore does actually make a splash…

I didn’t think it was a very apt comparison. To use Orwell imagery on anybody but the current adminstration seems misplaced. I just don’t think Obama is going to change anything.

what interests/concerns me is that in the states, there are laws regulating political speech and contributions. just last year, the federal election commission considered regulating blogs as a form of in-kind campaign contribution. now you’ve got folks making political mash-up ads.
i really wonder what kind of fallout this video will cause. what could it mean for political speech, and grassroots, “user-generated” (“voter-generated”?) content in the u.s.?

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