January 21, 2005
WHERE DOES THE "RE" COME IN?:
Hear 'Reform,' Think 'Destroy': Bush warps the language in his effort to kill Social Security. (Susan Jacoby, January 21, 2005, LA Times)
In a 1946 essay titled "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell observed that all political language is designed "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
As President Bush begins his second term, he has already demonstrated the truth of Orwell's dictum by persuading much of the windy news media to attach the word "reform" to his plan for fundamental change in the way Social Security is financed. Each time television or radio newscasters use the phrase "Social Security reform," as they do every day, they send a message to the American public that Social Security is a broken system in need of fixing.
The general definition of reform is always positive, conveying the notion of changes designed to improve an institution. In its specific political sense, reform is offered as a moderate alternative to radicalism and revolution. Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, for instance, has been judged by history as a set of reforms that saved capitalism from its own worst excesses. Neither common nor political usage justifies the application of the reform brand to such a controversial proposal as the Republican plan to privatize Social Security.
So to formulate the program out of nothing was to Reform, but to change it now that it has form is not? She's right--words don't mean anything. Posted by Orrin Judd at January 21, 2005 8:11 AM