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Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How…
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Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How…

by Steven Poole

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Steven Poole is a cunning linguist.

He disses George Orwell, just to make himself look better, then admits with fake modesty that he's no expert and just a close reader.

He quotes Noam Chomsky, disingenously and out of context, just to make Chomsky look like a dick.

He then sets up straw-man arguments so that he can, oh so cleverly, knock them down.

He sets himself the incredibly hard task of taking apart the words of such noted thinkers, intellectuals and luminaries as George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice.

Our governments are lying to us and use language to hide it. Who knew? Who knew.

Some earlier chapters are excellent and persuasive. But often, despite agreeing with the premise of the book, I found myself irritated by Poole's grating tone of smugness.

He goes off-the-rails at the end, focusing in later chapters almost exclusively on the war on terror.

Even though this is where we should care most, and his arguments should be strongest, he goes to town with smugness and pushes his own arguments to silly, contorted, linguistic extremes.

I agree wholeheartedly with the original premise of the book. But he's guilty of using the very tricks and devices he decries "them" for using.

A book that seeks to expose Unspeak ends up full of it.
It's at the service or humour and political analysis rather than mass murder, of course, but still bullshit and still annoying.

Literary journalism is an oxymoron.

Steven Poole is well-and-truly full of it — and full of himself.

He reviewed reviews of his book on the Unspeak website and his tone is the same there.

Admittedly, I laughed that he quoted Alistair Campbell's dismissive review of his book, as ""Crap from start to finish", on the front cover of his book.

I've delibereately just blurted out my thoughts rather than write up a proper review — the last thing I want is this guy reading what I've said about his book and sending me footnotes.

I'm glad that I read it but I was also glad when I'd finished.

Please let me never be sat next to this man at a dinner party.

Ok, I admit, I'm just annoyed that he slagged off Orwell and Chomsky. ( )
  graffiti.living | Oct 22, 2017 |
This book looks at various words and phrases employed by politicians (and often repeated in the media) that contain a political argument or a value judgement that seeks to guide the coverage in a certain direction. Examples include "climate change", "terrorist suspects" and "war on terror" among others. At some points I felt that the line of argument was a bit laboured, but on the whole, not bad and certainly makes you feel you will read newspapers and watch TV news more carefully in future. ( )
  mari_reads | Apr 23, 2011 |
A funny, readable, interesting and politically useful popularisation of modern ideas on the analysis of political discourse ( )
  experimentalis | Jan 9, 2008 |
Oh man is Steven Poole angry, he's angry at people for not asking questions, angry at politicians in masking horrors under gentle words and he's angry that he's largely impotent to change these things. A book to be followed by something light and fluffy, if you read anything more you might be persuaded to do something rash.

It's interesting, though it does vere into rantage occasionally and becomes slightly boring, still it's a book many people should read and start asking themselves why they don't ask more questions. Why they don't demand straight answers from their politicians and why they keep voting idiots in charge. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Dec 4, 2007 |
It's a little like "rhetoric" as a subject.
You knoiw what rhetoric is? Well you can get a degree in rhetoric and learn to speak rhetorically. ( )
  DaveFragments | Apr 20, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802143059, Paperback)

What do the phrases “pro-life,” “intelligent design,” and “the war on terror” have in common? Each of them is a name for something that smuggles in a highly charged political opinion. Words and phrases that function in this special way go by many names. Some writers call them “evaluative-descriptive terms.” Others talk of “terministic screens” or discuss the way debates are “framed.” Author Steven Poole calls them Unspeak. Unspeak represents an attempt by politicians, interest groups, and business corporations to say something without saying it, without getting into an argument and so having to justify itself. At the same time, it tries to unspeak — in the sense of erasing or silencing — any possible opposing point of view by laying a claim right at the start to only one way of looking at a problem. Recalling the vocabulary of George Orwell’s 1984, as an Unspeak phrase becomes a widely used term of public debate, it saturates the mind with one viewpoint while simultaneously makes an opposing view ever more difficult to enunciate. In this fascinating book, Poole traces modern Unspeak and reveals how the evolution of language changes the way we think.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

'Unspeak' is language as a weapon - 'climate change' is less threatening than 'global warming', and when we say 'ethnic cleansing' we really mean murder. In this book, Steven Poole traces the globalization of this phenomenon, revealing how everyday words are changing the way we think.… (more)

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