Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Political Power of Words

Today is Margaret Thatcher's 85th birthday, so if I was ever going to blog about politics, now is probably the time to do it.

I recently began following a well-known American public figure on Twitter. This person is a much-admired and very talented LDS celebrity who happens to have some very strong political views which he is not afraid to make known. And I have been so shocked at the words he has chosen to make his views known that I have had to stop reading the tweets because it makes me feel troubled and angry.

To give you an idea, he describes the politicians in the party he doesn't support as "lazy, racist, moronic, blind, and hate America. " He calls their policies "evil" and says they "stink to high heaven, or hell as the case may be" adding "I hope they [those asked for support] all spit in your face!"

Now, I know nothing at all about American politics, but I know that I don't like those who slander and insult others, or spout vitriolic hate speech against them. I find myself feeling like the impartial passer-by in a playground fight standing with the victim against the bully. How can an educated, intelligent LDS man justify such a strongly worded assault? And it's not just him - I've heard several American LDS women speak (write) in scathing and scornful terms and with real loathing about politicians they dislike. (I've never heard a British LDS woman talk about politics at all since it's not really a polite topic of conversation here.)

Well chosen words can bring about a strong emotional response, and politicians know this as well as anyone else. A good soundbite, a catchy slogan, or maybe even a cleverly disguised insult, can sway voters. Steve Cone, who wrote a book called Powerlines: Words That Sell Brands, Grip Fans, and Sometimes Change History notes that the candidate with the catchiest slogan has always won the American presidential election. He also notes that candidates have run on the basis of a slogan which runs down the other side, and says nothing about their own. And they've won, purely by insulting the opposition.
Badly chosen words, such as those which criticise and belittle others, can have the effect of saying more about the speaker than those they attack.
So, to end, some great words from Margaret Thatcher who was Prime Minister for much of my youth.
"To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukaemia with leeches."
"Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."
"Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country."

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Anna. It's entirely possible to express our own opinions and disagree with an opponent's stance without being nasty and insulting.