Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Newspeak, public opinion, and the "surge"

See this post for more.

White House newspeak, public opinion on Iraq, and the "surge".
The ‘surge’ President Bush is expected to announce any time now is certainly not a new idea. Basically, the White House is pulling some PR [see below] and running over the usual talking points: we need to accomplish the mission in Iraq (just give us some more time); the media is making it sound worse than it is (who needs them anyway?); we will stand down when they stand up (in a matter of speaking). One reads about how the American public does not support this increase of 21,500 of US troops in Iraq — a nation in sectarian civil war invaded in 2003. Here are the statistics (HT to Mark Blumenthal of Pollster):
Gallup poll (withdrawal options/send more troops):

15% Withdraw immediately
39% Withdraw by January 2008
31% Take as long as needed
12% Send more troops
2% Unsure

CBS News (increase/decrease/same/remove all troops):
18% Increase
17% Keep the same
30% Decrease
29% Remove all
6% Unsure

Rasmussen Reports (on troop numbers):
31% Send More
56% Reduce
13% Not sure

Gallup (on “surge” and stablilzation):
36% Favor
61% Oppose
3% Unsure

CBS News (on taking back Baghdad with more troops):
45% Favor
48% Oppose
7% Unsure

There seem to be a fair amount of “unsure” out there. Most Americans seem to want a decrease in troops, but are divided between finishing the ‘mission’ and a withdrawal within the next year.

President Bush will announce this evening that he is sending 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq and will warn Americans that the next year of the war could be bloody as U.S. and Iraq forces confront sectarian militias and seek to quell the Sunni Muslim insurgency, White House officials said today.

"If we increase our support at this crucial moment and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home," Bush will say, according to excerpts of the speech released by the White House late this afternoon.
This “surge” has been hot news ever since the BBC reported it a bit over a week ago.

Iraq is obviously portrayed by the White House as part of the “war on terror”. Although the media made a slip-up by adopting the term — which is not only false but political propaganda — most people interested in this sort of stuff have figured that out already. CJR article:
The Bush administration has aggressively refined the art of distilling any new initiative presented to the public into a single word or phrase that at once defines the idea while obscuring its various downsides. Orwell coined the everlasting expression for this: newspeak.

The phrase "war on terror" is perhaps the administration's crowning achievement in this realm.
Newspeak was used by the Big Brother government in George Orwell’s brilliant masterpiece, 1984. The government was ultra-authoritarian and controlled the people, brainwashing them and using terms to garner their support to a point where popular support mattered no more. The government was that strong. Luckily, we have yet to see that strict of what could only be described as a political and societal nightmare. Yet we can still learn from Orwell — even and especially today.

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