Submarine Channel

Unspeak Episode 5: Obamarama

In honor of Inauguration Day in the U.S today (along with Martin Luther King Day),  we´re bringing you a sneak peek at one of the episodes from a new interactive documentary series we are working on called Unspeak.

Based on the book of the same title by amazing British author Steven Poole, Unspeak  looks at how language can smuggle persuasion into description. Think of words like:

War on Terror | Weapons of Mass Destruction | Climate Change | Asylum Seekers | File-sharing | Austerity Measures | Oil Spill | Erectile Dysfunction

There’s rarely any such thing as perfectly neutral vocabulary. George Orwell, who wrote about Newspeak in 1984, thought that, language could be as clear as a window-pane. It can’t: every word is a rhetorical choice, and comes cocooned in a web of associations and ideas. But the choice of these associations can be more or less deceptive.

The 2012 Presidential campaign (and it´s gloriously amusing debates) presented voters with a wealth of new Unspeak talk. From juvenile name-calling terms like Obamacare and Romnesia to a crucial choice between top-down and trickle-down,  both side accidentally picked up the other´s weapon of Unspeak.

Back on Election Day, the choice was clear. Would citizens vote for a safe, trickle-down network of ladders for middle-class families, decorated with pennants that read “You didn’t build that”; or a strong, top-down plan to build more peaceful battleships loaded with binders full of women? Only America could decide.

Unspeak is language that deliberately loads the dice. Once we tune in to Unspeak, we start seeing and hearing it everywhere. And then, perhaps, we can fight back.

Watch the Elections episode and tune in to Unspeak used during the 2012 elections.



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