Social issues in text – the power of language

This is an experiment as my wife is working on a Master degree in Social Work Science. I want to give her a hand and also prove the power in sharing combined with the opportunely to comment and discuss various subjects in the blogsphere. So please read this, comment it and also send it to others you know who are interested in participating and debating! Diane; the floor is yours:

I am currently writing a paper for a class called “Social issues in text”. The subject of the class is to see how language creates our thoughts, and our understanding of reality. I have chosen a text to analyze by deconstructing the text, taking it line for line, to see what kind of a text action is involved.

Bush and DoctorCurious about what President Bush’s plan for health care reform consists of, I decided to go directly to the top and ask the man himself. He was naturally a little busy at the time, however he left a letter for me online to help answer my questions. The original letter can be viewed here. The letter itself is just three paragraphs so I recommend that you read it before you go on, but we do have freedom of the press so it is entirely up to you!

Text is more than communication – it creates our understanding of reality. I have written this text and you are sitting there reading it because we have a common understanding of that this is a way to exchange not just words but thoughts and understanding. In this definition “text” isn’t strictly the written word but it can also be spoken like in a speech or a story. It can be combined with pictures, headlines, music and graphics to create new meanings and new understandings (as my husband is well aware).

Text has great power because it can define reality. What inspired me to use the president’s letter for my analysis is that when I read the letter critically I discovered that within the text it defines the current situation, how the problem is to be understood, and how it is best solved. However it excludes all other definitions of the situation and possible solutions in the same action. This particular reality is in fact multifaceted and may be seen in many different ways.

The language in the letter is compact with and each word seems to be carefully chosen for best effect. Nothing here is random or left to chance. The letter starts like most presidential letters with “My fellow Americans”. This isn’t special for Bush, but if you do look at it and what it does with the reader, it helps to create a common “we”, a group, we are a group, and the President is “just one of the boys” when seen in that way.

The state also has another crucial weapon: legitimacy. The successful state makes most people within its borders feel they are members of a single status group, the nation. (Collins,1994:92.)”

America’s health care facilities and medical professionals are the best in the world.” This is the opening statement of the letter. It is a powerful statement because it sets up a frame of understanding for the rest of the letter. To make this statement even stronger the letter also ends with almost the same statement, “The greatest medical system in the world.” Within this letter this statement is also one which the reader can easily take for granted as a true statement. With that power the letter creates reality; the US has the greatest medical system in the world, basically because Bush says it does.

I ask you in what degree this is a true statement? If you are now thinking “yes, of course it’s true”, then why is it true? Is it true for everyone? Would the self employed carpenter who is declaring bankruptcy because he has been sick and must pay massive medical bills which his insurance didn’t fully cover agree with this statement?

My paper is quite long, and if readers are interested I will be happy to post again later this week. I will not go into a deeper analysis now, just a little taste of critical reading.

Please understand, I am not attacking President Bush, or the United States. I am an American and proud of it! However I encourage everyone to be critical to the information you are fed every day, because if you simply accept it, then you are part of that reality. Asking questions and being awake for the hidden message is always a good tool to real democracy. The government is by the people, for the people. Is it being run in the best way?

This subject is taught by Eivind Engebretsen, dr.art. at Oslo University College. With your permission I will print relevant comments in my paper! Please join the discussion!!

37 Comments

  1. So you are getting a Master’s in Spin (or debunking the Spin), cool.

    DianeCA:
    Debunking the spin is more like it :-) Was in to see your blog, very interesting, glad to know I am not the only one holding our leaders accountable and seeing the game in a critical light!

  2. Hi Diane
    This is a fascinating topic – something I wish I had touched on in more detail in my own Social Science degree. It was only an undergraduate degree though and I often think it would be good to do further study to delve into particular areas in more depth. I hope you are enjoying it :-)

    Although language is powerful in the creation of opinions and understanding, once these are formed on a particular subject anything new we read takes this into account. Knowing the problems that beset the US health care system, for those who cannot afford it, the subjective comments about ‘the best health care system in the world’ immediately make me suspicious of the veracity of the rest of the text. For others it may draw upon their patriotic side; their pride in their nation may then override objective analysis.

    The speech has obviously been very carefully worded though, intending to reassure and influence. – I along with millions watched the TV series the West Wing :-)
    The use of the words ‘health care system’, rather than medical system, stood out to me – the word care is a much more personal way of expressing it.
    Words can indeed be used to influence and shape opinion but changing opinion is harder to do.

    I would enjoy reading all of your paper :-)

    DianeCA:
    Hi Sueblimely! Thanks for your comments, I can really see you got the idea of the use of language and I think its great that you have your “critical” glasses on. It’s really important to ask questions about what is going on in the world, because as you say once our opinions and understandings are formed, we human beings are a bit lazy, its real hard to change them later. And that’s okay, really, we can’t go around reevaluating every situation all day long, just so long as they don’t sneak in opinions or understandings while we are not paying attention. I like to make my own!

    Would love to share my paper, however it is currently written in Norwegian. Maybe I will translate it?

  3. I cannot get passed the first sentence after “My Fellow Americans…” (I’m not even sure THAT sentence is accurate in the case of this particular individual)…BUT, the one after that is just another lie by Mr. Bush, and Compny. Nothing he says is truthful so I cannot read any more after that letter. He is the worst president in the history of the United States and the most dangerous, too!

    I wish you much luck with this project, Diane, but I’m afraid using George Bushs’ words makes my blood boil, so….forgive me for not participating further….! Everything about him and his administration is so deeply depressing I don’t know what to do….To think how much more damage this man & his cohorts can do to our precious democracy before they are done—well, it scares the hell out of me…Shades of Nazi Germany in the 30’s.

    DianeCA:
    He he he you really crack me up. Okay it wasn’t my intention to make your blood boil, just to show the power of the language which fills our days, our screens and our ears :-)
    I am keeping a relatively neutral profile in the name of science, so I will keep my opinions out of the debate, yours are welcome though. Keep your eyes open for the propaganda then!

  4. Diane,
    Very interesting topic for your paper. I am doing a masters degree myself, in global leadership and sustainable development, which also focuses on accountability and transparency in business and government, towards environmental, social, and economic issues. Needless to say we are also analysing the american society and government and how they behave towards poverty, environmental and economic issues, and it seems they are most focused on the economical aspect.

    In direct comment to your letter; Having lived in the US for two years, and being originally from Norway (an ex-student of your husband actually) I have experienced both American and European health care systems and I can honestly say that in my opinion the American health care system is far from the “greatest in the world”. They do have some fantastic talents in some of their hospitals that can heal people that no one else can, but this comes at a price. You mention insurance, and I think this is a very important issue, who will pay for medical treatment? In Norway for example you pay a small amount if you have money, if you don’t, society pays for you, no one is left behind. In the US if you have no insurance, you are out of luck, no one will give you the treatment you need. The hippocratic oath states that a physician should “keep the good of the patient as the highest priority” But in the US it seems that the higest priority is money. Just my experience in my fiekd of study as well.

    I hope this input is useful for your paper. Now I will ask for a small favor in return. I’m currently writing my professional paper, and I’m surveying Norwegian and US business organizations on their values and behaviors towards sustainable environmental development. For those of you working in business organizations, please take 3-5 minutes to complete this survey, it would be of great help.

    US link: http://www.shoutmonkey.net/lime/index.php?sid=3
    Norwegian Link: http://www.shoutmonkey.net/lime/index.php?sid=4

    Thank you.
    Paul M

    DianeCA:
    Hi Paul!
    Thanks for your answer! I am always being asked why America doesn’t have universal health care like most of Europe and its a pretty hard question to answer. It has a lot to do with the political system, and the power private interests have to affect it. The first to block a public health system was the AMA afraid to lose control of their trade (or money?) and after that it was the insurance companies. The USA has a much stronger belief in the free market then we do, and also a belief in “negative freedom”, which is a freedom from government interference in private matters (and industry).

    Good luck with your Masters, sounds really cool. I have asked Renny to go in and answer your survey, since I am not exactly in the business organization field – I work at a womens shelter :-) Real American Hero

  5. Diane,
    Excellent topic. I think much has already been said. The point has been excellently pointed out – when the highest office in the country says something is “the best”, it must be, right?
    I think we all know the US health care system is far from the best in the world. The challenge then is that if the President is not thruthful in this case, when is he? When can he be trusted? He destroys the language along with his own credibility.
    Cheers, Edgar

    DianeCA:
    I thought it was very elegantly put when a friend of mine looked at this famed letter and replied… “Is he drunk!” (Bush) ….thought it summed things up nicely!

  6. The spoken or written word can be very powerful and far to often people believe what they see written as fact and do not question whether it is really true or not. I’ve seen it happen far too often.

    I run several mailing lists about exotic pet care and if I write something on the lists or my website it’s almost always taken as fact. Often what I’ve written is correct, but I make mistakes too – however since it was stated by me that such and such was true almost no one ever questions what I’ve said.

    The letter from President Bush on health care is a good example. Yes I do believe that the doctors in the US receive some of the best training in the world and therefore might actually be able to provide some of the best medical care in the world.

    Many of the United States nurses come from Canada and elsewhere (fact- I’m Canadian and at least half the nurses I’ve trained with or worked with have gone to the US temporarily or permanently to fill huge gaps in US medical care) so while the medical system may be said to be one of the best in the world it’s not fully composed of American citizens, yet it might be composed of the “best in the world”. LOL

    Some might believe that the US health care system is “The greatest medical system in the world.” and perhaps for those who can afford the insurance or to pay medical bills outright it is, but even some with medical insurance end up going bankrupt after a serious illness and there are many who are not served by the medical system at all. So no I do not believe it’s the greatest medical system in the world although it could be if they changed their whole health care model.

    I’m Canadian and we have a very good health care system. Every citizen has a right to be cared equally within the system. That’s not to say that some areas are not undeserved or that there are not long waiting lists for medical services. Some remote areas lack doctors, even small towns struggle to keep doctors. In fact many of our doctors and nurses (as I said earlier) end up going to the US. But … the system is set up so that all can be treated equally (even if they have to be flown in from remote areas at the governments expense).

    I personally don’t think any country has a perfect medical system. Certainly the US has the resources and the professionals available to them to make their system the best in the world, but in my opinion it is not the best in the world so President Bush’s letter gives a false message that will be believed by many because they are ignorant of the facts.

    Ignorant is not meant to be a put down – it doesn’t mean dumb, it just means a person doesn’t have all the information available to them to decide on their own whether something is true or not. Even that word is misunderstood. ;)

    I have a feeling that because you choose Bush’s letter as your topic you will get more responses on the health care system and Bush’s presidency than on the actual text within the statement. I don’t even know if how I’ve responded is anything close to what you are really looking to discuss.

    I do think I understand where you are going with this though. The Internet for example is full of articles that are taken as fact yet many of these articles contain misinformation.

    I generally try to gather quite a bit of information about things that are important to me, and when I write I try to write from my personal experiences if possible as that is in itself factual. If I find information about a topic on the internet, a magazine or in a new story I generally do not fully believe it unless I’ve found a number of sources that all say the same thing or offer the same “facts”.

    DianeCA:
    Thank you! My point exactly! When one reads a statement from the leader of the United States one tends to expect that it is a factual statement, and we can easily forget that politics is a game, a constant compition over resources, control, power and yes even money. You have answered my question beautifully and I appreciate your enthusiasm. We have deconstructed and looked at lots of differents texts, not all political, and its really an amazing and cool way of looking at the world. I am familiar with the Canadian health care system and personally feel that public health is the way to go for the US. I think they have the Potential to be among the best in the world, but before health care is available for all it will be sorely lacking.

  7. I think the interesting thing is that he says the best health care facilities and medical professionals to start off with, and that’s probably at least close to the truth. There may be equally good facilities and professionals elsewher but not necessarily better. However he then goes on and “moves the goalposts” and implies this means the system is the best, which doesn’t necessarily follow at all.
    A fascinating subject and one I first thought about when my sons were little and believed everything that was said on television including the ads. I recall trying to encourage them to analyze what was actually being said. I must ask them if they remember that!

    DianeCA
    Hey thats a very good point about the difference between best health care facilities and medical professionals – and later greatest medical system – thats quite a jump and they slip it right in there! Good work!! Keep them eyes open!

  8. Hi Diane,
    I watched this Tuesday and immediately thought of you. You are not alone in wondering about the power of words and how little they actually do mean under this administration. We’re now in a position of being slammed every time we express an opinion that does not follow majority party lines. At least people are starting to see the inherent hypocrisy. Thought if you had any type of presentation to do…you might think about using this as an example.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh3X7dDE7WA

    Good luck! I’d be interested in seeing the English version of your paper too!
    Michelle :)

    DianeCA
    Hi Michelle, good to hear from an old friend! Thanks for stopping in.
    The video was hilarious! I wrote the closing today on my paper so its all done, at least in Norwegian! Will work on the english version for you too.

  9. Very interesting topic! You are correct in what you said. I read the statement, took it as true and moved on. I did this because he is the President. I don’t normally do this with everything I read, and my husband and I always discuss this very topic in reference to the news media. You made a very thought provoking point. Thank you for the excellent read. It’s very well written and to the point. Good luck in your class.

    DianeCA
    Thanks! I’m glad you really got the point! We have to remember that the information that comes to us through the press releases and the media can have other interests then keeping us up to date. They very often are looking to sway our opinion, or give us one…don’t let them define your reality! Stay alert! Glad you came in!

  10. quote “The USA has a much stronger belief in the free market then we do, and also a belief in “negative freedom”, which is a freedom from government interference in private matters (and industry).”

    That is true, and that may indeed be the problem, because it seems that the free market system is imperfect, and does not work the way it is suppose to. The goal for a free market is that everyone should increase their standard of living, but in the US and other places it seems that the systems instead increases the gap between rich and poor. Joseph Stiglits points this out in his book “globalization and its discontents”. another problem with the US free market model is that the marjet is only free when those in power are to gain, but restrictions come into play as soon as the profits of these powerful few are in danger. The Alcoa Aluminum cartel is great example of this.

    This is however a bit on the side of this discussion, back to your original topic.

    Quote chupieandjsmama:”I read the statement, took it as true and moved on.” I think many Americans are likely to do the same, because it is in the US culture to belive what those in power tell you and move on with your own stuff. I’m not saying Americans are not emphatic or that they dont care about the state of their country, but I think many Americans question their government far to little. When I read the statement I felt that it was not much more than an empty answer designed to make the administration, the president and the country look good, without aknowleding the obvious problems that are present.

    I’m exited to see where this discussion will go.

    DianeCA
    Thanks Paul! I am really pleased with how this discussion has gone so far! Glad to see so many woken and active people here today JI really like your point about the free market only being free when it benefits those in power. I am using a lot of Pierre Bourdiue in my paper, Bourdiue is very interested in unveiling class domination. He believes that you can never doubt too much, especially when it comes to the government. Hyperbolic doubt – an exaggerated doubt to see where its analysis can take you. It was a cool theory to work with. The blog article is only a very small part of my entire text.

    The quote about reading the statement as true and moving on, that’s what is being questioned here. Because we really do that much of the time, when I read the newspaper on the bus on the way to work or school I don’t analyze everything. That would take all day! Thanks for your participation, it was great!

  11. Dear Diane,
    I hope we can discuss this matter openly face to face. You know that the Norwegian Prime Minister claims that Norway do have the best health care system in the world. His proof is: No Nation spends more public money on Healthcare per capita than Norway.
    I do ask: Is Healthcare a question of spending public money or is it a question of indivuals right for healthcare when needed?
    This is a thoughtful post and I raised a Question. OK?

    DianeCA
    OK Tor!! Welcome to the discussion!! I think the Norwegian health care system is quite good, but no system is perfect, so this one also needs constant adjustments to changing costs, needs, and demands – plus a press of continually trying to run health care more efficiently. I agree that money spent does not equal best health care, the service provided should determine that. Good question! Will try to get to you face to face after my trip to New York! Hugs!

  12. I almost can’t think of two topics more polarizing than Bush and health care, so it would be difficult for any American to read this objectively. The people with Bush Derangement Syndrome won’t like any part of it (even if the words match a Clinton or Carter speech), because his name is affixed.

    The letter is pure political speak loaded with jargon–and I mean this as no criticism of Bush. Most Americans can’t tell you the difference between Medicaid and Medicare, and lose interest if the text is longer than a bumper sticker. They really don’t have any idea what the poor can get–and it’s considerable. “. . . best in the world” is nonsensical since there is no standard, and other social systems, education, immigration, climate, etc. would need to be factored in and that isn’t usually done.

    Its brevity demands long explanations, position papers, examination of current benefits, bills in the Congress that run to 1500 pages, to say nothing of defining “poor and elderly.” But as a conservative, I’ll just remark it is far from a “system,” for starters.

    “Because the government has taken on the responsibility for health care of the poor and elderly” might more accurately reflect what has actually happened–there is no consensus in the U.S. that the government HAS this responsibility–i.e. to take money from me that I need, put it in a pot with your money, and then redistribute it inefficiently even to the poor and elderly so that we all have a specified (lower) level of care.

    There are so many loaded political hot buttons in this letter–words like “doctor-patient relationship” (something people fear losing in universal, socialized medicine), and “portable,” (something people fear if they change jobs and can’t take their insurance for a pre-existing condition with them). The recent S-CHIP debate indicates Congress can’t even agree on what “working poor” means, and wants to extend childhood to age 25, so perhaps “elderly” is a moving target also. But even as I write that, I realize the congressional disagreement isn’t about age or income, but right back to “Our government has a responsibility. . .” “Affordable” and “competitive” are also loaded with political meaning–you almost never hear Democrats use the word competition. The law suit reference might as well just say “John Edwards” since that’s how he became wealthy.

    “Meet the needs of all Americans” is also a pie in the sky political phrase, regardless of which party says it. Expectations rise as soon as they are met. In the 1920s, my grandmother received a “blind pension” although I have no idea what level of gov’t distributed it. And a generation before that the poor and elderly lived on special farms on which they worked, receiving food, clothing and medical care. Now asking people to work to receive aid is considered demeaning.

    No government, not yours or ours, can keep up with the changing expectations which will include not only pacemakers for all, but nose jobs for mental health and knee replacements so they can continue jogging with their friends.

    The U.S. will eventually have universal care, which will be a two tier system like you have in Canada and Scandanavian countries, with better care for the wealthier and well educated who purchase privately above the level that the government provides.

    Sorry this got so long.

    DianeCA
    No problem that it was long. I thought it was amazing!! You did a good job of showing how empty the language used is, and at the same time its powerful language. Because if we just read it and go on somewhere in our brains, maybe in our unconsciousness it sticks, and the more times we hear those kind of phrases the more we accept them as true. You really have good political knowledge and strong independent opinions – you go girl!
    To avoid analysing just the “jargon” in the letter I also included some pages from the information that follows the letter “Reforming health care for the 21st century.”
    What I reacted most to was that the information defined the situation, the problem, and supposed solutions completely one sidedly after its own definitions – other arguments, viewpoints or suggestions are completely omitted – so we don’t really know what “our” options are.

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  14. I almost cringed when I read this, Diane. But thank God there are people like you are are reading and analyzing such texts critically! You go!

    DianeCA
    Thanks for coming in and reading my post. The power of language is immense, and the people who really know how to use that are creeping into our minds all the time…watch out :-)

  15. Hiya Diane/Renny! I want to include my two cents if I may.
    First and foremost whenever one looks specifically within a political arena one must also have logic in mind and not many know how it works at the political level although many may have informal knowledge of logic. Propaganda is a whole different language. Critical Thinking Skills includes assumptions and generalizations and can be managed very similarly to and as a mathmatical formulary thus rendering it as being congruent or incongruent, false true, true false, true true, false false. Yet it requires more information that what revealed in his February 15, 2006 declaration but it sounded good. Too bad that it bears no truth in it but that’s propaganda in action. Number one, the US government banks on its citizens’ ignorance when tossing out this type of propaganda especially during wartime.

    Propaganda is an artform no different that what is seen on any type of marketing. The most important part of this is directed in a ‘powerful’ introduction. It sets the tone by tapping into powerful human emotions. Clearly, His brief delivery offered hope although it was a false hope it was a sense of hope for the hopeless, nonetheless.

    Diane, I’d like to add that the quote, “of the people, for the people, and by the people” used is from Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863.

    I personally do not watch TV because of its propaganda. Propaganda is an art and is easily assimilated into hasty generalizations, sweeping generalizations and false assumptions. Professionals bank on those in order to collect their pay for a job well done.

    Another thought here is that, ‘a law is only good if it’s written’. That too is a powerful declaration and many are not aware of it’s importance when it comes to yet another coined phrase, ‘ talk is cheap’ whether it is written,implied, or assumed.

    *Hugs to all..!*
    ps- I hope that my two cents was congruent. ~:o)

    DianeCA
    First thanks for pointing out that my quote was from Abraham Lincoln. Even that elegant quote has been used as jargon much too often. My paper is based on the Critical philosophical views of Pragmatism (wikipedia) which is centered to a large degree in deciding how something is true or false, and most importantly that we ourselves in our minds and ideas are part of this “reality” of true or false.

    I have never heard of propaganda called an art before, but I suppose in a way its true. However to avoid analysing only propaganda I included part of a longer description of the presidents plan in my paper. Thanks for your enlightened and enlightening comments!

  16. I’m sitting here laughing at my rambling on and on. I’m sorry. I really should be in bed instead of babbling.
    Thanks for posting!
    If you get a chance to post the rest of it online, I’d love to read it but only when you have the time.

    DianeCA
    No don’t laugh, it wasn’t rambling at all! Your passion suits you, and it’s the kind of response that makes this fun!

  17. My first reaction is: if Bush says it, I don’t believe it.
    Sorry but he lost all credibility.
    When I read his text I say it is pure propaganda.
    Mind that I have no idea how good or bad the healthcare system is in the States.

    DianeCA
    Hi Sydney! Thanks for commentating! The scary part is the letter is pretty short and direct to the point, but it does coincide with the longer explanation of the health plan. I’m really glad the subject is so controversial though! That’s a good sign, maybe we can change things.

  18. It isn’t hard to tell when he’s lying, Sidney. His lips are moving. :)
    He recently shot down child health care known here in the states as SCHIP. His nebulous but grandiose letter dated in 2006 was bunk from the gate and that is why his statement was nebulous. The outcome of his veto only proves Diane’s point regarding her thesis ‘social issues in text’. The propaganda used in 2006 was a set up and a building block that led up to his veto, but hey, it sure sounded good although Diane caught its senselessness. That letter was for show- only.
    Diane’s example was an excellent choice toward the power of language.

    DianeCA
    Hahaha you are funny! I have also read about the children’s health care plan. I had an impression that the plan isn’t down for the count though, but that it would need to be revised to pass though? There’s a lot of ‘fun’ stuff about that on the whitehouse website as well, you should check it out.
    Thank you for your compliments! I’m blushing!!!

  19. Hi Diane & Renny,
    I read your post this morning and now I am still trying to digest and be engaged by the language, by the communication to the people of America. Yes, we can have the greatest healthcare but how about the affordability?
    Here in Singapore, medical cost is escalating so high that people here often said “It is cheaper to die than to be sick”…..we have all kinds of medical insurance but sometimes just buying the insurance is so expensive.
    If what I’ve said is not relevant, do forgive me folks :D This is a very engaging post Diane, thank you :D
    Hugs!

    DianeCA
    I think its interesting to hear about health care in Singapore! Actually if I let my guard slip a bit and come with more of an opinion, I don’t think there are very many people who can afford to be sick in the US either once they pay their share of the doctor bill, which is 20%. There should at least be a yearly spending limit.

  20. “The greatest medical system in the world.”

    – I won’t disagree that the system is not great. But in what context. Yes to a person who is bankrupt or who cannot afford the medicine they need, the system is certainly not great. For someone who needs top, state of the art care, maybe they are in the lead for this, or at least on top. I’ve heard of Canadians having to use the facilities because they were closer than what they had here in Canada.

    That’s all I’ve got to say, what a great paper!

    DianeCA
    That is a very relevant question. How does one qualify that statement as “great”, there is no information on which that opinion is based? Great for who? Thanks for your support, this is really fun!

  21. I found all the comments interesting. I believe they evidence something important. The power of words touching the levers of the human “IO”. We readily accept as true anything that says we are better than someone else. We resist anything that says things that someone else may do better. Our politicians (across the world) have learned this. Entire populations are kept in the dark by appropriately touching these levers. We see it in religion, politics, sports and corporate culture.

    I believe this is the reason that books are burned, libraries closed, Internet and Television censured when total control is desired. If we continue to hear how good things are we believe it to be true.

    On the healthcare issue I have travelled the world (as have many who have commented) and there are good and bad things in every system but we discount everyone else’s system saying we have the best. The fact is that there are two things that every government, that desires to serve its citizens, must do to create equality of opportunity. The first is make sure all can receive as much education as they desire. The second is to make sure they reach adulthood in relatively good physical form. Education and Healthcare should be the primary focus because they mitigate the advantages/disadvantages of being born into a rich or poor family. They allow for class migration.

    Unfortunately human nature, even in very smart people, takes over and we shut out informed discussion and instead of perceiving the rhetoric as spin (and discounting it) we accept it to be true.

    DianeCA
    That competitive instinct, that we are best are true of most groups or nations, I think that’s why they use the words so effectively. I fully agree with your observation, that Education and Health Care should be all nations top priority to insure the best possible outcome for all of its people. Thank you for your enlightening comments!

  22. Thanks Diane!
    I can get to babbling at times especially when I’m overly tired like I was when I tried getting my thoughts to gel. It helps when I’m around folks who have a great sense of humor, btw! Thank you for that.

    I wrote a final paper in college regarding Cesar and Cleopatra’s lives. My quest was to determine whether my research would lean toward Propaganda as an Artform or if Propaganda was a Scientific Method. Art outweighed the Scientific Method when I got through fussing with it. Propaganda is actually it’s a bit of both yet Art weighed heavier when I got done with it so I stuck with it and crossed my fingers and it worked. I received an A for that particular method in madness. The task was one that was next to impossible when it came time to pleasing his requirements. Then again, it was his favorite mannerism to let the class know everytime we met that, ” If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and acts like a duck it must be a duck philosophy. He was also tenacious at having us memorize in detail the opening of the half hour TV show in of our time,

    “A horse is a horse, of course, of course
    And no one can talk to a horse, of course
    That is, of course, unless the horse
    Is the famous Mister Ed

    Go right to the source and ask the horse
    He’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse
    He’s always on a steady course
    Talk to Mister Ed

    People yakkity yak a streak
    And waste your time of day
    But Mister Ed will never speak
    Unless he has something to say

    A horse is a horse, of course, of course
    And this one’ll talk ’til his voice is hoarse
    You never heard of a talking horse?

    I’m still not too sure if I ever fully recovered from that Phil 107 course to be real honest with you, Diane. I think often that I’m still traumatized from living through the experience. ~:o)
    *Hugs and thanks again! *

    DianeCA
    How cool, that’s really interesting – you really do know your propaganda! Folks we have a pro here!! What was your degree in?

  23. Your question is very broad. If health care is the topic, more could be learned from comprehensive data gathering at WHO or Trendalyzer than speeches.

    Can what he say make people think more or less of him, more or less of a subject change an opinion? Everything impacts.

    The sort of thing was touched on as well by Malcolm Gladwell wasn’t it when people who watched a newscaster with a certain (unstated) bias voted in the side of his party. Those who watched another newscaster mapped to that newcaster’s subtle unconscious tones when speaking of a party even if the station was aligned with a particular party.

    Does a person playing a role consciously and effectively convince people that what he or she says has merit? Can we know what we hear is true? Can anyone say something brief but exhaustively true and not general?

    Does there need to be a defining of terms and question?

    No one would take any statement by anyone at face value, surely. We are all sourcing our ideas from many places. People are adept at thinking critically or cynically or optimistically but at any rate they aren’t reading literally, but cutting thru the double meanings and the null meanings and catching trends and jists.

    This is somewhat like what Saboma said. It’s a schema with constraints, a snippet like kissing babies or warning of belt tightening. As such is a speech act without anyone expecting any amount of content.

    No one goes to a public statement to get a full story. It is a speech act for saying I am a good person and I like you. It says what casts the speaker in good light, and what makes the listener feel good, or appropriately cowed. Or if executed incompletely or ineffectively creates disagreement, bad feeling and divisiveness of ranks.

    What we say comes from motives for persuasion, bias of distinct life experience, what is poetic or good for narrative simplicity, what are the expectations of the type of speech.

    Sociolinguistics, study of oratory, public relations, logical fallacies and debate all would have reams of answers to your question.

    DianeCA
    In 2006 WHO rated US health care system as #”37 in the world – left that out because I wanted reaction to the Presidents words. You have some very intruiging questions. However I would say that many of us actually do take most of what we hear at face value because we don’t have the time and energy to filter all the information we are bombarded with in modern society through our critical filters. Great to have your insightful participation :-)

  24. See what I mean about Bush Derangement Syndrome? These comments are the evidence (it was officially named about 4 years ago by a psychologist). If he said it, it must be a lie. The real lie is that people can’t get health care. That’s what you hear/read in Europe and what is published in our media. All anyone without insurance has to do is show up at an ER in the USA, and those of us with insurance pay for them through our higher premiums. When my children were young adults, they just didn’t sign up for their companies’ health plan–like many young people, thought they’d rather spend the co-pay money on having fun. And then my daughter was in a serious auto accident. She wasn’t turned away from the hospital but she had no insurance.

    Hospitals in cities (usually border states) that are flooded with illegal immigrants are closing because there are almost no paying clients, but the poor will be taken care of and the middle class will be inconvenienced as fewer hospitals remain. One of the huge issues here, the elephant in the living room that Bush doesn’t address, is how to pay for the health care of the 12-20 million illegal immigrants and their families. This omission, from a conservative’s point of view, may be the single most dishonest thing in the message.

    Another interesting point is that about 70% of the people surveyed say they are satisfied with their own health care (usually some sort of combination of private or gov’t or through their employment–I have Medicare but buy “gap” insurance for what it doesn’t cover), but if asked about other people’s health care, they all buy into the myth that people are suffering from lack of good health care. But the President also plays on that myth in this message. It’s like those happiness surveys–yes, I’m happy, but oh I feel so bad for so-and-so who’s having a hard time and isn’t happy.

    Millions are taken care of by the government and pay nothing either because they don’t work, or they don’t pay taxes on their income; they may have to wait a bit in line like in socialized countries, but it is there. The Democrats want all of us to wait in line because they hate gaps more than they like good health care. Bush would be called a whiner if he included all those details in a 3 paragraph speech (which he didn’t write–Presidents have staff who do that (or maybe computerized robots), and these people have degrees in communication and they know the loaded words).

    DianeCA
    Love the expression Bush Derangement Syndrome – but I didn’t realize it was a real diagnosis until today !! The health care debate is a much hotter debate that I had anticipated, although I know it’s a big discussion. One thing I reacted to was the plan outlined really held most of the status quo in place and made very little actually changes to the current system. Another thing I react to is that few people really know how good their health care is until they fall seriously ill. I have several family members who are having a tough time because of medical bills, and they had good quality insurance – but then there are all those loopholes. Okay, getting caught up in the debate and away from my language theme.

    I did include in my paper the fact that Bush doesn’t write his own speeches and Bush’s health care plan isn’t really his plan, but represents the republican party and advice from the president’s aides. There is a mixed voice behind that message, which just makes it all the more powerful, and confusing.
    Thanks for ranting ;-)

  25. Using the President’s message makes it difficult to separate the topic at hand for me which is from what I take it to be, all about ‘text’. I find it a thorny issue to not hold any biased opinion to analyze the statement in and of itself as mere words.

    My biased opinion is that no, this is not a true statement. The President just vetoed child health care plans which would have been an immense help to many Americans. He’s saying one thing, yet acting in an opposing manner.

    But I live in Canada, where all Canadians are entitiled to health coverage for non-elective surgeries, and it is law that all Canadians must have health care coverage. Some provinces subsidize residents for coverage. I live in Alberta where it isn’t, and we’re required by law to pay a monthly premium.

    I feel it is a small price to pay for the security of knowing if I require surgery that I will not lose my entire life’s savings, house and home or go bankrupt to pay for it, it’s covered by our health care program. I’ve never been able to understand why this isn’t possible for a country such as the US to implement.

    Yes, they have excellent medical facilities and professionals, some of whom are from Canada. But to say that they have the best health care in the world? I think not.

  26. It is a pitch letter and you might forward your analysis of it by looking at the construction of pitch letters (sadly, most people dance around the issue instead of getting to the meat). This site has a pretty good read on it: http://www.publicityinsider.com/pitch.asp

    One of the goals in a pitch is to use -est words (latest, best, largest, fastest, etc).

    Another thing to consider is the authority of the source. (Curiously, up here in Canada, we are always told we have the best health care system in the world – a system that is the envy of the world. But no one asks why the rest of the world is not copying our model).

    Language can construct realities (after all, that is what writers do all the time). However, different languages will have subtle (and not so subtle) nuances in the understanding of underlying ideas and concepts. For example, my wife comes from a country with four well defined seasons – Summer is always sunny and warm, Winter is grey, cold and overcast. For her, Canada has crazy weather because in the morning it might be sunny and in the afternoon it might be overcast and raining. So, already she has inbuilt biases about the season and the expectations for the season.

    We not only have words, but the concepts imbedded in those words. Concepts which we cannot seperate out from the words because we don’t see the word, but the concept (one might recall how use of the word “crusade” in recent history was perceived by different cultures).

    Here, test yourself. Read the following sentence and tell me how many Fs are in it. Read the sentence carefully:

    Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.

    If you haven’t seen this puzzle before and you are an indigenous English speaker, you are likely to get the answer wrong.

    The reason is that you do not read all the words. In some instances, certain words are perceived as a single unit, instead of a combination of individual letters.

    Give up?

    There are 6 Fs in the sentence. Most people will miss the Fs in the word “of” (of which there are 3), because the brain picks it up as a single item, not a word of 2 letters.

    Non-indigenous English speakers fair better because they tend to parse every letter to try and understand the meaning.

    Just some ramblings.

  27. Sorry, no brain left to comment on this right now (05:00 in the morning and I haven’t gone to bed yet!!!)
    BHOOOOO! Blog warming party tomorrow Friday 12th of Otober.
    Welcome to see my new look….. if you dare….
    Spread the word!
    *ghost giggles*

    RennyBA
    Your excused Captain and congrats with your new blog home!

  28. “The President just vetoed child health care plans which would have been an immense help to many Americans.”

    Yes, and a good thing. Vetos are used to cut both ways. If the plan included a 3 car garage for every American earning less than $80,000 on p. 1,068 with some justification for health, it would have also been vetoed, and the proponents put it in for that reason. Like the wording of the speech, the process is carefully orchestrated.

    Democrats want NO improvement in health care coverage until they can get the credit (which will probably be Hill and Bill’s plan of the early 1990s). Using increased cigarette taxes (mostly from poor and working class who smoke at a much high rate) to provide health care for middle class children whose parents earn a good income, is income transfer from the poor to the middle class. Democrats know it; Republicans know it. This veto was a no brainer, but it is very usualy for whining about how cruel the President is to helpless, ill children.

    It’s kind of a dirty little secret, but well paid, upper middle class Americans can also take advantage of many of the programs intended to help the poor. You only need to listen to the advertisements from lawyers promising to “save your estate,” from end of life medical expenses. This means hiding their assets and getting mom and dad on medicaid so when they die, their adult, aging children get a bigger inheritance. And they sure aren’t poor!

  29. Hi Renny!Thank you for inviting me Dianne`s insights here.

    Bush is trying all his abilities to get the people`s sympathy.Honestly,while I was reading the part that he`s claiming the greatest medical and insurance policies in the US,a bitter smile came out because in the back of my mind,I recollected the situation at one of my fav. movies,”The Pursuit Of Happiness” by Will Smith.

    Now thats the reality!Affordable people are getting good services and accommodations from any hospitals,but the homeless,jobless,which getting a larger number according to a graph of population in America,are just roaming around and waiting for their “time” to come.

    Text is powerful,but coming from bush,it is just a lousy,eye-brow-raise matter,LOL!

    thanks for sharing Dianne!!

    btw,Renny,I got you tagged :) Pls check The SEO post of mine.
    have a great weekend,both of you!!

    ghee

  30. Just visiting peace globe bloggers tonight.
    We will have another BlogBlast For Peace November 7, 2007. You are cordially invited to fly your peace globe and write a Dona Nobis Pacem post that day. Thank you for participating in the past. It will be a fantastic day in the blogosphere! Click here for the scoop and please spread the groovy peace vibe.
    How To Get Your Peace Globe November 2007

    Peace,
    Mimi

  31. sorry if it’s only now that i get to read this and comment.

    you are right. what they give should be factual. but they still have an image to uphold. bush is not popular anymore and so he should be careful with what he says. he should give what the people wants to hear but yet still be careful in saying it or else it would backfire on him. so what he gives is something general :)

  32. I’m sad i don’t have the time to really dig into this deeply right now so i’m bookmarking it. Have beeen studying this very thing for the last 6 years but with the text-based communications of more “ordinary” everyday people, rather than presidents ;D It’s been really fascinating to watch it in static format (letters, which have time to be “edited”) vs “live chat” too. Very big fan of learning, studying and discovering the things which encourage peaceful & constructive discourse.

    Most fascinating has been to analyse the structure of full-scale “war” through text during an argument (how to spot signs of tension, patterns of antagonism, how to manage better in future). But not just war either, even just the process of ice-breaking and introductions when people first meet – what things encourage good interpersonal communication.

    So much for not going too deep yet after two paragraphs. Obviously a topic i could write a few thesis papers on (but i much prefer to this thing “practise” rather than write papers on it) A private personal PHD of mine with hundreds of hours spent with study and practise within branches of management, it’s an issue very close to my heart. It’s like a sport :D

    Busy with a big deadline right now so i’ll get back when it’s over :D

  33. @ David

    > So you are getting a Master’s in Spin (or debunking the Spin), cool.

    This made me laugh. I did a thesis paper on that one a good decade ago. *cack*

  34. Diane,
    thanks for your comments to my comments. I wish I officially could U insight in what’s going on in Healthcare globally. Here, on this blog. But since, I’m employed by a company that really has studied the effiency of Healthcare for the patients in matters, all over the world , for the past 30 years – that can be considered “advertising”.
    Unfortunally – Healthcare in Europe incorporates more politics than solutions. Norway is not an example to follow – sorry – it’s not a matter of government money spent – but a question of: Results. We are still having “Silo” public budgets. etc

    That we can discuss, by having an insight in what we consider ” undevelopped countries” have seen as a future “business”. Of course – they use advanced technogoly – even now “Second Life”.

    We are looking forward to a commom weekend again.
    Bless your Mother.

    Anna and Tor

  35. Indeed, Words mean things and the careful selection of Words can change the World more easily than the adroit placement of a bomb or missile… Brian Carl Brown

  36. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to start my own BlogEngine blog now.

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