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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Biased, shaky in places, but still interesting, 20 Feb. 2007
This review is from: Unspeak (Hardcover)
This is a book about the language of modern political propaganda. Contemporary political debate shrouds itself in utterly impenetrable language. Here we have an attempt to expose the inner workings of this rhetorical morass by unravelling a few specific cases of "verbal retouching".

Poole does hit the mark often enough: for instance, the scary legal implications of an apparently toothless idea like "antisocial behaviour", the demotion of "torture" to "abuse" and of "global warming" to "climate change", the promotion of "creationism" to "intelligent design"... The basic lesson of this book is that you have to carefully pick at the words.

Unfortunately, as another reviewer has pointed out already, Poole does get rather fixated on the liberal left's pet issues: Bush, Iraq, global warming, evangelical Christians, GM foods... This is not what the book is supposed to be about. Manipulative and obfuscatory language is not the exclusive preserve of nasty neo-cons - you can find it right across the political spectrum. Because of his strong political bias, Poole inevitably ends up tilting at a few windmills. One of the funniest instances of this is where he tries to portray "natural gas" as an attempt to make gas sound cuddly and organic. In reality, the expression predates the global warming debate by decades and has long been used to distinguish the naturally occuring gas from the "man-made" kind (obtained by destructive distillation of coal). Basically, his own science is more than a little shaky, and his linguistic arguments, in places, disolve into infantile demagoguery, which flies in the face of common usage.

On balance, despite its many shortcomings, I would still recommend this book to anyone interested in either politics or language.
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