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Technical note:  sorry about the glitches!  We’re all set up now with the spiffy and very impressive Expression Engine 1.5.1.  It drives so quietly, and gets such good blog mileage!  But it took a while.  Thanks, Kurt!  And now back to your regularly scheduled Monday blogging:

Most of my committee work is (a) confidential and (b) too damn boring to describe anyway.  But this year I did get to serve on a committee I can blog about, because it was our task to bestow some public honors on people.  It’s the Public Language Committee of the National Council of Teachers of English, and last week, we gave out our annual Orwell and Doublespeak Awards

Here’s the text of the award announcement, which was read by committee member Linda Christensen this weekend at the annual NCTE convention (I couldn’t attend because I was at the AAUP national meeting instead):

The charge to the NCTE Public Language Award Committee is to select the recipients of the annual George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language and the Doublespeak Award. The 2006 committee was composed of:

Chair:  Michael Bérubé, Penn State University, University Park


Fred Barton, Michigan State University
Linda Christensen, Lewis & Clark College
Patricia Cordeiro, Rhode Island College
Gregory Jay, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Robert McRuer, George Washington University
Jacqueline Royster, Ohio State University
Michelle Tremmel, Iowa State University

The NCTE Orwell Award, established in 1975, recognizes writers who have made outstanding contributions to the critical analysis of public discourse.

This year’s Orwell Award calls attention to a searing and silence-breaking book that indicts the American medical profession of complicity with the forms of torture now routinely carried out in US detention facilities in Iraq, Guantanamo, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Steven H. Miles’s Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror is well worthy of the Orwell Award.  In Oath Betrayed, Dr. Miles shows not only that American medical personnel have falsified death certificates for detainees killed by coercive interrogations, but also that American psychiatrists and psychologists, working in Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, have actually used detainees’ medical information to devise “physically and psychologically coercive interrogation plans” tailored to individual interrogations.

Such practices, as Dr. Miles argues, violate the American Medical Association’s strictures against the participation by medical personnel in torture; they violate the widespread international consensus, forged in the wake of the Holocaust, that doctors have no business aiding and facilitating gross human rights atrocities; they violate every moral precept associated with the practice of modern medicine.  For calling attention to these atrocities and reaffirming the importance of medical ethics under exceptionally repellent circumstances, the Committee gratefully offers this year’s George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language to Steven H. Miles, M.D.

The NCTE Doublespeak Award, established in 1974, is an ironic tribute to public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered.

This year’s Doublespeak Award recognizes George W. Bush for the extraordinary speech he delivered in Jackson Square, New Orleans, on September 15, 2005.  After two weeks in which the Gulf Coast was devastated, first by Hurricane Katrina and floodwaters and then by an incompetent federal response, President Bush arrived in New Orleans for a series of emergency photo ops orchestrated to give the impression that something was being done, that somebody was in charge.  At one point, a team of firefighters, flown from Atlanta to Biloxi as disaster-relief reinforcements, was actually assigned to follow the President around as he walked through the area with his sleeves rolled up.

President Bush capped off his administration’s response to Katrina in a nationally televised speech in which he said:

“In the work of rebuilding, as many jobs as possible should go to the men and women who live in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama..  When communities are rebuilt, they must be even better and stronger than before the storm. Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there’s also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.”

A week earlier, on September 8, the President had issued an executive order suspending the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, thereby allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.

Perhaps most remarkably, the President’s speech included the words, “I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina.” The Doublespeak Award was created to recognize public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, and for his Jackson Square speech, we find George W. Bush a most worthy recipient for 2006.

Posted by on 11/20 at 08:29 AM
  1. Were the Doublespeak Award runnerups other Dubya speeches?  I have to think Cheney and Rumsfeld had a couple of contenders, as well.

    Posted by ifthethunderdontgetya  on  11/20  at  04:31 PM
  2. The Doublespeak was tough, lemme tell ya.  So many worthy entries.  But read that Jackson Square speech and you’ll see why we went with it—it’s like a motherlode of doublespeak.

    Posted by  on  11/20  at  04:33 PM
  3. I am amazed you didn’t give up on awarding the doublespeak award years ago - as some kind of public statement. Luckily, the GNF is going to do away with that particular form of linguistic violence, too.

    Hey, my captcha has numbers in it?? Is this part of the new improved engine?

    Posted by  on  11/20  at  04:51 PM
  4. Those are really good choices. I was rooting for Mark Danner for the Orwell Award myself, but I liked Miles’s book. Robert Jay Lifton would be proud.

    Posted by  on  11/20  at  04:56 PM
  5. captcha” “dead19”—what’s the anagogic reading of that?

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  11/20  at  04:57 PM
  6. Yes, but ...

    maybe the worst part of W’s Jackson Square speech was plainly spoken, when he said Katrina showed the need for domestic use of the military:

    it is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces—the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment’s notice.

    I’m not sure, but it seems recent changes to the Insurrection Act means no more pesky state governors and their quaint control over state National Guard units. After all, if the Decider decides he wants to use armed forces on American soil, who cares about 230 years of suspicion about standing armies?

    Posted by  on  11/20  at  05:07 PM
  7. I do feel bad for Linda Christensen with regards to her being the sole representative from all of the English world west of the Rocky Mountains, and only one of two west of the Mississippi.  Alas, proximity to Orwell must be part of the committee bylaws though it may also be that most of the chapters of the Students for Orwellian Society are mostly in the east as well.  They actually provide a link to the NCTE.

    Posted by  on  11/20  at  05:43 PM
  8. Wow, you weren’t kidding about that speech being the motherlode. This line epitomizes the gift the administration has for stating the precise opposite of its true actions and intentions:

    To carry out the first stages of the relief effort and begin rebuilding at once, I have asked for, and the Congress has provided, more than $60 billion. This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis, which demonstrates the compassion and resolve of our nation.

    Posted by  on  11/20  at  07:36 PM
  9. Yeah, Ed, I should have warned people not to read that part without a protective Mylex suit.  It’s pretty noxious stuff.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/20  at  07:55 PM
  10. which demonstrates the compassion and resolve of our nation.

    No need to thank us for our gift, Louisiana, but wouldn’t it would be a shame if we had to recind it. Now, what have you done for us lately? [/Protevi]

    John Protevi, your piece on Katrina, in contrast to that Whitehouse nonsense, reads like found poetry in places.

    Posted by  on  11/20  at  09:57 PM
  11. Thanks, Pat, for the kind words. I guess it’s not really blogwhoring if you don’t have a blog, so here’s the link to that essay.

    Posted by John Protevi  on  11/20  at  10:57 PM
  12. Hopefully this will begin a tradition of the MLA showing what minor leaguers the bloggers nominated for The Poor Man Institute’s annual awards for conservative punditry are when compared with their elected compatriots.  I know Glenn Greenwald has been arguing lately that Tony Snow channels the worst of the right wing blogosphere straight from the White House, but when you have teams of textual/rhetorical alchemists at your hire, it’s amazing what you can do, even with a Yale education!

    Posted by The Constructivist  on  11/21  at  01:04 AM
  13. With all due apologies to NCTE for my mistake in the above comment, it would be nice if the MLA and AAUP, for that matter, would get in the act, too.

    Posted by The Constructivist  on  11/21  at  01:06 AM
  14. Wow - what cool committees you get to be on! On the other hand, it’s terribly sad that their very existence is necessary.

    In case anyone forgot, the Jackson Square speech was the one where they turned the power on for Bush and his speech, and then shut it right back off again after the TV cameras were gone.

    And the lack of reporting on the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act was criminal but not surprising in our ongoing anti-labor environment, as was the the gnawing away at the Insurrection Act that Mr. Protevi mentioned.

    PS - Technical glitches not all fixed yet. Test drive failed the “submit” maneuver on the “Review Comment” offramp.

    Oh - and my new captcha is “problems61”!

    Posted by Oaktown Girl  on  11/21  at  05:48 AM
  15. On technical matters, when creating hyperlinks I always provide some value for the TARGET parameter so that the link will automatically open in a new window. That’s now busted. Can that be restored?

    I’ve noticed that captcha’s been funky for a week or two. It simply forget’s that I’ve supplied the word during the “preview” phase. Annoying. Is this the bug feature that other’s have noticed?

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  11/21  at  06:40 AM
  16. Yeah, Bill that’s happened to me a number of times recently, too, though I put it down to wandering in a Web 2.0 world with with Web 0.91 equipment until now. It happens independently of whether or not an image is included in the comment; in fact it seems pretty much independent of anything as near as I can tell. Maybe editing in preview mode kicks it off? I dunno.

    Hmm. I just did multiple edits of the above in the comment box, entered the captcha ("expect12,"), previewed, submitted, and got kicked back. Now I’ll copy and paste directly into a new comment box from my text editor, enter new captcha, preview and submit.

    Nope. Didn’t work out. This time I’ll just paste, enter captcha, and submit.

    Posted by  on  11/21  at  09:50 AM
  17. Curious.

    Posted by  on  11/21  at  09:52 AM
  18. Re: New Picture. You know David Lynch?

    Posted by norbizness  on  11/21  at  09:58 AM
  19. The only thing I’ve noticed in the Great Migration from EE 1.2 to EE 1.5.1 is that the new captcha function includes two numbers, just like it does at The Valve (and other fine establishments).  Personally, I don’t like this.  I could always turn off the damn captcha, but for now I think I’ll leave it on and hope that the rest of this thread is devoted to Experiments with Captcha and Release.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/21  at  10:00 AM
  20. Actually, Norbiz, my full-body shot looks exactly like that.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/21  at  10:01 AM
  21. Peter—Up until 2 weeks or so ago, captcha gave no problemes, regardless of images or use of preview. If, for example, I had images and entered the captcha at preview time, then “it” would “remember” it when I finally did the submit. Now, sometimes it remembers, sometimes not. And when not, I’ve got to do the sort of dance you described.

    And, yes Michael, these captcha numbers screw things up.  I mean, my captcha is “value68.” Where would Marx have gotten with the labor theory of value68? I’m just sayin’.

    Posted by Bill Benzon  on  11/21  at  10:43 AM
  22. Marx would have loved value ‘68, Bill.  But he would have taken his distance from its Maoist versions, and were he in Paris at the time he would have taken Althusser by the lapels and said “see here, M. Althusser, you know nothing of my work.” Also he would have liked most of side three of the White Album.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/21  at  10:53 AM
  23. I have to admit the sky behind the new portrait of you looks suitably post-apocalyptic, Michael. Nice touch.

    Posted by  on  11/21  at  11:06 AM
  24. Thanks, Peter!  It’s not just any vanilla sky, you know—it’s a French vanilla sky.

    Posted by  on  11/21  at  11:28 AM
  25. I applaud the committee’s choice, but--truth be told--accusing Bush of doublespeak is like calling the Taj Mahal a doublewide.

    Captcha:  learned14, as in, “Bush is fine with schools teaching certain Constitutional amdendments, like number 2, but he’d just as soon nobody learned 14

    Posted by Lance  on  11/21  at  11:51 AM
  26. Well then, I suppose I won’t comment on that other post.  Or would that be a post?

    Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman  on  11/21  at  05:51 PM
  27. Scott, I changed “font” to “fount” and it disappeared.  Although, go figure, it’s still visible on the control panel page.  We’re working out the kinks of this EE 1.5.1. . . .

    Posted by  on  11/21  at  05:58 PM
  28. Fixed!

    Posted by  on  11/21  at  06:00 PM
  29. I think I’ll leave it on and hope that the rest of this thread is devoted to Experiments with Captcha and Release

    Now that lameduck Senator George Allen has proposed a bill that would allow citizens to carry concealed guns into our national parks, the whole “catch and release” thang takes on all new meaning.  I suppose we can look forward to the day when some city type steps out of his RV and takes a potshot at a Yosemite bear with a .22.  That would tend to accenuate the capture and release aspect (of the people trying to hide from the bear in the RV). 

    Damn it Bérubé: “side three of the White Album”? I have listened to it so long in digital that i almost forgot about that double drop, flip both, play again world.  I had to literally go into the closet to find it to make sure i remembered it correctly.  Good one!!

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  04:03 PM
  30. total synchronicity and whatevers:  the White Album was first released in UK 38 years ago this very day!!!!

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  04:11 PM
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    Posted by xeuoqzpt  on  10/09  at  12:16 PM
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