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Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times- Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show
Geoffrey Nunberg breaks new ground with this fierce and funny narrative of how the political right has ushered in a new world order, aided unwittingly by the liberal media. Democrats are well known for their "lousy bumper stickers," as Joe Klein puts it. As liberals wade through the semantics of "social security lockbox," "single payer," and other wonky locutions, the righ ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 3rd 2006 by PublicAffairs
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This was my "employee pick" while working at a rather elite bookstore on an even more elite street in Boston. Given those conditions, you'd think my recommendation would have garnered some more interest. But 2006 was an "off" year for politics (more like...a year in which we further embraced complacency.) Too bad, because this book is illuminating insofar as it explains how the party of the rich cleverly disgused themselves as the party of the common man by using lingustic tricks. (And, converse ...more
The author does a very incisive job of outlining how conservatives (not sensible conservatives, but nutbar conservatives) have dominated the general messages in this country by dominating the media, staying on message with more rigidity than the Nazi army, and creating a very loud echo chamber. They would like to convince first themselves, then the rest of the country, then the rest of the world, that America was founded as a conservative country and therefore must continue as such to be true to ...more
Over the years, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg has written numerous pieces on the culture of words for Fresh Air and the New York Times. This book is a more extensive essay on the role that certain words, vague in meaning but rich in emotional connotation, have played in the ascendancy of American political conservatism. You know the words already, they are those irksome un-signifiers like "values", "freedom", "bias", "terror", "elite." Nunberg explains how the right has crafted cultural narratives a ...more
I've also been reading this book for over a year. It's a little dry in places, but mostly I get so angry over the direction that our country is going that I have to put it down. Being a communications major and especially interested in linguistics and how culture is reflected in language and how language shapes culture, this book is excellent! It makes you stop and realize how the American English language is changing and how it is so influenced by politics (both right and left).
I always respected Geoffrey Nunberg as a linguist who was amazingly good at academic philosophical work as well. But he also has been advising the Democrats on how to be less hapless and wrote this enjoyable and very accessible book peeling away one at a time the layers of false consciousness encoded in the language of present-day politics.
Though weirdly dated in some respects (Nunberg refers to the "I-Pod", for example, with that punctuation), the call that this book makes for a liberal narrative that can match the conservative narrative of everyday, honest, pious Americans vs. "elitist" unpatriotic liberals is absolutely up-to-the-minute. And there's some reason to think that the developing language of the "99%" is capable of providing such a narrative, comparable to Clinton's picture of people who "work hard and play by the rul ...more
Tell me a story, Nunberg says. His ultimate argument, written and supported well, is that conservatives have woven this narrative in which liberals are these elitist snobs who are trying to put a gay marriage in every pot and kill all the babie they can get their hands on, resulting in the downward spiral of Western Civilization. Nunberg shows through careful analysis how this narrative is actually accepted even by liberals and the mainstream media despite its being demonstrably false.
In order t ...more
In order t ...more
Written from a liberal political perpsective, the book explores how the right has used language to further its agenda. Nunberg made some great points, and his statistics about word usage were really intresting. But I found that some of his reasoning was flawed. The book was something of a liberal manifesto, so I guess it was okay that he wasn't balanced in his approach. But the book made me want to stand up for conservatism - even though I usually consider myself to be every so slightly left-of- ...more
When I purchased this book at the time it was released, it seemed more insghtful and relevent. This is not to say the book is any less valued at this point, but either through exposure, my own political education in the tiem since buying it, or because of the evolution of politics in general, voters and the media are far more savvy to the things written about in this book. Just the same, its always a good refresher to pour through and remain sharp on spin.
A bit dated, but still helpful for understanding how Republicans have controlled the political dialogue for the past forty years. It seemed to me, however, that he could have spent more pages telling what to do to overcome it and perhaps a bit fewer pages describing the problem.
Basically a concession that conversatives have done a better job of using language and branding for propaganda and a challenge to liberals to reclaim the langauge of debate rather than engaging conservatives using their own deeply loaded terms.
Geoff Nunberg is a linguist and professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information in Berkeley, California, USA. He is also a frequent contributor to the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air".More about Geoffrey Nunberg...