Give an example from our own times of the way political speech and writing is “the defence of the indefensible”.
Using language, one could describe to you a force that kills victims who do not know how to escape; surrounding their whole body, filling their lungs, forcing out the air and suffocating them. A force that can both burn and freeze victims with its properties. Or one could describe a life giving force that enables plants, animals and people to survive and flourish. Both of these statements are true of the same force, water. This demonstrates the way that radicalisation of a concept can completely alter the way in which one thinks about an issue. While the altering of perspective in relation to water has no dangerous effects, the way in which we use language for political purposes can be an easy way for society to ignore an issue or to control the way people think about the world.
In George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, the concept of political language as the “defence of the indefensible” is explored through historical examples of Russian purges, British rule in India, and the dropping of the atomic bomb . While these examples clearly use language as a way of sugar coating reality in the past, this “technique” is still very relevant to the reasoning behind political statements today. A current and ever-changing issue in Australia is government policy towards Ashley Luke seekers or, as the government likes to label them “Illegal immigrants”; a phrase incriminating people who are fleeing from war-fighting for their lives. This term not only stereotypes the men, women and children, but gives the government a reason, a facade, to hide behind when violating their human rights and failing to address their diverse needs, both mentally and physically. This term, along with the poorly used term “boat people” dehumanises them, making it easier to distance oneself from the horrors of their experiences and their very human needs.
The indefensible act of ignoring the needs of those in desperate need for help is also defended by the Australian government by claiming that they have no way of knowing whether asylum seekers are involved in terrorism. By utilising one of the current fears of the Australian public, not only do politicians convince themselves that they are in the right, but the Australian public also. This results in a lack of care for refugees as well as severe prejudice and exclusion towards those who make it out of the detention centre system. Through the carefully selected word choice when describing refugees, political speech becomes an easy defence to the indefensible. Not only does this act dehumanise and fail to recognise the needs of asylum seekers, but it strikes false fear within the Australian public against people who are not committing a crime, but are fighting for their right to exist.