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Pinedale Online > News > August 2009 > Word Smithing
Word Smithing
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
August 6, 2009

On Tuesday, August 4th, the White House put out a blog post on the White House website saying there is a lot of "disinformation" out in the media about health insurance reform. The White House is apparently concerned that people aren’t understanding the issues related to the proposed new health care bill and want to start tracking anyone who is delivering any message that is different from that put out officially by the government.

"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to" – by Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media, "Facts Are Stubborn Things", August 4, 2009 blog post,

Aside from the freedom of speech concerns this "rat on your friends" request brings up, the research into this story led us on an interesting path about "word smithing," skillfully using words to craft ideas and deliver news or messages. For those who haven’t reached into the bookshelf to dust off the dictionary or encyclopedia lately, we thought it would be informative to pass on definitions of some of the words that are being bantered about daily now between political parties and in the mainstream media in high profile national stories. The average citizen has a lot of digging to do to try and figure out fact from agenda-driven messages intended to sway public opinion. Here are definitions and explanations of some of the words and labels being applied to people and messages in the news.

"Freedom of Speech, First Amendment to the United States Constitution": The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that expressly prohibits the United States Congress from making laws "respecting an establishment of religion" or that prohibit the free exercise of religion, infringe the freedom of speech, infringe the freedom of the press, limit the right to peaceably assemble, or limit the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

"News": Material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast; matter that is newsworthy.

"Disinformation": False information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth. ("Covertly": Not openly shown, engaged in, or avowed; veiled; masking or concealing; hiding.)

"Misinformation": False or inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally. It is distinguished from disinformation by motive in that misinformation is simply erroneous, while disinformation, in contrast, is intended to mislead.

"Politics": Characterized by shrewdness in managing, contriving, or dealing; sagacious in promoting a policy; shrewdly tactful. ("sagacious": of keen and farsighted penetration and judgment; shrewd)

"Democrat": One who practices social equality. The absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.

"Republican": Favoring, supporting, or advocating a republic. Primarily associated with business, financial, and some agricultural interests and is held to favor a restricted governmental role in social and economic life.

"Socialism": Wikipedia: Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or government ownership and administration of the means of producing and distribution of goods; a system of society or group living in which there is no private property; a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state; a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done. Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital, creates an unequal society, and does not provide equal opportunities for everyone in society. Therefore socialists advocate the creation of a society in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly based on the amount of work expended in production, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how and to what extent this could be achieved. Some socialists advocate complete nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange; others advocate state control of capital within the framework of a market economy.

"Nationalization": The act of taking an industry or assets into the public ownership of a national government or state.

"Redistribution of wealth": Wikipedia: In economics, redistribution is the transfer of income, wealth or property from some individuals to others. One premise of redistribution is that money should be distributed to benefit the poorer members of society, and that the rich have an obligation to assist the poor, thus creating a more financially egalitarian society Another argument is that the rich exploit the poor or otherwise gain unfair benefits. Another argument is that a larger middle class benefits an economy by enabling more people to be consumers, while providing equal opportunities for individuals to reach a better standard of living. Income redistribution evens the amount of income that individuals are permitted to earn, in order to correct the ineffectiveness of a market economy to remunerate based on the amount of labor expended by an individual.

"Communism": (from Latin: communis = "common") A socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general. ("egalitarian": a belief in human equality esp. with respect to social, political, and economic rights and privileges; a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people.)

"Nazism": The body of political and economic doctrines held and put into effect by the National Socialist German Workers’ party in the Third German Reich including the totalitarian principle of government, state control of all industry, predominance of groups assumed to be radically superior, and supremacy of the fuhrer.

"Bias": A highly personal and unreasoned distortion of judgment; tending to yield one outcome more frequently than others in a statistical experiment; slanting.

"Media bias": Wikipedia – "Media bias refers to the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media, in the selection of which events and stories are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" usually implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed, although its causes are both practical and theoretical. Practical limitations to media neutrality include the inability of journalists to report all available stories and facts, and the requirement that selected facts be linked into a coherent narrative (Newton 1989). Since it is impossible to report everything, some selectivity is inevitable. Government influence, including overt and covert censorship, biases the media in some countries. Market forces that can result in a biased presentation include the ownership of the news source, the selection of staff, the preferences of an intended audience, pressure from advertisers, or reduced funding due to lower ratings or governmental funding cuts. Political affiliations arise from ideological positions of media owners and journalists. The space or air time available for reports, as well as deadlines needing to be met, can lead to incomplete and apparently biased stories."

"Mass Media": Wikipedia:
Mass media can be used for various purposes:
• Advocacy, both for business and social concerns. This can include advertising, marketing, propaganda, public relations, and political communication.
• Entertainment, traditionally through performances of acting, music, and sports, along with light reading; since the late 20th century also through video and computer games.
• Public service announcements.
Negative characteristics of mass media
Another description of Mass Media is central media which implies:
• An inability to transmit tacit knowledge (or perhaps it can only transfer bad tacit).
• The manipulation of large groups of people through media outlets, for the benefit of a particular political party and/or group of people.
• Marshall McLuhan, one of the biggest critics in media's history, brought up the idea that "the medium is the message."
• Bias, political or otherwise, towards favoring a certain individual, outcome or resolution of an event.
• "The corporate media is not a watchdog protecting us from the powerful, it is a lapdog begging for scraps."
This view of central media can be contrasted with lateral media, such as email networks, where messages are all slightly different and spread by a process of lateral diffusion.

"Media manipulation": Wikipedia: "An aspect of public relations in which partisans create an image or argument that favours their particular interests. Such tactics may include the use of logical fallacies and propaganda techniques, and often involve the suppression of information or points of view by crowding them out, by inducing other people or groups of people to stop listening to certain arguments, or by simply diverting attention elsewhere. Many of the more modern mass media manipulation methods are types of distraction, on the assumption that the public has a limited attention span.

"Attention span": The amount of time a person can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus one's attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one's goals.

"Propaganda ": Wikipedia: Communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.

Pinedale Online > News > August 2009 > Word Smithing

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