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  • Glenn Beck wins 2009 Doublespeak Award

    Glenn Beck's bestselling books exemplify doublespeak at its best/worst
    Glenn Beck's bestselling books exemplify doublespeak at its best/worst

    The National Council of Teachers of English has named Glenn Beck winner of the 2009 Doublespeak Award. The NCTE Doublespeak Award, established in 1974 and given by the NCTE Public Language Award Committee, is an ironic tribute to public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered. Here is the text of the award announcement:

    Beck, a popular radio and television commentator who moved from CNN to Fox News, and who became a prominent critic of liberalism and the Obama administration this year, wrote two New York Times bestselling books in 2009: "Glenn Beck's Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired by Thomas Paine" and "Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government."

    Beck has also been pushing his 9-12 Project, named for the nine principles and twelve values that he says embody the spirit of the American people on the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    That spirit, if we are to believe Beck's own words, is pure doublespeak. When he moved to Fox this year, Beck attacked health care reform by repeatedly telling his audience, "You're about to lose the best health care system in the world." But in 2008, after experiencing problems during a routine surgical procedure, Beck vehemently complained to his CNN audience that the same American health care system had gone "horribly awry."

    He told viewers it was a "nightmare" system that doesn't care about "average working stiffs" and tries to "shove the patients out the door as fast as they can." Beck concluded one of several diatribes against American doctors and hospitals with this shocker: "Getting well in this country actually will almost kill you" -- a phrase that was recently echoed in Alan Grayson’s critique of the two-part Republican health care plan: "Don’t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly."

    Alan Grayson shows Republican

    In a textbook example of doublespeak, Glenn Beck once characterized the American health care system he now defends in the same way that Alan Grayson characterized the nonexistent Republican health care reform

    Beck describes his 9-12 project with these words: "We weren't told how to behave that day after 9/11, we just knew. It was right, it was the opposite of what we feel today. Are you ready to be the person you were that day after 9/11, on 9/12?" The twelve values which embody the spirit of the American people on the day after 9/11 include reverence, charity, personal responsibility and gratitude, and one of Beck's nine principles is, "It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion."

    While doublespeak is not one of Glenn Beck's explicit values, this 2005 radio comment on the aftermath of 9/11 shows that along with gratitude and sharing one's personal opinion, doublespeak may actually be his most important political principle: "This is horrible to say, and I wonder if I'm alone in this. You know it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims' families? . . . When I see a 9-11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh, shut up!' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining. And we did our best for them."

    Beck had some serious competition for this year's Doublespeak Award: Sarah Palin, Rod Blagojevich, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For always doing his best for the rest of us, for comparing health care for children and caps on executive salaries with fascism and the Nazis' final solution, the NCTE Public Language Award Committee proudly presents Glenn Beck with its annual Doublespeak Award.


    This text, written by me with the aid of the NCTE Public Language Committee, was read at the announcement of the Doublespeak Award at the annual NCTE Convention, and the award announcement is reprinted as it appeared the Washington Post.

browerg@moravian.edu Dec 9, 2009 10:18 am
Has "dog bites man" become news? In 35 years (http://webserve.govst.edu/pa/Introduction/doublespeak_awards.htm -- I attached a pdf of their page) the award has gone to a Republican President 8 times, including one shared with a cabinet secretary, but only once to a Democrat President (1997), and he shared with two Republican Congressional leaders.* Only 5 of 35 awards* are unassociated, on their faces, with the Republican Party or its supporters: 1976 to Yassar Arafat; 1977 to Jimmy Carter's Defense and Energy Departments; 1986 to NASA; 1993 to WJ Clinton's Defense Department; 2002 to the New York State Board of Regents But 1977 and 1993 were the first years of the Carter and Clinton Presidencies, so those awards could easily have been for work done under the prior Ford and Reagan administrations. In that case, the only noteworthy instances of "American public figures who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-contradictory" in the last 35 years, not associated with the Republican Party or its supporters, were by a foreign politician (hardly an American public figure), NASA, and one state's supervisor of education. I find it really hard to believe that Republicans and their supporters have had such a near strangle hole on the coinage of "grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-contradictory" language for 35 years. Otherwise, the award would be good for some fun.

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