Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday's Black Dog.

If you have the time, inclination and patience over the Fourth of July break and you're in the mood to depress yourself, you would be well-served picking up Viktor Klemperer's classic book, "Language of the Third Reich: LTI: Lingua Tertii Imperii. You can find it here.

It's not an easy book, but it's an important one. Especially important, I think, if you make your living with words and images.

Klemperer, a Jew who survived Nazidom and then Soviet rule in East Germany, was a Philologist--a person who studies language. With the rise of Hitler and Hitlerism he noticed the rise of what he called "Lingua Tertii Imperii," the Language of the Third Reich.

"Lingua Tertii Imperii" details the way that Nazi propaganda altered the German language to inculcate people with National-Socialist ideas and ideology.

Naturally, all cultures change the language to promulgate their aims. This was done as surely in the Jim Crow South as Nazi Germany. And I am by no means suggesting even for the briefest flicker that agency life today resembles in any manner Fascist or Racist hegemonies.

However, Klemperer in "Lingua Tertii Imperii" demonstrates how quickly and naturally a new language can grip people. And when you control language (Orwell taught us this) you control thought. (I believe as a nation we fell prey to this when our CIA subjected people to something we called "extraordinary rendition." It was in fact kidnapping and torture.)

According to Klemperer, there's one way to resist oppression that often starts linguistically. And that is to question--not softly or sporadically or gently, but vehemently--each and every buzzword you come across.

I think we in advertising would be well-served doing so.

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