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Norma Mendoza-Denton on how Donald Trump weaponizes words – UCLA College

Norma Mendoza-Denton, professor of anthropology in the UCLA College, studies the language used by President Donald Trump and political leaders of all stripes. She’s co-editor (with Janet McIntosh of Brandeis University) of a brand-new book, “Language in the Trump Period: Scandals and Emergencies,” which unites 27 academics– consisting of three other UCLA teachers, H. Samy Alim, holder of the David O. Sears Presidential Endowed Chair in the Social Sciences and professor of Anthropology and African American Studies; Otto Santa Ana, teacher emeritus of Chicana and Chicano studies, and Aomar Boum, associate teacher of sociology and Near Eastern languages and cultures– to evaluate and understand the language of our existing political minute. In this interview, Mendoza-Denton discusses how Trump utilizes words to manipulate truth, and how linguists can help us see politics through a more important lens.

A photo of Norma Mendoza-Dutton.

Norma Mendoza-Dutton, teacher of sociology in the UCLA

College. (Image courtesy of Norma Mendoza-Dutton) What did you set out to do with “Language in the Trump Period”?

For me, the main purpose of this book has been to try to equip individuals to do their own analyses on the fly. So that when you hear something coming from a political figure or from someone in authority, you have some tools to state, “Oh my gosh, I recognize this, it’s a discourse pattern that someone is putting out there. And as a discourse pattern, I have the ability to name it and I have the ability to have it not take me in.” It’s a type of tool set for individuals to make their own decision about what they believe.As a linguistic anthropologist, how do you study Trump? Do you see his rallies and read his tweets, just like the rest of us?Yeah. He’s a really productive data source, you can just picture. There’s a truly excellent resource that you can get if you go to It’s a compendium of everything he’s ever stated, tweeted and videoed out. And it’s searchable.The introduction explains Trump as a” linguistic emergency.

“What does that mean?One of the ways that we imply “linguistic emergency situation” is that Trump

is utilizing language to form truth. He has the ability to state,” This firm can no longer speak about climate modification. “When you’re able to legislate something in this method, it indicates that unless individuals understand the way that language is being regimented around them, their reality is changing right under their feet.Another example is when he implicates someone of a criminal offense, although they’ve been exonerated. With Kamala Harris and

the” Birther 2.0 “thing, he says, “I do not know, but someone really highly certified says that she’s unable to run. “When he keeps repeating it and the airways duplicate it for him– due to the fact that he’s news, he’s the president– it goes a long way toward developing the reality that all of us share. Even if it’s not real, it plants a little bit of a doubt in the typical person’s mind: is she truly not certified? Or wait, I know that she is, however should she be? It develops a discourse, and that’s why it’s a linguistic emergency. We haven’t had somebody that holds so much power who so continuously alters the linguistic ground under our feet. That’s actually a pushing thing for us to understand.The book breaks down a great deal of phrases that we’re all familiar with at this point. One chapter, composed by co-editor Janet McIntosh, professor of anthropology at Brandeis University, talks about the terms”crybabies “and “snowflakes.”Why are political leaders using these words?McIntosh’s term “semiotic callusing” is really relevant here. It’s a way of stating to everybody else,” individuals that have grievances about this are just weak.” It’s an extension of a discourse that we have in

the U.S., first identified by George Lakoff, which is that the Republicans are like the rigorous daddy and the Democrats are the indulgent, overprotective mother. By setting up the crybabies and snowflakes discourse, the Republicans have managed to continue the discourse of the strict daddy. And Trump resembles the ultimate strict father in this way. He’s calling out the weaklings, showing his own power, however also demonstrating to people how they should be treating others. It’s setting the phase for us to not just comprehend ourselves as going through this type of power, however to relate to each other in this method. To concern somebody who requires aid to make ends meet as a weakling or somebody who shouts on the street as acceptable, due to the fact that they’re not being a snowflake, or to see people who are attempting to get redress for previous wrongs as crybabies.It’s likewise mimicked by the left, where they begin calling out people on the right, stating, “Who’s the snowflake now?” It’s amplified on both sides.Yeah, that’s a great point.

Again, since the language is developing truth, you get swept up in the logic and you begin reproducing that exact same idea, rather of challenging the facility of it to start with.The phrase “fake news”appears to be another significant new function of our discourse. Is this just a part of our politics now, referring to something as fake news?I don’t believe the strategy is new. This is a method that was utilized

by Mao Zedong, it was used by Stalin, it was used by Hitler. Victor Klemperer has a book about the ways in which the Nazis crafted language and a big part of it was generally going against the press and questioning independent news. It’s not a brand-new thing at all, but certainly”phony news”– that becomes part of the genius of Trump. He’s able to come up with these incredibly audiogenic, pithy little phrases like “fake news “that just stick. Now individuals are utilizing” fake news”in non-Trump contexts all the time. Initially it begins as a joking thing, they’re kind of teasing Trump. But now it’s simply utilized in a kind of typical way. So, you can see he gives linguistic development, and that’s truly interesting.Trump notoriously said that he was going to “build the wall and make Mexico spend for it. “Clearly, Mexico was not going to spend for it, and everybody knew this. What is he doing when he states things like that?He’s essentially developing a program. He’s creating a form of home entertainment that we are supposed to take part in. By saying,”I have the most significant crowd. I have the most lovely wall. It’s getting made,”– to start with, it doesn’t matter that half of the assertions that he makes are really suspect, best?

However they paint a specific picture. And honestly, when you’re one of his advocates, you’re in a mode of suspending disbelief as it is. So, as soon as you’re in that suspension of shock, it paints the entire tableau so that you can get brought away in the illusion.What can linguists do to help regular individuals understand and handle Trump’s language on a daily basis? Everyone are linguists in a manner. Everybody attempt to be crucial when someone makes an argument and they’re trying to pull a quick one on you, each one people needs to use our important capacity, to attempt to figure out how reality is being constructed for us.

And I believe that that’s for me the most crucial thing. It does not matter what spectrum of politics you’re originating from.

As long as you’re equipping yourself to be able to understand when someone is pulling a fast one or working against your interests, despite the fact that they claim to be working for your interests, when they reverse themselves, when they contradict themselves, when they’re calling someone names simply to be unforgettable, instead of accurate.This short article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

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