Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


The Language Hoax

By John H. McWhorter

The Language Hoax "argues that that all humans process life the same way, regardless of their language."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Language and Development in Africa

By H. Ekkehard Wolff

Language and Development in Africa "discusses the resourcefulness of languages, both local and global, in view of the ongoing transformation of African societies as much as for economic development.. "

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported primarily by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2016 Fund Drive.

Review of  Manipulation and Ideologies in the Twentieth Century

Reviewer: Katharina Barbe
Book Title: Manipulation and Ideologies in the Twentieth Century
Book Author: Louis A. de Saussure Peter J. Schulz
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 17.2291

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting
EDITORS: de Saussure, Louis; Schulz, Peter
TITLE: Manipulation and Ideologies in the Twentieth Century
SUBTITLE: Discourse, language and mind
SERIES: Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2006

REVIEWER: Katharina Barbe, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures,
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL

This book is the 17th volume of a relatively new series, inaugurated in
2002 under the general editorship of Ruth Wodak and Greg Myers. Its aim is
to investigate ''political, social and cultural processes from a
linguistic/discourse-analytic point of view'' (ii). Following a symposium
'Manipulation in the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century',
held in Ascona, Switzerland, in 2002, Louis de Saussure and Peter Schulz
edited twelve papers for inclusion in the volume. Each contribution stands
on its own and can be read by itself. While all articles deal with the
general theme manipulation and / or ideology, they follow different
theoretical approaches, primarily argumentation theory and relevance
theory. An index (305-312) is a welcome addition. In the following, I will
briefly summarize each contribution.


FRANS VON EEMEREN talks about the difficulty of a comprehensive definition
of manipulation in ''Foreword: Preview by review'' (ix-xv) before he defines
manipulative discourse as discourse which is ''intentionally deceiving one's
addressees by persuading them of something that is foremost in one's own
interest through the covert use of communicative devices that are not in
agreement with generally acknowledged critical standards of reasonableness''
(xii). Manipulation always appears in the context of communication and the
manipulator's intentions are covert, albeit not always insincere. As
promised in the title of his contribution, Eemeren briefly summarizes the

In their ''Introduction'' (1-14), LOUIS DE SAUSSURE and PETER SCHULZ follow
Eemeren's assessment that manipulation or manipulative discourse is very
difficult to define and argue that manipulative discourse has very fuzzy
borders. They provide the reader with a catalogue of issues that need to be
considered in the examination of manipulative discourse. In agreement with
Viktor Klemperer, who published his detailed observations of Nazi
manipulation and propaganda in 'Lingua Tertii Imperii – LTI', the editors
show that ''rigorous analysis of the discourse, its contents and its
packaging, and therefore of the communicated material (allows) for the
detection of deceptive intentions,'' (4) adding also that not all
''manipulative tricks'' are used solely for manipulative discourse. An
analytical summary of the contributions ends the chapter.

Similarly, PAUL CHILTON first considers the problem of defining
manipulation in ''Manipulation, memes and metaphors: The case of 'Mein
Kampf''' (15-43). Chilton ''dismantles'' (27) 'Mein Kampf' on three tiers, the
sectional, propositional as well as the metaphorical. Chilton uses a 1939
German edition and a 1969 translation of 'Mein Kampf'. It is sometimes
difficult to differentiate between the author's summaries or rephrasings
and the Mannheim translation. Chilton finds also in 'Mein Kampf' that ideas
spread by memes, which somehow travel from mind to mind. He concludes by
suggesting that ''we still have to explain why the ideas (or memes) were so
influential'' (41).

Following Lévy, PAUL DANLER maintains that ''discourse itself is a form of
power'' (45) in ''Morpho-syntactic and textual realizations as deliberate
pragmatic argumentative linguistic tools?'' (45-60). In excerpts from
Mussolini's speeches, he finds manipulation present in language in use and
discusses its implicit and explicit features. It is not clearly indicated
if Danler uses his own or an official translation of Mussolini's speeches.
Danler concludes that the implicit message is often more important than the
explicit message.

In his contribution ''Towards a typology of manipulative processes'' (61-83),
EDDO RIGOTTI characterizes a message as manipulative ''if it twists the
vision of the the mind of the addressee, so that he/she is
prevented from having a healthy attitude towards decision..., and pursues
the manipulator's goal in the illusion of pursuing her/his own goal'' (68).
He recognizes a number of manipulative processes: falsity and insincerity;
fallacies; violating presuppositions; manipulation exploiting the human
instinct of referring to totality; and polarity temptation (70-73). Most
interestingly, he also points to another danger, namely ''the manipulative
exploitation of the agenda setting power of the media'' (73), which implies
that the news it broadcasts is the news worth broadcasting.

ANDREA ROCCI in ''Are manipulative texts 'coherent'? Manipulation,
presupposition and (in-) congruity'' (85-112), uses Congruity Theory in his
investigation of manipulative texts. A good theory, he says, should be able
to detect semantic defects in texts. His analysis of the English version of
a Mussolini speech excerpt finds that there is a perceived coherence even
though the manipulative text is actually incongruous, which in turn makes
it powerfully influential. It is not entirely clear here, too, who
translated the text. Rocci concludes that in ''order to evaluate
manipulative moves in argumentative texts, one has to richly characterize
the presuppositions of argumentative connective predicates at different
levels'' (104). He strongly cautions against a one size fits all approach.

LOUIS DE SAUSSURE's ''Manipulation and cognitive pragmatics: Preliminary
hypotheses'' (113-145) uses Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Theory as a
framework. His working definition ''A manipulative discourse is a discourse
produced in order to persuade the addressee of a set of propositions
P1...Pn of type T with appropriate strategies S'' (120) suggests that
manipulation is a subtype of persuasion, and includes intent, is
transmitted covertly and seems to be most often successful in societies
that are in a state of crisis. Manipulation, in conclusion, is a problem at
the pragmatic and contextual level and needs to be investigated as such.

NICHOLAS ALLOTT, ''The role of misused concepts in manufacturing consent: A
cognitive account'' (147-168), talks about the misuse of concepts in the
political classes of the developed West. The concept of democracy has been
misused as in the official statements like ''The yearning to see American
democracy duplicated throughout the world has been a constant theme of
American foreign policy'' (148). Focusing on the term 'democracy', Allott
writes that this statement should be taken as false. But I can also see
that if we focus on 'yearning' then we can say that the statement is true,
as the WISH to spread democracy may be sincere, even if the realization may
leave something to be desired. Nonetheless, giving numerous examples,
Allott raises many interesting points using several models, one of them his
own which he ultimately rejects (code-word model) and concludes that the
pragmatic illusion / shallow processing model is the most advantageous.

In her contribution, ''Manipulation in the speeches and writings of Hitler
and the NSDAP from a relevance theoretic point of view'' (169-190), REGINA
BLASS states that ''manipulation of the population of Germany had been at
the bottom of the success of the Nazis'' (169). She sees manipulation as a
form of deception which always includes intent and calls it a type of
covert persuasion. Asides from some missed opportunities to edit, there
seem to be some translation problems in the paper when she (I assume)
translates ''Aubenpolitik'' with ''exterior politics'' (179). She only
indicates once that a translation is her own (ibid.), but does not indicate
the translator of other passages. Nonetheless, following a Relevance Theory
approach, she contributes to the discussion of manipulation especially in
totalitarian systems, when she adds Taillard's persuasive intention to
Sperber and Wilson's informative and communicative intentions. Manipulation
of the Germans under Hitler happened in part because Hitler and the Germans
shared certain common goals, e.g., many people were already anti-semitic
and ''the addressees were largely prevented from checking the truth'' (186).
She concludes that the mechanisms of Nazi manipulation may also be found in
other totalitarian systems.

Using principles of speech act theory, CORNELIA ILIE focuses on
interpersonal and mental manipulation in ''An integrated approach to the
analysis of participant roles in totalitarian discourse: The case of
Ceauşescu's agent roles'' (191-211). In particular, she investigates the
Agent, Co-Agent and Patient roles using an integrated pragma-semantic
approach. Ilie indicates that she translated the speeches and, in addition,
talks about the translation implications, when she tries to illuminate the
intricacies of Romanian persuasive speech. She concludes that ''political
repression, which is meant to silence possible opposition (and)...the
personality cult, which is meant to rule out alternative voices'' (209) are
the two main strategies used by the Ceauşescu regime.

MANFRED KIENPOINTNER denies the existence of a neutral standpoint and
neutral language in the opening of his contribution ''Racist manipulation
within Austrian, German, Dutch, French and Italian right-wing populism''
(213-235). Therefore, he attempts neutral definitions of ideology and
propaganda, and advises that any critical analysis needs to be based on
''plentiful authentic material'' (217). He uses speeches on immigration
issues by European right-wing populists Le Pen, Haider, Schill, Bossi and
Fortuyn. In his analysis he focuses on two schemes, ''the pragmatic argument
and the use of statistically-founded illustrative examples in political
argumentation'' (219) as well as hyperbolic and metaphorical statements. He
finds that while Le Pen and Haider do use manipulative techniques of
argumentation, Bossi and Schill appear to use more moderate techniques and
Fortuyn emerges basically in line with the political speech of the
traditional conservatives.

Applying Fauconnier's theory of mental spaces, Paul Werth's text world
theory, and Hawkins' warrior iconography, CARLOS INCHAURRALDE investigates
Pinochet's image in ''Intertextuality, mental spaces and the fall of a hero:
Pinochet as a developing topic'' (237-250). Pinochet appears as a hero in
texts for domestic consumption, in external texts he is portrayed as a
villain. Inchaurralde concludes ''that there is a fundamental opposition,
which relates to two opposed views of the same story, one which sees the
former Chilean dictator as a hero (or victim) and another which sees him as
a villain'' (249).

DANIEL WEISS follows the Moscow Semantic School in his comparison of
Fascism and Stalinism in ''Stalinist vs. fascist propaganda: How much do
they have in common?'' (251-274). In particular he investigates two aspects,
''the linguistic manifestation of the mechanisms of terror and of the cult
of personality'' (252). He finds that in contrast to Stalinist propaganda,
Nazi propaganda is an arbitrary discourse, e.g., at times valuing the old,
at other times despising it. On the other hand, ''Nazi terror appeared more
rational...since its victims were predictable. Stalinist terror, on the
contrary, seemed irrational in that it could target just about anyone''
(265). Weiss concludes that ''the essence of totalitarian speech does not
lie in its manipulative force; its main goal is rather to overwhelm the
audience by a permanent flow of emotionally loaded and often violent, but
highly repetitious speech'' (269).

In the final contribution, JÜRGEN WILKE gives a historical overview of the
increasingly tightened Nazi press control from daily news conferences to
'Tagesparolen' (daily watchwords) in ''Press instructions as a tool to
manipulate the public under the German Nazi government. With an eye towards
the German Democratic Republic'' (275-303). Initially, he defines
manipulation ''as only presenting the public with a one-sided view of the
world and influencing the formation of a public opinion which conforms to
the regime's own objectives and interests'' (276). There was an enormous
pressure on journalists under the Nazis to conform to the official point of
view. The average number of press instructions per month increased
substantially, in 1939, for example, there were 385 versus 47 in 1933. In
addition, Wilke classifies the instructions according to subject. Finally,
he compares the press control under the Nazis to press control in the
German Democratic Republic and finds that similar issues were at play, in
that both systems needed total media control.


Each paper is full of valuable suggestions and ideas which cannot be done
justice in a book review. The quality of the papers is varied, some are
excellent, and others are in need of tighter editing. Further shortcomings
are that the translators are often not indicated and that in some instances
abbreviations are not explained. While this may not be a problem if all
papers follow the same approach, it makes it somewhat more difficult for a
reader as most papers follow different approaches or the authors adapt a
variety of approaches for their particular purposes.

However, all in all, the book is an invaluable contribution and should be a
''must read'' for anybody investigating manipulation and ideology. It shows
that researchers can come to similar conclusions by means of different
approaches and thus suggests that an eclectic, data-driven approach may be
what is ultimately needed.

Katharina Barbe (Ph.D., Rice University) is an Associate Professor and
Coordinator of the Division of German, Classics, Slavic and Asian Languages
at Northern Illinois University. She has published Irony in Context (1995,
John Benjamins) and numerous articles in journals such as Journal of
Pragmatics, META: Translator's Journal, Perspectives: Studies in
Translatology, Unterrichtspraxis: Teaching German and Language and
Communication. Currently she is working on a project entitled "'A poisonous
discourse': Whorf and Klemperer on linguistic relativity and propaganda" as
well as on a translation evaluation of the English and Spanish versions of
Klemperer's LTI.