Unspeaking the clean bailout

by John Q on September 23, 2008

Steven Poole is taking a break from blogging, so we can’t get his thoughts on the “clean bailout” as an example of Unspeak. To me the natural association is something like “clean handover” as in “I want a clean handover. Leave the money in unmarked used bills, no tricks and no police, nobody gets hurt”



HH 09.23.08 at 2:54 am

The efficiency of language is a double edged sword. Terse elegance is easily turned into pernicous sophistry if the listener is not vigilant and thoughtful. Propagandists are constantly testing to see where the common denominator of unreason is, and they craft their slogans accordingly. Thus we have stunning nonsense like the “ownership society,” the “death tax,” “the surge,” and “they hate us because of our freedom.” The limited attention span fostered by TV viewing makes these slogans substitutes for extended discussion. When political discourse is replaced by tokenized chanting, democracy fails.


Lex 09.23.08 at 8:30 am

Umm.. yeah. That’s what the book Unspeak is about. Although personally I think he overdid his argument in the latter chapters.

Most people are open to persuasion, and emotions and appeals to the familiar work better than complex reasoning. That’s what rhetoric, since the Ancients, has been for – it is crafted persuasive speech. If everyone since Demosthenes has known this, why are we so horrified about it now? Framing, windows, it’s all footnotes to the rhetorical art. Don’t throw up your hands, shoot back.


ShaunR 09.23.08 at 9:53 am

And associations of “making a clean break for freedom”; “getting clean away”; “getting cleaned out”.

Where can I read about this “dirty bailout” that they need to differentiate themselves from?


Cheryl Rofer 09.23.08 at 12:10 pm

India just got a “clean agreement” from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. By that they seem to mean that they can continue their nuclear production full-up while opening up to full-up nuclear trade with the rest of the world.


joseph duemer 09.23.08 at 12:25 pm

My first association when I heard the phrase “clean bill” was Monty Python’s cheese shop skit. “It’s very clean,” says the proprietor to the customer, who has remarked that “it’s not much of a cheese shop” since it appears to have absolutely no cheese anywhere. (The Paulson plan, at least, has plenty of cheese.)


HH 09.23.08 at 1:19 pm

Americas primary manufactured good now seems to be attractive sophistry. People no longer object to lies, but serving them up with low production values or poor artistic presentation is a grave insult. The worship of glittering surfaces is triumphant, but the ugliness that lies beneath will not be avoidable much longer.


Tom 09.23.08 at 2:31 pm

Baleful cleanout.


ehj2 09.23.08 at 2:52 pm

The Paulson plan is called “the simple plan,” which suggests elegance more than incompleteness, and that progressives want to “clutter it up” with irrelevant “partisan” goals that are characterized as socialistic/communistic — government control of capital and thus capitalism.

We forget to say frequently enough that all markets are at base a set of rules (the notion of a “free market” is nonsense masquerading as a profound truth), and what we must do now is refine market rules through collective regulation so the markets continue to “work.”

I remain troubled by the notion of allowing institutions to become “to large to fail,” which gives them some equivalency with nation states themselves.


Steve LaBonne 09.23.08 at 3:41 pm

The taxpayers will be cleaned out and the crooks will make a clean getaway.


Kevin Donoghue 09.23.08 at 5:51 pm

Remarkably, Bernanke has abandoned Unspeak.

I’m having a hard time making sense of this. He might as well have said gimme $700 billion or the economy gets it.


a. y. mous 09.23.08 at 7:14 pm

Just goes to show the rest of the US economy is in total shambles. USD 700 Billion. Let’s say leveraged at a ratio of 40:1. That’s about 17 Billion. The managers of the US economy do not have the confidence of generating, in the short term, 17 Billion dollars.

Or should that number be 700 multiplied by 40? In which case, shambles is an understatement.

How much have James Dimon, John Mack and Lloyd Blankfein promised to pay for this bailout?


Roy Belmont 09.23.08 at 7:37 pm

Well first they said the bailout would cost $2333 dollars for every man woman and child in the US.
Now they’re saying it will cost $3278 for every man woman and child in the US.
This is very upsetting.
I need that $945.


blah 09.23.08 at 9:02 pm

The “clean bailout” means a $700 billion give away with no strings attached.


ehj2 09.23.08 at 10:58 pm

“We should not be rolled by a Wall Street executive who is masquerading as the secretary of the Treasury.”

– Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), regarding Paulson’s plan to bail out Wall St.

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