Military Wins 'Doublespeak' Prize
Three defense officials' efforts to explain the downing of an Iranian airliner by the U.S.S. Vincennes have won them the annual "doublespeak" award from the National Council of Teachers of English.
"The language used in the official report and the language used during the press conference was filled with the doublespeak of omission, distortion, contradiction, and misdirection," said William D. Lutz, chairman of the ncte's committee on public doublespeak.
"In addition to censoring essential information, such as the names of all participants," Mr. Lutz said, "the report also lacks any original-source information such as statements by participants and any of the data recorded by the ship's computers."
The award seeks to draw attention to public language that the committee finds to be "grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-contradictory," and able to cause "pernicious social or po6litical consequences."
An anonymous official of the Reagan Administration won second place this year for denying that the government had sought to cover up the involvement of Honduran military officials in drug crimes. "It wasn't that there was a cover-up. It's just that people knew certain questions shouldn't be asked," the Administration official reportedly said.
Third prize went to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, for his comment that, "Capital punishment is our society's recognition of the sanctity of human life."
Educators also shared the dubious honor of contributing to doublespeak this year, Mr. Lutz observed. "This was a year," he said, "in which we learned that the New York City schools no longer have truant officers, they have 'attendance teachers."'
And "in today's schools, students don't talk to themselves, they simply 'engage in audible verbal self-reinforcement."'