May 1, 2004

Very bad things

The approval of the new Supreme Tribunal law is a disaster. Pro-Chavez assembly-members approved the law to expand the Tribunal from 20 to 32 judges, in a blatant court-packing exercise. Judicial review wasn't doing great in Venezuela recently. But now it's unequivocally deaditie dead dead dead.

April 30, 2004

Lets talk about investment...

It's heartwarming to see Martin Sanchez of Aporrea and Venezuelanalysis suddenly take an interest in investment. His latest dispatch is breathless about DaimlerChrysler's announcement that they will invest $20 million to "expand production" in their Valencia plant, apparently for export.

I'm glad Martin agrees with me about the importance of investment in general, including private sector investment. I wonder if he's had a look at the Central Bank's own figures on overall investment in the Chavez era. Since it is a bit of a pain to see the data, I took the time to do it for him...

100% official Venezuelan government sources:
Central Bank for the Gross Fixed Capital Formation statistics and the 2001 Census for the population data.

[Note: I only go up to 2002, because that's the latest data our bureaucratic hare of a Central Bank has published. I use the BCV's own inflation-adjustment, the 1984-base bolivar.]

Just to put Martin's write-up in a bit of perspective, $20 million, works out to less than 12 constant 1984 bolivars per person per year, so less than a dollar a year per capita. That's less than half of 1% of the total gross fixed capital formation in Venezuela in 2002.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled for those Valencia auto workers who get to keep their jobs. But we need to recognize they're a distinct minority. If you want to discuss investment in Venezuela, lets do it openly, with the facts on the table, not as a propaganda exercise. Un poco de seriedad, por dios...

April 29, 2004

Oddly fun...

I must have been in a very odd mood last night. I spent over an hour listening to this speech Chavez gave on December 5th, 1999 (Real audio stream). It's an eye-opener.

The first half an hour is an impassioned defense, an apology even (in the Greek sense) of the February 1992 "military rebellion" Chavez led. He carefully explains that February 4th was a military rebellion not a coup - the difference apparently being that a rebellion is when Chavez is on the giving end, a coup when he's on the receiving end.

He waxes lyrical about the feverish, even obsessive (Chavez dixit) efforts the conspirators made from 1989 to 1992 to plan the coup and "accelerate what needed to be accelerated." Extra schadenfreude comes our way around minute 14, when he "honors" his fellow conspirators one by one, stopping to say a few kind words about each...Francisco Arias Cardenas, Jesus Urdaneta, Acosta Chirinos, any number of people who've since switched sides. "True patriots!" he calls them, then adds "it honors me and commits me even more to the cause to share a stage with them!" He also saves some flattery for Kleber Alcala and Felipe Acosta Carles, brother of Luis, who apparently died in the riots of February 1989.

The speech then descends into a torrent of praise for the new constitution - which was voted on ten days later - and eventually widens into a veritable flood of abuse hurled at the opposition. This is curious. Remember, it was December '99. Chavez had an 80% approval rating - the opposition was in no way a threat to him, or even a serious political force to contend with. It was mostly a rump, really, with neither a real following nor real power. That doesn't dissuade Chavez from spending half the speech attacking them, villifying them in aggressive and willfully provocative terms. I say "willfully" for a reason, Chavez makes it clear he knows exactly what he's doing. "Para que mas les duela," ("so it stings more,") he says, just before launching into one of his more colorful attacks.

Chavez's 1999 Approval Ratings: Those were the days!

I admit I was a bit disappointed with the speech, in that I was hoping to hear more about popular sovereignty and then blog about the way the phrase has disappeared from the official lingo.

What I found was something a bit different - a demagogue who uses his astonishing rhetorical ability to paint a highly simplified, Manichaean view of the world. Chavista rhetoric inevitably dissolves into a Disney style moral universe where those who follow him are good, really good, inherently good and virtuous as revealed by the very fact that they follow him, and those who oppose him are deeply, fundamentally evil, as revealed by their opposition to the revolution. Hammering in this point seems to be the point of the speech.

It's easy to forget, but thanks to the internet, easy also to remind ourselves. The class-warfare rhetoric, the divisionism, the hate-mongering, the conscious effort to intensify class antagonism, all of that has been there from the start. It was even there when Chavez had no effective opposition, two and a half years before April 2002, when there were no marches, no signatures, no cacerolazos, no National Assembly, no one really to challenge his power.

To be a chavista, to my mind, is to accept this moral universe, to wallow in the dumbed down certainties of an ideological orthodoxy that demands your total acritical loyalty and counts anyone who raises a critical voice as an enemy.

Seen in this way, polarization is not the accidental by-product of Chavez's rule. As Chavez obliquely hinted in his letter to Carlos in his parisian jail, polarizing society along class lines has been the chavista plan all along. It's been pursued with the bloodymindedness of a true believer and the skill of a born demagogue. And as I try to work out the implications of that strategy, I do get the feeling that a diet of geraniums is particularly ill-suited to combating it.

So listening to that 5 year old speech left me quite pessimistic about the possibilities of building a dialogue across ideological lines. Long before the "positive feedback loop" that Sabatier writes about had taken hold, Chavez's strategy was already founded on the old leninist maxim of "deepening the contradictions." The worse it gets, the better it gets. Even all those years ago, enshrining the positive feedback loop of polarization was the cornerstone of government policy. So how the hell do you get around that?

I have no idea, but the speech did leave me with one (semi-)conforting thought: it's the comecandelas who are playing into Chavez's hands. Chavez relies on polarization, but it takes two to positive feedback loop!

Chavez's political program makes no sense outside a context of systemic polarization. In a sense, Chavez is polarization. So if you want to fight Chavez, fight polarization!

April 28, 2004

Cristina's predicament


La arrechera de Cristina

No one who's ever met my sister Cristina could even imagine her filling out her firmazo form wrong. Cristina's an elementary school teacher, and a rigorous one at that. My mental image of her is inseparable from the piles of notebooks she's permanently correcting with an attention to detail that keeps her students on the straight and narrow. Her handwriting has the exacting precision of a self-proclaimed neat freak. There is no question of her screwing up her data on something as important as the firmazo.

Yet, when Cristina checks her ID number with the CNE signature database, she's told "she did not sign, or her signature was not processed by CNE." As far as CNE is concerned, it's like she never signed at all!

Now, someone made a mistake here, that much is clear. A "material error", one might even say. Cristina meant to sign, and she did sign, but her signature just vanished. There ought to be some way for her to set the record straight, to make sure her will is reflected in the final tally, don't you think?

Well, that's what CNE thought 9 months ago, but it's now what they think anymore. What's ironic about Cristina's situation is that the rules CNE published way back in September did provide a remedy for people in her situation. In fact, protecting people in this situation is what the original reparo mechanism was all about.

To quote the original CNE regulations, article 31:

In the five following days after the publication (of the valid and invalid signatures), electors whose signatures are rejected may personally go in front of the National Electoral Council in order to correct any material error that the Electoral Administration may have committed in verifying his data. If he fails to do so, the rejection (of the signature) shall stand. Equally, electors who allege they did not sign the forms shall be able to go in front of CNE to ask to be excluded immediately from the signature tally.

(En el plazo de cinco días continuos siguientes a la publicación, el elector firmante que fuera rechazado podrá acudir personalmente ante el Consejo Nacional Electoral, a los fines de subsanar cualquier error material en que haya incurrido la Administración Electoral durante la verificación de sus datos. En caso contrario, quedará firme su rechazo. Asimismo, el elector que alegue que no firmó la planilla, podrá acudir al Consejo Nacional Electoral a los fines de solicitar su exclusión inmediata del cómputo de las firmas.)

Great, a rule that makes sense! If only. Under the rules CNE approved this week, Cristina's signature is simply not eligible to be repaired.

It's not just that the rules published this week are different from the ones approved all those months ago, it's that this week's rules do exactly the opposite of what the original rules were meant to do. Once all the bla, bla, bla dies down, Cristina's signature will be kept out of the total, whatever article 31 says. Y punto.

Sumate says there are 200,000 such Astonishing Vanishing Signatures. Lindo, ¿no?

The decision is made...

The Coordinadora Democratica will participate in the reparos process. For once, expectations are low: we can only be pleasantly surprised if CNE comes around and calls a referendum, but we'll not be animically crushed again if they don't.

April 27, 2004

Open Letter to Eva Golinger

Dear Eva,

I don't know you, except as a byline over articles that I strenuously disagree with. I'm writing to you out of a concern, voiced again and again by some of my readers, to try to build some kind of understanding, some kind of common action with people on the other side of the political divide that's grown so deep and corrosive in Venezuela these last few years.

In some ways it's natural for political opponents to distrust each other, and each other's motives - it's happened in any number of political conflicts before and it'll happen in many to come. It's hard to get over the impression that, well, your motives are noble, your command of the facts extensive and your understanding clear, and that therefore anyone who disagrees with you must be either evil or working with an ulterior motive. I know this is as much a part of how chavistas perceive opositores as vice versa.

The escalation of mistrust and animosity that ensues is destructive and dangerous, and needs to be considered as a big problem in its own right. At some point, the causes of polarization become almost secondary: it's the polarization that sparks off civil wars. In Venezuela, we're still early enough to prevent things going that far.

Sooner or later, people from opposite sides of the Venezuelan divide have to come together in a spirit of cooperation, making an effort to bracket those points where we can't agree and to focus on those where we can.

When I lived in Caracas, I volunteered for a journalists' NGO called Los Del Medio, founded precisely on this principle. Remarkably, given the atmosphere, the group was non-partisan, including both pro- and anti-government members who agreed that the Venezuelan media is failing its citizens by painting a polarized and hyper-simplified image of what is happening in the country.

I bring this up because one initiative Los Del Medio briefly considered taking on was a proposal to approve a Freedom of Information law in Venezuela. At this point, Venezuela is one of the last countries in the Americas that lacks Freedom of Information legislation, and as Los Del Medio knows only too well, this can make impartial reporting quite difficult.

And then it struck me, this is an issue where Eva Golinger and I actually might agree. You've already shown what a powerful tool for citizen participation laws like the FOIA can be. You understand as well as anyone could how such transparency can play a critical role in citizen activists' drive to hold their governments accountable. You know how important this kind of scrutiny is to real democracy.

Venezuelan citizens need and deserve the same legal mechanisms for participation and for holding their elected leaders accountable as U.S. citizens, and certainly is a natural fit with the calls for radically increased citizen participation President Chavez built his presidency on in 1998-2000. It strikes me that with from your position, and with your impeccably clean revolutionary credentials, your view would carry at least some weight in the government. What's more, an initiative of the sort could make a start, just one small, tiny, but symbolic contribution, to showing that people with radically different views of the world can still recognize one another's humanity and come together to affirm the values they have in common.

Hoping you'll read this letter with an open mind,


Nothing new under the sun

I thought I could keep my research separate from my Venezuela-blogging, but it's not really working out that way. Try this one, from a paper by Paul Sabatier (et al.) on "Perceptions and Misperceptions of Political Opponents":

We hypothesize that actors will evaluate their opponents' motives and behavior in more negative terms than will the rest of the policy community. These are really very straightforward arguments derived from theories dealing with own group bias and with cognitive balance/dissonance.

Most actors start with the assumption that they are right-thinking, virtuous and fair in their judgments (Harrison 1976). Thus anyone who disagrees with them must be mistaken about the facts, operating from the wrong value premises, or acting from evil motives. A fundamental tenet of balance/dissonance theories is that people find it very difficult to balance a positive self-image with a positive image of someone who disagrees with them (Festinger 1957; Abelson et al. 1968, Wicklund and Brehm 1976). The longer opponents persist in their "error" - i.e., resist our sound arguments - the more one begins to suspect their motives or otherwise regard them as dangerous and untrustworthy. This is particularly true if they persist in disagreeing with us on issues which we regard as salient (Lawrence 1976, Judd and Johnson 1981; Freeman and Hittle 1985.)

The dynamics of conflict creates tendencies for negative judgments to escalate over time. An important feature of policy conflicts is that the winners are often able to impose costs on the losers. If A - whom B already suspects of being misguided - imposes costs on B, B's view of A is likely to deteriorate further. As the competition escalates, B is tempted to take more and more questionable measures, but these can only be justified by portraying opponent A in more and more negative terms. Hence, in conflicts which are intense and of reasonably long duration, the dynamics of escalation tend to transform opponents from responsible adversaries into people with extreme and dangerous views (Coleman 1957). Thus opponents begin to impugn each other's motives more and more, and come to increasingly negative evaluations of the other's behavior.


One of the most striking characteristics of [the research] is that the "devil shift" has all the worst features of a positive feedback loop: the more one views opponents as malevolent and very powerful, the more likely one is to resort to questionable measures to preserve one's interests. But the more one does so, the greater the probability opponents will start perceiving one as a very wicked character, thus resorting to unscrupulous countermeasures, thus further confirming one's perception of them as "devils." Suspicion and conflict escalate, and it becomes very difficult to break the cycle.

-Paul Sabatier, Susan Hunger, Susan McLaughlin, "The Devil Shift: Perceptions and Misperceptions of Opponents" in The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sept. 1987), 449-476.

Freedom of Information

Human Rights Watch sez...

Cuba: Trial Violates Dissidents’ Right to Free Expression

(New York, April 22, 2004) — Cuba’s planned trial of a blind human rights lawyer, along with nine other dissidents and independent journalists, on charges of “disrespect for authority” demonstrates a continuing pattern of political repression, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has learned that the trial of the 10 defendants is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, April 27.

Juan Carlos González Leiva, a blind lawyer, is the president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights (Fundación Cubana de Derechos Humanos). He and most of the other defendants have been held in pretrial detention in eastern Holguín province for more than two years.  

“The upcoming trial is a travesty,” said Joanne Mariner, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas Division. “The defendants face criminal charges that clearly violate their basic rights to freedom of expression.”  

The defendants were arrested on March 4, 2002 at Antonio Luaces Iraola Provincial Hospital in Ciego de Ávila (a town in central Cuba), and held without formal charges for six months. They are now reportedly being prosecuted for the crimes of disrespect to the President (desacato al Presidente), disrespect to the police, public disorder and resistance.  


April 26, 2004

No sooner said...

...than done. Venezuelanalysis of course jumped on the Keller numbers. Oddly, they did not bother to explain to their readers why the same opinion polls that were unacceptably biased, golpistas and meant-to-deceive six months ago are suddenly reliable enough to hang a story on. Oh, wait, the results changed!

Fascist puntofijista coup-mongering escualido oligarch reactionary barrigaverde pollster springs a surprise...

Watch Venezuelanalysis suddenly start touting Keller's numbers...

Reuters sez:

Poll: Chavez would win recall vote

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez would narrowly win a recall vote if it were held now because of a divided opposition and low turnout by disillusioned voters, according to a poll released Friday.

Thirty-five percent of registered voters backed Chavez while 31 percent would vote against him, said local pollsters Alfredo Keller & Associates which conducted the survey in late March.

Another 34 percent of those questioned opposed Chavez but were likely to abstain from voting in any referendum because they were frightened or had lost faith in the opposition.

"If there was a referendum at this time Chavez would win," the firm's president Alfredo Keller told reporters. "The opposition certainly has the majority, but that majority is fractured in two blocks."

Polls up until now had suggested Chavez would lose the referendum.


My two cents: Keller's poll is not as incompatible with GQR's results as it might seem. The difference is basically about how they figure "likely voters" - Keller goes much further than GQR in excluding from his results people he doesn't think are likely to vote. Grim.

April 25, 2004

Excerpt from "Politics and the English Language"

George Orwell, 1946


Political words are commonly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.

In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning.

Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations -- race, battle, bread -- dissolve into the vague phrases "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing -- no one capable of using phrases like "objective considerations of contemporary phenomena" -- would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way.

The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English.

I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.

The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry -- when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech -- it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump.

By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash -- as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot -- it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking.

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

1. What am I trying to say?

2. What words will express it?

3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?

4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

1. Could I put it more shortly?

2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you -- even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them.

And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: "[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe." You see, he "feels impelled" to write -- feels, presumably, that he has something new to say -- and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases ( lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation ) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.

...what is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose -- not simply accept -- the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable.

...If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.