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Totalitarian Speech

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Michal Glowinski

Totalitarian Speech brings together a range of texts on totalitarian manipulations of language. The author analyzes various phenomena, from the hateful rhetoric of Nazi Germany to the obfuscating newspeak of communist Poland, finding certain common characteristics. Above all, totalitarian speech in its diverse manifestations imposes an all-embracing worldview and an associated set of dichotomous divisions from an omniscient and authoritative perspective. This volume collects the work of over three decades, including essays written during the communist era and more recent pieces assessing the legacy of totalitarian ways of thinking in contemporary Poland.
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14. Instigators

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(On the Conspiracist Categorization of the World in March 1968189)

The words we use not only convey a certain vision of the world; they also influence its construction. They make – or at least they can make – their own contributions, and thus they easily fall victim to various kinds of manipulation. From the very outset, I wish to make the following assertion: it is possible to examine the conspiracist vision of the world from a linguistic point of view, since it represents a certain way of speaking and a certain way of constructing discourse. Therefore, we may also choose to view it as a set of metaphors, idioms or well-worn phrases, which are often essentially neutral in themselves, but which lose this neutrality when harnessed within a specific type of argument. Then they become vehicles and agents of a specific way of understanding the world.

Here I shall be concerned with this very question. How does the conspiracist vision of the world – understood as a peculiar form of discourse or a certain way of using linguistic resources – develop? This is a very general theoretical problem. We may analyze it as it applies to all conspiracy theories, but we can also examine it in connection with specific, precisely delineated historical material. In this article, I shall attempt to do the latter. The direct object of my observations will be a set of official texts associated with the unrest of March 1968. This material is limited in...

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