Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Official Style in Politics

Scott Walker recently had his word published in USA Today.  Walker’s purpose was to express that he “focuses on what matters to the American people, not what matters to the media.”  He took to a large media outlet to do so.  He is stressing that he has the backs of the American people and will not let media influence him.  The publication of this article was arguably timed out by Walker because of his unofficial decision of whether or not to run for president in the 2016 election.  The article can be found at the end of this document.   

The audience of Walker’s article is tremendously large.  The audience is anyone who purchased a copy of that particular USA Today paper, not to forget where I found my copy, online.  The online community is countless.  This article is aimed at the media and the American people.  Audience is important when critiquing this article because of how Walker’s message is framed.  If Walker’s audience were different, would he be as concise?  Official Style says, no.  With that, this article is focused around concise sentences.  The purpose of using concise sentences is a strategy used when communicating to outsiders, newcomers, or laypeople.  It would not make sense for Walker to use complex words and sentences when his target audience is very large with varying education levels.  Walker wanted his message to get across to everyone possible, so, he created an article that offered short, easy to read sentences.  Although Walker’s sentences are easy to read, his presented ideas are not as easy to interpret.    
Walker uses intense abstraction, while maintaining a clear tone, to come to the conclusion that he will “not take the media’s bait”.  The strategies that Walker uses is seen in politics across the board because of the audience politicians have.  With that, I argue that this article can be categorized under the Official Style.  This article is a mixture of Official Style strategies and Plain Style strategies.  However, the Plain Style strategies used are implemented because of who the audience is in this particular predicament.
I want to present the argument that Walker uses excessive amplification of abstract ideas and repetition as usage of the Official Style.  The entire article uses amplification.  Amplification is repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it in order to emphasize what might otherwise be passed over.  These four sentences show repetition used by Walker to address the fears Americans face.
Americans believe our nation is facing some substantial challenges. Government spending is out of control. Terrorists seek to destroy our way of life. Our economic recovery has been slow.  Our borders aren't secure. The federal government has usurped powers that rightly belong to our states. 
Throughout the document, there is no evidence to back Walker’s claims of what we as Americans fear.  The fears presented are Walker’s version of the Truth.  The phrases “out of control”, “way of life”, “rightly belong to our states” are explosive and show an amplification of ideas.  Again, Walker does not use extended, complex sentences like the Official Style suggests, but he does use complex words and phrases.  For example, “economic recovery”, “borders”, “usurped powers”, “terrorist attacks”, “ISIS”, and “allies abroad”.
Our economic recovery has been slow. Our borders aren't secure. The federal         government has usurped powers that rightly belong to our states…They talk to me about the rise of terrorist attacks and ISIS, and what it means for our security at home, and for Americans and our allies abroad.  
These examples of complex words and phrases from the example above are abstract enough to confuse the reader.  Each abstract idea could be elaborated on if Walker was truly trying to be clear.  This abstraction usage is Official Style because if you did not read the title of the article, you would not know the intended purpose of the article until you read the last sentence.  His usage of modifiers like relative clauses, participial phrases, appositives, and coordination can offer Walker more ideas per sentence.

His modifier and repetition usage is shown when Walker speaks of the military.
We all pray for American sons and daughters in the military and their safe return   home.  I hear from people who lost their jobs and are back in the workforce but who still have not quite made it back to where they were before the recession —    and they wonder when, or if, they'll ever get there.  Across party lines and state   lines, Americans want America to be secure and prosperous again. And they're looking for leaders who can focus on that goal and who will get results. 
He emphasizes ideas by expressing it in a string of generally synonymous phrases.  For example, “and they wonder when, or if, they’ll ever get there”, “across party lines and across state lines”, and “who can focus on that goal and who will get results”.  Repetition is used in this context in order to put the emphasis on the fact that American’s have fear and need a leader.  This could shed light on, again, Walker’s decision to run in 2016.  Instead of the real purpose, which is to show that he focuses on what matters to the American people, not the media.

Walker is trying to prove that there is equal importance between the assumed fears Americans have and how he will focus on said fears instead of the media influence.  This article wants us to believe, using amplified assumptions, modifiers, and repetition, how Walker understands us as Americans and will take away our fears.  His argument is abstract enough to be categorized under the Official Style, but contrarily concise enough to be successfully conveyed to its large audience.  Media has an influence on politician’s careers.  Creating such an amplified, abstract argument makes Walker’s purpose prolonged.  It ironically creates a non-relatable, confusing effect because of the Official Style strategies used.

Heidi Lynn Carter

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