Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 11, No. 5. April 28th, 1948
The Plain Truth, Please
The Plain Truth, Please
This article has been prompted by the appearance in Salient of two articles of considerable interest and importance concerning the principles of thought and of journalism and public speaking.
Mr. Oliver has written a much-needed appeal for the abandonment of crooked thinking and muddled language. Students of English will understand the distinction between emotive language, and they will also realise the wisdom of, or even the necessity for the use of referential language in the exposition of opinions on political and controversial issues. The present writer does not wish to criticise the use of emotive language in its proper field—oratory, eulogies and the like, and by modern standards, editorials. Surely, however, we have a right to expect cold, factual language from an author who sincerely attempts to rid our minds of the tendency to stray from the straight way of reason and charity in political thought and expression.
And yet if readers will turn back to the article in the last issue of Salient referred, will they find the clear thinking and clear expression which Mr. Oliver sincerely and enthusiastically extolls? It is more likely that the critical and intelligent will see in Mr. Oliver's exposition, expressions and phrases which give emotive colour to his writing in such a way as to induce his readers to follow his opinion rather than think for themselves. But it must be remembered that knowledge is more soundly and securely acquired when it is the fruit of the student's own thinking process rather than the result of the influence of cogently expressed opinions of a skilful writer. Emotive language is good, but referential diction is better when it is a matter of inducing thought on the part of the reader with the minimum of confusion.
The present writer is of the opinion that too often in public speaking, conversation and writing, we are willing to subordinate to our secondary reader our primary aim—the expres-aim of influencing the audience or sion of an objective truth or a sound opinion.
We must realise how complicated many matters are in politics, sociology, economics, philosophy without any aids to confusion on our part by emotive language that is likely to result in as many interpretations as there are opinions or prejudices.
It is on this point that comment is invoked on the article in Salient (April 7th) reprinted from the Catholic Worker, U.S.A. To those who have read and understood the Catholic Worker in many issues where Robert Ludlow's articles have appeared his reference to the "extreme leftism" and "Christian anarchy" of the Catholic Worker Movement will be quite clear. Ludlow's language, however, may cause confusion to the person who is making a first acquaintance with him, for he is using common words in his own private though not unreasonable, interpretation. Nor can the blame for this confusion be placed entirely on the shoulders of Ludlow when the reprinting of the article in Salient omits the important exposition and qualification of his position as an extreme leftist. He who is responsible for that editing and omission may be guilty of the serious fault already here quoted of subordinating truth and clear opinion to the desire to influence the reader in some particular direction.
The question of Ludlow's objections to Americanism is an important one that merits more consideration than is possible in this article. The article is [unclear: qured] here for the sake of a topical example of the dangers that beset journalism. Salient is to be complimented on the publication of it for the present writer is of the opinion that Ludlow has developed an outlook on economics and politics that is at once reasonable and revolutionary. But this very nature of Ludlow's argument demands that the most logical and clear consideration possible. It is to be hoped that these instances will give all an emphatic warning of the necessity for resolute pursuit of the three-fold goal that should be fixed in the mind of every University student—the unbiased and logical search for real objective truth, the clarity of mind and mastery of language to express that truth without danger of ambiguity or taint of prejudice, and the courage and self-respect to act on it.
Only by such intellectual development can we fit ourselves for the life we must follow as leaders in the world of reason. If University figures such as Professor Walter Murdoch in the "Evening Post" are willing to indulge in glib generalizations such as "No thinking person now believes ..." can we blame those who are not highly educated when they scorn the "Varsity folk" for talking and writing in glowing colours on every topic under the sun, instead of penetrating to the roots of the question with sound philosophy and then expressing their findings in clear and calm logic whether that logic be found in factual, emotive, or directive language.
Kevin F. O'Connor.
(The N.Z. Christian Pacifist was responsible for the editing of and omissions from Robert Ludlow's article. All of the omissions were references to people who would have no significance to a wider public than that of the Catholic Worker.—Ed.)