How bureaucrats use passive language to escape responsbility

Long article (link below) explains how corporations and governments torture language to escape culpability. By carefully crafting the message, these organizations use propaganda to intentionally mislead the target audience – and they get away with it because it works and rarely does anyone call them out for their malfeasance and lies.

What became clear to me in this exchange is that the passive voice is itself unsuited for the lexical landscape of United’s email, which itself is part of a larger world we now find ourselves in, where corporate and government bureaucracies rely heavily on language to shape our perception. Munoz’s email relies heavily on the passive voice to evade culpability, but he also employs a host of other rhetorical moves that collude to put the blame on the man who was assaulted and carried out on a stretcher. Like a well-trained bureaucrat, Munoz used an array of syntactical choices in a predictable, quantifiable and deliberate manner, and it’s time we recognize it for what it is.

Source: The Elements of Bureaucratic Style

And how the media itself is fully complicit in this malfeasance:

Readers need to know, for example, that journalists who use phrases like “officer-involved shooting” in any context other than a direct quote from law enforcement are derelict. It is law enforcement’s prerogative to use spin and dissimulation to obtain favorable coverage; it is the media’s role to resist this. And yet, this is a role the media has almost wholeheartedly abdicated.

When corporations and government speak through their public relations staff, they are almost always lying or hiding something.

Slightly related: Why are we outraged at United airlines assaulting a paying customer?

Perhaps because we see injustice done every day but are frustrated with our inability to do anything about it.  In this case, the outrageousness and injustice are so obvious that we are all revolting not just against United and their arrogant staff but against all such behavior we see too often from bureaucrats, stuffed shirts and others on power trips. People are “bucket dumping” as their bucket of stress and anxiety reached a limit – and out it all pours on United (who, as the 9th worst airline in the world, has a long standing reputation for terrible service).

We may see more of this – people are angry about many things, and when opportunity arises to dump, they will. In this example, social media outrage forced United to finally respond to their abusive staff and policies. But not until their heartless CEO blamed the victim – twice – and then issued a corporate speak apology after the stock market knocked $1 billion off their market capitalization. Self serving much, United?

People are angry and perhaps social media enables crowds to rise up and fight back.

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