They’re discussing them, talking to people from around the glove where the events unfolded, and then creating chat forums to engage in intellectual debate and sharing of ideas. They are talking about what the news media is reporting, whether or not it is slanted toward a political ideology, and assessing the information. Everyone, it seems, has faster access to broader sources of news and ideas, and they are using that information to form ideas and conclusions about political leaders and how those leaders respond to local, national, and world situations, people, and events.
How the Public Interprets Political Semantics and Use the Internet to Impact Policy and Government
One of the most significant examples of how the internet has facilitated the public’s access to information, and how people world-wide have analyzed political semantics and used the information to shape policy and government is the second term of America’s former President George W. Bush. The words “weapons of mass destruction,” were used by the Bush administration to justify the use of America’s own arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and its invasion of Iraq (Woodward, pp. 345-347). Two days before then President Bush was to appear before the United Nations to deliver a speech, and to gain UN support for his actions; White House senior officials, including Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, reviewed Bush’s speech Draft #21, and debated the words, political semantics, of the words ask, action, and the term weapons of mass destruction (p. 347). It was, Colin Powell held, not just enough to explain the president’s action(s), but it was necessary Powell said, to “ask for something (pp. 346-347).” Draft #21 was referred to as the “ask (p. 346).” The phrase “to meet our common challenge (p. 347),” was also a key phrase used by the president.
Later, in the aftermath of the destruction of Iraq, the American public engaged in extensive “chat” about “weapons of mass destruction.” Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were “. . . what this war was about (p. 95).” When no such weapons were uncovered in Iraq, the question, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?” was bandied about internet chat rooms by Americans, the British, and people around the world. When a Polish reporter who was granted an interview with President Bush “prodded him: But still, those countries that did not support the Iraqi Freedom Operation still use the same argument — weapons of mass destruction have not been found (pp. 95-96),” Bush replied: “We found weapons of mass destruction” . . . asserting that two mobile laboratories “to build biological weapons had been located (p. 96).'” Bush’s comments were reiterated by senior White House staff, including Condoleeza Rice (p. 96).
In the instance of weapons of mass destruction, the term devolved politically from one inferred by the American and world public as meaning nuclear capability and threat, to biological warfare laboratories, but no biological weapons. The employment of political semantics is used to motivate, sway, and build public trust and opinion, but in the age of the internet, the terms are dissected, analyzed, and rationalized by the public. In the case of weapons of mass destruction that were never found in Iraq, world opinion became an anti-American world reaction.
“Where are those weapons of mass destruction,” became the question asked around the globe, and was perhaps the single most factor in bringing down the American Republican party in the 2008 presidential election. But it did not just impact the American presidency; Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who supported the Bush Administration in their invasion of Iraq, also succumbed to the public opinion and the British peoples’ resentment of Bush’s misrepresentation of facts so that he could justify invading a sovereign nation.
Even today, putting the words “weapons of mass destruction chat,” yield 1,590,000 returns on the Google search engine. People are still debating the meaning, characteristics, and nature of the words. Also, the words, having significant meaning to the public, are used to emphasize a destructive force, like computer viruses. The public has agreed that the meaning of the words have a significant and specific meaning that cannot be altered through the use of clever political semantics.
Internet sites devoted to decoding political semantics have become popular on the internet. Language Log, found at http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004862.html is a site where political semantics are explained and analyzed by people. It “quizzes” the public on their knowledge of political semantics. National Public Radio (NPR) provides podcasts, and commentaries, and invite public opinion in analyzing and discussing political semantics (NPR, 2009, found online at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104782089. PDF documents written by scholars and non-scholars alike are published to the internet that share ideas and information on political semantics, analyzing world events and leaders. The war in Iraq has more than 4,000,000 sites dedicated to British chat on the war in Iraq. The words “world economic crisis” yields more than a million sites for people to engage in discussion and to exchange ideas and information on the current financial crisis. As people share and receive information around the globe, they form conclusions that influence their decisions in electing political leaders, and voice their support, or lack thereof, for the need to take action, or not to do so; and their political leaders are finding politics as usual is no longer a matter of giving speeches and tossing around political semantics to gain public support. The public is examining every word, every phrase, and, in the case of former President Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, turning those semantics around in the form of questions that if they cannot be answered, the politicians will experience political demise.
The internet has become a source for analyzing and dissecting political semantics, and people are impacting public policy and causing political leaders to bend to the will of not just their constituents in their nation-states, but world public opinion. We can see that with the current American President Barak Obama’s administration. Obama’s political promise of a “transparent” government has been widely discussed and debated as to the meaning, characteristic, and nature of the word “transparent.” A Google search of the words “chat forum Obama transparent government,” yields more than 2,000,000 sites that discuss and invite discussion on the meaning of “transparency” in the American government. Many of the discussions are negative, people — not just Americans — do not believe that the Obama administration is fulfilling its promise of a transparent government. This has been a source of irritation for the American Democratic Party; especially in the area of the financial crisis in the West and Mr. Obama’s national healthcare plan.
What is most interesting is that political leaders seem surprised, taken aback, and not sure how to respond as they called upon by their constituents and the world community to fulfill the meaning of the promises they make to their constituents and to other world leaders and people. The internet has changed the political atmosphere of the world, and, because of the internet, no longer rely upon the impressions of political leaders in forming opinions about people of cultures and traditions other their own. We see these changes impacting the West more so than other nations, because the Western nations have processes whereby the public opinion is the basis upon which their leaders are elected. Public opinion has forced the West to change their strategy in Iraq. This could not have come about but for the exchange of ideas and information that has been facilitated by the internet. Today, people on a global basis have an opportunity to go to people of other nations and to ask questions and get information that their political leaders would otherwise disguise in political semantics like “weapons of mass destruction,” to instill fear and bias for the purposes of accomplishing Western expansionism. This could not be accomplished without the internet, where people from around the world meet anonymously in forums of intellectual exchange and the transfer of information and ideas.
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