Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

Management-speak and the presidential debate.


There has been a great deal of analysis of the first debate between Trump and Clinton. I do not wish to repeat what other commentators have mentioned, rather I find it useful to examine not what was said by each of the candidates but the way in which they said it. Our language today is a void of management speak, a sludge that causes our eyes to glaze over with weariness. Our politicians and business leaders talk of ‘active vision’, ‘windows of opportunity’, and ‘engaging with stakeholders’. It is an awful tediousness for ordinary people, and it is the code of recognition for the elites in government, business, and the media.

Many Trump supporters are frustrated that he didn’t go after Clinton and mash her heavy jowls into the floor of the auditorium. I predicted that he would do so, and on this point I was wrong. Trump isn’t out to demolish his opponent; his goal is to convince ordinary people watching at home to go out and vote for him. His manner of not destroying Hillary meant that he could not be criticized post-debate with the usual crimes of misogyny. But he also did something else that was very prescient.

He spoke like an ordinary person.

Politicians are constantly told that they have to be ‘on message’, and as a result they are reduced to anxious rabbits as they desperately try in insert their ‘message’ as many times as possible. Listen to the same politician conduct a number of different interviews over the course of a few days and you will notice the same ‘soundbites’ creeping out of their mouth at any opportunity. Sometimes it can be positively ludicrous as they utter their message in response to a question of an entirely different nature.

What our modern management-speak lacks is the use of verbs. Instead they use synonyms such as ‘commitment’ and ‘outcome’, ‘non-core issues’ and ‘going forwards’. This language rots the mind and saps us of our will to live. Consider this famous passage from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.

Note the use of verbs, particularly the presidential application of the verb ‘to struggle’. This speech has gone down in history precisely because it speaks to us on a deep level. But what if we used the current language of politicians on the same sentence? What might happen then?

The brave men, living and dead, who had an impact here have empowered it in terms of the final outcome.

The language is ludicrous, but it is what we face on a daily basis from any large business or institution with which we are unfortunate enough to have any interaction. How often have you listened to a politician and just wish that they would speak with clear words that got to the heart of the subject?

This is what Trump did. He managed to speak to the ordinary person while still retaining a presidential bearing. He used plain verbs in sentences such as this:

You decided to stay home, and that’s OK.

Not only was it a nice throw-down but it also worked on a basic level of language. Clear, concise, and to the point. But what examples do we have from a woman who has spent the past thirty years cocooned in this management-speak so beloved of politicians and media everywhere?

‘intelligence surge’

‘vacuuming up intelligence’

‘close working cooperation with law enforcement’

‘lead the world in accordance with our values’

‘streamline them for small business’

‘broad-based inclusive growth’

‘investing in the middle class’

‘race remains a significant challenge’

‘we have to bring communities together’

There are many more. If you don’t believe me, go and have a look at the transcript yourself. This is why the media almost unanimously voted Clinton the winner because she speaks their language. They hear the comforting and meaningless phrases that they want to hear. Trump says none of the same things and thus he is not speaking their language.

But when it comes to the debate polls it turns out that Trump is way ahead of Clinton. Clinton may have stayed ‘on message’ but Trump spoke to people with plain words in a way they could understand. ‘At the end of the day’ it seems that Trump’s efforts to bypass the media have had some serious advantages. The media doesn’t get him because he sounds like some alien from another planet who lives just outside the Washington beltway.

I expect that the more desperate Clinton becomes the more she will fall back on her management-speak as she frantically tries to ‘communicate’ to the masses.


The perils of advice.


Living for the outside world.


  1. Sjonnar

    And the more she will think, and call, us stupid because we just don’t “get” her word salad “message”.

    The US military is likewise riddled with this management-speak bullshit, where it is referred to by exasperated enlisted men as “buzzword bingo”.

  2. Carl-Edward

    Clinton’s ignorance has such a wide range: she has no grasp of economics, and no understanding of this country’s position historically, vis-a-vis the rest of the world. Her talk of paying one’s: ‘fair share’ to the I.R.S. is fallacious, inasmuch as taxation is theft. (How can one ‘cheat’ a thief?) It also smacks of moral hypocrisy, when one considers her own financial machinations. She does though, know how to excite envy and resentment.

    Clinton delivered a polished performance, but talked rubbish. Trump, for his part, was awkward – but spoke the truth.

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