Zero Discourse as Gobbledygook

Zero Discourse as Gobbledygook

imageWhen we communicate or are communicated to, we like things to be coherent. Coherence allows us to hold things together so that the message makes sense. When people speak non-sense to others that is incoherent, the outcome is: confusion, misunderstanding and no clarity. The establishment of Collective Coherence is the purpose of organizing, where mutual understanding is reached and grammar is consensual. Grammar is the code of language. If our language lacks structure and meaning, then it is meaningless.

The purpose of meetings, inductions, toolbox talks and bureaucracy in tackling risk is to develop Collective Coherence in purpose, procedure and systems of work. If you want to create an accident then speak gobbledygook to people. The word ‘gobbledygook’ is associated with turkey noise. The word was first used by Maury Maverick as quoted in the New York Times on 21 May 1944 in reference to a politician speaking unintelligible language. We have plenty of examples in the Australian political scene of gobbledygook in action ( Gobbledygook is also associated with ‘double speak’ and the work of ‘spin doctors’. Spin is propaganda.

Some of the best examples of gobbledygook are generated by zero vision ideology. For example, at the XX1 World Congress on Safety and Health 2017 ( Zero Vision was paraded in everything and yet the Secretary General stated it had nothing to do with zero harm ( As Jones states: WTF???

Another classic from the Congress is a mind map, see below:

vision zero

You will notice in the middle of the zero vision mind map ‘principles of zero vision’ with principle number three being ‘humans are fallible’. It doesn’t get much better than this. So amidst all the buzz and spin of this guiding map we base it all on the principle of fallibility? WTF??? Can someone please explain how fallible humans achieve zero please?

If you want to see some real cringe worthy gobbledygook watch here: Indeed, you can see all the good zero vision stuff here: Some of the best gobbledygook you will hear is when zero vision states that zero doesn’t mean zero and this is threaded throughout the zero vision discourse from the World Congress. In the end zero believes that words have no meaning.

We know that discourse is about the philosophy embedded in language. One of the sub-disciplines of Social Psychology is Discourse Analysis ( Discourse Analysis interrogates text in search of coherence and underlying assumptions. In Discourse Analysis we know that language is:

  1. Used in a variety of functions and its use has extensive ethical, political and social consequences/trajectories
  2. Socially constructed and socially interpreted

  3. A source of embedded power relations

  4. Given meaning (semiosis) and metaphorical (semiotics) purpose by context

  5. Limited by the knowledge, culture and intelligence of the signifier, signified and interpretant ie. Language is mediated

  6. Structured and coded to make grammatical sense (semantics)

  7. Transmitted for understanding

  8. Historical

  9. Symbolically meaningful (functional semiology)

  10. Used heuristically

From any angle of discourse analysis zero vision language is gobbledygook.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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