In addition to the other corruptions of our major national establishment and institutions, I think that I am most annoyed by the corruption of language. Certain euphemistic terms have come to be kind of newspeak in the Orwellian sense. In themselves such expressions are bland, anodyne and seemingly harmless, but what they mean in reality is horrific. Reproductive health care; that sounds so much better than ‘abortion’. Gender-affirming health care instead of ‘amputating breasts and male genitalia, surgically removing vaginas and massively administering puberty-altering drugs’. ‘Diversity, equity and inclusion’; there’s another harmless-sounding term, which actually means conformity, hamstringing the talented, and exclusion of the designated disfavored categories of people. ‘Disinformation’ is a much more elegant term for information that may discomfit the progressive ruling class or counter the established narrative, and ‘systemic racism’ means that minority criminal offenders are automatically excused, no matter how violent or vicious the crime they are charged with.
So, what other examples of corruption of the language can you suggest? What other newspeak terms have, as the expression has it, gotten your goat in a big way. Add in the comments.

39 thoughts on “Newspeak”

  1. I would suggest the term “Democrat.” It has been years since the Democrat Party represented that title. Maybe even back to Woodrow Wilson.

  2. “Affirmative action”

    Executive Order 10925—Establishing the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity
    March 06, 1961
    The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.

  3. I retired in 2015, just as “engaged scholarship” (i.e. take the DEI train) was being inserted into the criteria for hiring, retention, promotion, and tenure.

    The irony is that I was–in my context– already one of the most engaged in desirable outreach and presentation to non-traditional/non-academic audiences locally.

    A few years ago I picked up both volumes of Victor Klemperer’s “I Shall Bear Witness” cheap, and started reading . . . but only got to the mid-30s. So far. It was so suggestive and analogous to current trends it was uncanny, and uncannily depressing. The language of the turd reich was rich and inventive in euphemism.

    I just noticed Kunstler’s blog Clusterfuck Nation in the Blogroll–which I don’t think was there some while back when I first mentioned it. Thanks to whoever is responsible. Today he outlines a theory of election-count delay and obfuscation AFTER more-or-less normal conditions prevail on election day itself–he’s not always right, but he’s always worth considering (especially about domestic events and possibilities).

  4. “threat to our democracy” means engaging in the political process in opposition to the progressive agenda.


  5. Something I wrote about Political Language and Dog Language:

    When you talk to a dog, you don’t have to worry a lot about using syllogisms, complete sentences, good analogies, or crisply-argued chains of logic. What he’s looking for is keywords…particular words and short phrases…like “nice doggie” or “here” or, especially, “dinner.”

    “It strikes me that, increasingly, the way in which politicians address the American people is very similar. It’s enough to say the words that are supposed to elicit the conditioned responses…”jobs” or “health care” or “education.” There is increasingly litle effort to specifcy exactly what cause-and-effect relationship will cause these good things to come to pass, and why one approach might be better than alternative approaches. This behavior is most noticeable among Democrats, but is by no means totally absent among Republicans.”

    …these days, there is a lot of Dog Language among Republicans as well. A typical political fundraising letter may start out with a title like “Stop Nancy Pelosi and the other Socialist Marxist-Sympathizing Democrats” and go on to talk about how “My Quarterly Fundraising Deadline” is imminent–it is never explained why this quarterly FEC reporting deadline is at all relevant to candidate success.

  6. Cousin Eddie:

    I’ve read Klemperer’s war diary, which is excellent if rather bleak. Thanks for reminding me to read the pre-war diary. Your comment also spurred me to order “LTI”.

  7. “safe” “We are creating a safe space for BIPOC by excluding white people. And don’t you dare call it racial segregation, you racist you.”

  8. How about social justice? Justice means making a decision based on facts that apply to a specific situation. Essentially payback if deserved. Social justice means the opposite. A decision is made based on a view of history that may or may not be true and often had nothing at all to do with the particular situation.

    “Politically correct” is another of what I call Orwellian reflexives. Take a word and add a modifier that changes meaning. To be correct means you are factually right. Politically correct means you are wrong and know it but stick to the claim based on your own and your friends’ sense of righteousness.

  9. It started with “plausible deniability”. Like – “the Russians blew up that pipeline”. Somehow, from Kissinger’s day to this, the “plausible” has been missing.

  10. “Abortion” is itself a euphemism. What are you aborting exactly, a space launch? No actually a human life. So what we really mean is murder or infanticide.

  11. In academic circles “DEI” is bandied about as if it were something that is so obviously good and non-controversial that we don’t ever have to define what we mean by it. So, it’s the sort of two-tiered level of corruption that occurs because we stop saying the euphemistic words themselves: acronym as blandishment. But the word “equity” is really worth singling out as a false front. It sounds a lot like “equality”, and who opposes equality? But it refers to outcomes, not opportunities—and in particular, it refers to aggregated outcomes, often by race or ethnicity. “Equity” intentionally denies human agency and individual accountability, promoting division, resentment, and tribalism.

    A proponent of “equity” is actually an enemy of “equality”. Equality before the law, equality of opportunity, etc. will never lead to equitable outcomes, so those concepts of equality are very problematic to the “equity” proponent.

  12. As David notes, we use lots of magic words. We invoke “democracy”, “freedom”, “rights”, as though that was enough to summon whatever spirit was named.
    Worse still, a lot of us can’t even explain what the words mean or why the concepts are important. (Does the operation of political machinery that we call “democratic” guarantee good government, or freedom, or anything at all?)

  13. David,
    It’s interesting that the Orwell site you posted has a Russian domain, not that it has any more to do with Russia than someone who uses a tu domain has with Tuvalu. Although a Russian probably has more reason than most to study him.

    When the Bolsheviks and Nazis came to power, they were and remained a minority, the power they acquired gave them the machine guns they needed to impose their ideology on the rest.

    The whole LGBTQ+ and whatever alphabet has been added comprise no more than 5 to at most 10% of the population. Of that, the great majority is the LGB portion and the great majority of them have made the same accommodation to the rest of society as the rest of us have had to. Certainly, there have never been fewer people giving a damn about who someone might be sleeping with than now.

    Into all of this comes the term pedophile. For reasons that are unclear to me, that term has been bastardized to include pederast without making the obvious distinction that pedophilia is the sexual attraction and abuse of children while pederasty is concerned with the post-pubescent, if only just.

    True pedophilia has a strong element of sadism, leaving the victims seriously injured or dead in many cases. The power dynamic is obviously the stronger dominating and exploiting the weaker.

    The same is true of pederasty despite all the hand waving about Ancient Greece and mentorship, etc. Physical injury is less common but it is still the domination of the stronger, mature person against the weaker, just in the process of formation, victim. The psychic damage of either may be even more significant than any physical damage.

    There isn’t anything except the age of the victims that divide either from many relationships between full adults of all orientations. Society doesn’t seem to be able to do much to protect adults from the consequences of their actions except after the fact but has drawn a line at age that is more enforceable.

    Three things seem to be happening now. The first is that we are finding that many more women are predators and abusers of all sorts than was believed previously. The second is that the pedo-lobby, never entirely silent is becoming more vocal in trying to jump on this bandwagon of de-stigmatizing what were considered “unnatural acts”. The third is that the advocates of fringe minority beliefs are repurposeing the stick that was used to silence the last proponents of racial segregation to silence debate of all kinds. Thus there are parallel tracks running on climate change “denial”, election reform, gender and sexuality at least. Together they are trying to form a coalition to hide the fact of their marginality. The climate change track is especially important since so many people are willing to pay loyal lip service to it as long as it causes them no inconvenience or personal cost.

    As Orwell realized, controlling language is the first requirement of controlling the perception of reality. Controlling how we see reality is key to controlling us.

  14. “Science”.

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.

  15. “Elite” when used to describe the Academically approved leftists. Used by Republicans, and that usage makes me physically cringe whenever I hear it used.

  16. “Red” — used in the sense of “Not The Democrat”.

    That really annoys me. For untold years, red has been the color associated with socialism, communism, far-leftism. Think of the USSR’s Red Army, or communist Red China, or the anthem “The Scarlet Banner”. Think of the US military’s use of Red Team — the side in war games which is opposing the US side, the Blue Team.

    Then, not so long ago, some Lefties in the media decided to reverse that traditional meaning, to confuse the situation about the increasingly extreme Left Democrat Party. The media can do what they want, of course. But the annoying thing is how all the supposed “Republicans” and non-Democrats tossed decades of standard usage down the memory hole and adopted their Betters’ new definition. Spineless!

  17. Orwellian (noun): failure of authoritative sources (e.g., dictionaries) to update definitions to the latest objective conditions. (Slang) Retention of inoperative and obsolete definitions.

  18. “men having sex with men” instead of homosexual. My old editor would have died from horror of that…luckily he is already dead

    “No hate in….” Or “Ban hate”. What they really mean is ” ban hate except for people we don’t like” The root of this apparent inconsistency was found in a discourse from olden days regarding Illinois Nazis

    “Investment” in place of government spending. If you are investing then I expect to see a prospectus, rate of return, and if metrics aren’t met someone fired. Otherwise you are just another manifestation of Lionel Hutz

  19. ““Investment” in place of government spending”…I knew a guy who was picked to lead an “advanced new product” initiative for a division of a major corporation. He was complaining to me one day about his budget…said his engineering & programming costs should be treated as Investment and hence should be capitalized rather than expensed every month.

    The project failed completely. If those costs had actually been capitalized, there would have been a substantial writeoff.

  20. The powers-that-be have decided that healthcare terminology, particularly in mental health, be spaketh in the same terms that one might use within a Marxist ethnography of the local hardware store. Far more compassionate for the provider treating a person with life-sucking debilitation to consider the transaction along the lines of a price checking the guy who simply loaded his cart with too many tubs of drywall mud.

    Physician = provider
    Nurse = provider
    Med tech = provider
    Patient = consumer
    Client = consumer
    Guy on the street = consumer
    Drugs = substance *fentanyl undifferentiated from weed
    Blackout drunk = use *like taking a Tylenol
    Abuse = disorder
    Addiction = substance use disorder

  21. Physician = provider

    This came along about 30 years ago and we docs assumed that it was cover for the dilution of care by less trained persons. Nurse practitioners do a good job under supervision. My wife was one for a few years. We were divorced at the time (long story) but she used to call me about hard cases if her supervising MD was too busy. After I retired, I did some peer review in workers comp cases. From that I learned that many, if not most, workers comp orthopedists used “physician assistants” to run their offices while they did all the surgery. The PAs were often grateful for some advice as they got zero from their employer.

    We are now farther down that road.

  22. Back in the day, the Salvador Allende path to socialism was called “constitutional.” As in, using any combination of loopholes and fait accomplis, as long as guns are not involved , is “constitutional.”

    Loophole example: using Decree Law 520, issued by a military regime 40 years before, a law that hadn’t been used until Allende’s government did, to justify expropriating companies. Which also means that both Allende and Pinochet ruled by decrees issued by military governments.

    Fait accompli examples: supporting workers’ taking over companies.

    Both the Chilean Chamber of Deputies, by a 81-47 (63%)vote, and the Supreme Court, stated that Allende’s governance was guilty of repeated violations of Chilean law and the Chilean Constitution. Not “constitutional” at all.

  23. IIRC, Robert Moss in his book, “Chile’s Marxist Experiment”, mentioned a referendum whose result was reported in a newspaper headline as, “The People 48%, The Reactionaries 52%”. Some of the current rhetoric from US media and Democratic officials, including Biden, about Trump and Trump supporters is at this level.

  24. “gender affirming care” == spay or castrate a child

    “pollutant” == any substance worth taxing; e.g. “carbon dioxide”

    “wetlands” == “privately owned real estate the government want to control but not buy or legally seize from the owners”

    “grand jury” == a prosecutor’s cheering section and rubber stamp

    “federal agent” == bureaucrat with a badge and gun

    “archive” == collection of documents held in a furniture warehouse or bowling alley, but not the basement of a residence.

    “ally” == any nation with which the US has no treaty obligations or trade deals or frankly much history but which we have chosen to assist in a war.

    “Modern Monetary Theory” == an excuse to debase currency

    “Strategic Petroleum Reserve” == voter manipulation resource

    “narrative” == fable

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