Reflections On The Auction Of Authority In America


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"War is peace."

"Freedom is slavery"

"Ignorance is strength"

- the "Party," in George Orwell's 1984.

What is to blame for the sorry state of our public discourse?  It is tempting to conclude that those who are responsible for the national debate have forgotten the very definitions of the words they speak.  In reality, it only seems that way.  Most of those who engage in the act of term-twisting do so intentionally.  George Orwell recognized this universal phenomenon and addressed it years ago.  In his visionary book 1984, he described these machinations, when used to manipulate, as NEWSPEAK.  The term has since made its way into our consciousness, our dictionaries, and most especially, the playbooks of corporate "public relations" departments, journalists, press secretaries, and Presidents.

"Russia is no longer our enemy and therefore we shouldn't be locked into a Cold War mentality that says we keep the peace by blowing each other up.  In my attitude, that's old, that's tired, that's stale." 


"We value a free press.  We value freedom.  And the more we value freedom, the more they hate us.  That's why.  That's why the enemy still exists."


"See, we love - we love freedom. That's what they didn't understand.  They hate things; we love things.  They act out of hatred; we don't seek revenge, we seek justice out of love."


"You need to tell your loved ones, the little ones in particular, that when they hear the President talking about al Qaeda, Iraq and other places, I do so because I long for peace."


"I want to send the signal to our enemy that you have aroused a compassionate and decent and mighty nation, and we're going to hunt you down."


"Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness."


- George W. Bush

There is no reconciling words such as these with logical thought processes.  These statements are so full of contradictory language they are virtually meaningless.  With the exception of the last quote, they are not examples of accidental mispronunciation, but rather of deliberate miscommunication.  Statements such as these are INTENDED to be confusing.  They are designed to turn one's brain to mush.

"Well, we have a deficit because tax revenues are down.  Make no mistake about it, the tax relief package that we passed -- that should be permanent, by the way -- has helped the economy, and that the deficit would have been bigger without the tax-relief package."

– George W. Bush, contradicting himself on 11/13/2002.

As a lover of language, I don't disagree with the creation of new and descriptive terms.  On the contrary, I know that it's only natural and necessary.  It is the use of verbiage to obscure and obfuscate, to hide meaning and intent, that I oppose.

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -- if all records told the same tale -- then the lie passed into history and became truth.  'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'  And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered.  Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting.  It was quite simple.  All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.  'Reality control', they called it:  in Newspeak, 'doublethink.'"


- George Orwell, 1984


One recent example of newspeak is the 2002 controversy on Social Security "privatization."  You may recall that the public did not seem much enamored of this idea after the stock market was pummeled before the election.  Candidates raced to distance themselves from the word privatization, though most did not, in practice, repudiate the concept.  Instead, they came up with new and improved terms such as "personal investment accounts" and "Social Security Choice" to disguise their support for the plan.  But let's be clear, "Social Security Choice" is just w.a.c.k. for "privatization."


“They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it's some kind of federal program."

- George W. Bush

While the word "privatization" can be interpreted in many ways, this is the term that both George Bush and the CATO Institute were pushing throughout campaign 2000.  Republican candidates, along with CATO, later removed the term from their collective vocabulary.  The pseudonyms for the program could not change the fact that the plan would require raiding the Social Security trust fund in its early years to find the funds for "personal investments."  These funds would then have to be repaid to the trust fund, with interest.  These funds would thereafter be susceptible to the whim of the market, with no guarantee of return on investment.  Ask your financial advisor, if you're lucky enough to have one, what they think about the idea of borrowing money to invest in the stock market.  They won't recommend it.  Most banks will not loan money on such a strategy.  It is just not a good idea.  So without new funding, this proposal is just what Al Gore called it:  a risky scheme.  By the way, President-elect Gore also predicted that the trust fund would have to be raided anyway to fund Dubya's 2000 campaign promises.  Gore, along with the voters, has been proven right.


“I don't make any apologies for what I do on the campaign trail.”


- George W. Bush


Social Security "privatization" is at present politically radioactive, due to unfavorable public opinion caused by stock market losses.  Of course, should the plan ever win approval, it would be a bonanza for banks and brokerage houses.  In addition, investors holding large amounts of stock at the beginning of this type of program would likely enjoy large gains caused by the influx of new money into the market.  Hmmmm.  Just follow that money.  Kinda makes more sense when you think of it that way, doesn't it?


“One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.  If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.  You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.  Political language - and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists - is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.  One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time, one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase - some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse - into the dustbin where it belongs.”

- George Orwell


“The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.”

- Philip K. Dick


"The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question."

- Stephen Jay Gould


Constructive Clarifications:

The following listing of critical terms is my tongue-in-cheek attempt to remind certain parrots, politicians, and pundits of the distinct and definite meanings behind the words that are the very foundation of our civic debate.

Thanks to www.dictionary.com.

truth:  Conformity to fact or actuality; a statement proven to be or accepted as true; sincerity; integrity; fidelity to an original or standard; reality; actuality.

dou·ble talk:  Meaningless speech that consists of nonsense syllables mixed with intelligible words; gibberish; deliberately ambiguous or evasive language. Also called dou·ble·speak.

new·speak:  Deliberately ambiguous and contradictory language used to mislead and manipulate the public.

shrub·bish:  Laughably ludicrous linguistics; strangely strangled syntax; cattle-country colloquialism.  See Bush·it:  The phrase "compassionate conservatism" has proven to be shrubbish.

 Bush·it:  Puerile political posturing; regrettably ridiculous rhetoric; pseudo-conservative psycho-babble.   See shrub·bish:  He said he would have a humble foreign policy, but that was just Bushit.

Bush·ism:  Morphological misadventure; mispronunciation; miscommunication; misstatement; malapropism; especially by a Bush family member:  Did you hear Dubya's latest Bushism?

King's Eng·lish:  English speech or usage that is considered standard or accepted; Received Standard English.

w.a.c.k.:  1. Abbreviation for Western-American Colloquial King's English.  Mother tongue of President/CEO George W. Bush, distinguished by capricious and confrontational use of Bushism, Shrubbish, and Bushit.  2. Any statement spoken or written in w.a.c.k.  3. slang:  a. Jive.  b. Incorrect; inaccurate; impertinent; illogical; incongruous; inconsistent; irrelevant; inferior; inane; irresponsible; irrational; inappropriate; immature; infantile; incompetent:  That State of the Union Address was w.a.c.k.

bush·wack:  To write or speak w.a.c.k. for, or as, a member of the Bush family; to unexpectedly or inexplicably speak w.a.c.k.:  Colin Powell bushwacked the United Nations last week.

m.i.c.e.:  1. Abbreviation for the military industrial congressional establishment.  2. Two or more members of this establishment.  Those who advocate a war in which they stand to profit are m.i.c.e., not men.

rea·son:  The capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought; intelligence; good judgment; sound sense.

dou·ble·think:  Thought marked by the acceptance of gross contradictions and falsehoods, especially when used as a technique of self-indoctrination.

news:  Information about recent events or happenings, especially as reported by newspapers, periodicals, radio, or television.

pap:  Material lacking real value or substance; money and favors obtained as political patronage; worthless or oversimplified ideas.

prop·a·gan·da:  The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause; material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause.

pun·dit:  A source of opinion; a critic; a learned person.

hack:  One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling; a writer hired to produce routine or commercial writing.

lib·er·al:  Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry; favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded; tending to give freely; generous.

com·pas·sion:  Deep awareness of the suffering of another, coupled with the wish to relieve it.

con·ser·va·tive:  Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change; traditional or restrained in style; moderate; cautious.

rad·i·cal:  Departing markedly from the usual or customary; favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions.

re·pub·lic:  1.  A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president; a nation that has such a political order.  2.  A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them; a nation that has such a political order.

de·moc·ra·cy:  Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives; a political or social unit that has such a government; the common people, considered as the primary source of political power; majority rule; the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

fas·cis·m:  A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism; a political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.; oppressive, dictatorial control.

plu·toc·ra·cy:   A form of government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the wealthy classes; government by the rich; also, a controlling or influential class of rich men.

ol·i·gar·chy:  Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families; those making up such a government.

jun·ta:  A clique that seeks power, usually through intrigue.

ca·bal:  A conspiratorial group of plotters or intriguers.

e·lec·tion:  The act of choosing a person to fill an office, or to membership in a society, as by ballot, uplifted hands, or viva voce; as, the election of a president or a mayor.

coup d'é·tat:  The sudden overthrow of a government by a usually small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority.

pres·i·dent:  One appointed or elected to preside over an organized body of people, such as an assembly or meeting.  

Pres·i·dent:  The chief executive of the United States, serving as both chief of state and chief political executive.

u·surp·er:  One who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another.

ol·i·garch:  A member of a small governing faction.

At·tor·ney Gen·er·al:  The head of the U.S. Department of Justice and a member of the President's cabinet.

big broth·er:  An omnipresent, seemingly benevolent figure representing the oppressive control over individual lives exerted by an authoritarian government; a state, organization, or leader regarded in this manner.

free·dom:  The condition of being free of restraints; liberty of the person from slavery, detention, or oppression; political independence; exemption from the arbitrary exercise of authority in the performance of a specific action; civil liberty; exemption from an unpleasant or onerous condition; The capacity to exercise choice; free will.

lib·er·ty:  Freedom from unjust or undue governmental control.

ser·vi·tude:  Lack of personal freedom, as to act as one chooses.

pa·nop·ti·con:  A prison so constructed that the inspector can see each of the prisoners at all times, without being seen.

pa·tri·ot·ic:  Feeling, expressing, or inspired by love for one's country.

hon·or·a·ble:  Not disposed to cheat or defraud; not deceptive or fraudulent; showing or characterized by honor and integrity; used as a title of respect; adhering to ethical and moral principles; deserving of esteem and respect.

ve·nal:  Open to bribery; mercenary; capable of betraying honor, duty, or scruples for a price; corruptible; marked by corrupt dealings, especially bribery; obtainable for a price.

con·sen·sus:  An opinion or position reached by a group as a whole; general agreement.

e·qui·lib·ri·um:  A condition in which all acting influences are canceled by others, resulting in a stable, balanced, or unchanging system.

he·gem·o·ny:  The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others.

he·gem·o·ney:  The predominant influence, of moneyed and corporate interests, over world environment, media, culture, and governance:  The state of our union is one of hegemoney.


Disclaimer:  Only the "real" definitions listed above are from www.dictionary.com, and they have been edited for relevance.  Please don't hold them accountable, Mr. Ashcroft.  The interpretations of the words "Bushit," "Bushism," "Shrubbish," "w.a.c.k.," "bushwack," "m.i.c.e." and "Hegemoney," are the responsibility of the webmaster only.


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