Nel's New Day

January 16, 2018

Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ Precursor to Today’s Fascism

The most popular expression in 2017, according to the Washington Post, was “fake news,” and Merriam-Webster announced that “feminism” was the term with the most internet searches. Cambridge Dictionary highlighted “populism” because Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) claimed to support the working people, and Dictionary.com selected “complicit.” The real Word of the Year might be #, as in hashtag, such as the #MeToo movement. A term for current politics could be “faux populism” or “nationalism” because of the mushrooming acceptance of white supremacists in the United States. Gone are terms such as “diversity” and “togetherness.” The President’s Challenge Coin even lost the term “E pluribus unum,” the U.S. motto meaning “out of many, one.”

Throughout foreign affairs this past year, up is down and war is peace. “Normalization” used to mean making the abnormal conform to the standard perception, but DDT has changed it to acceptance of deviancy as the new normal. “Pivot” once meant turning but now means a pretense. The biggest reversal may be the word “fake.” Defined as “counterfeit” until the time of DDT, its meaning is now “I deny your reality” or “hoax.” Evidence and reason are now “fake science” or “fake news.” Those who lack any support or background for their arguments simply assert “fake …” to make facts vanish or “alternative facts,” introduced by Kellyanne Conway in an attempt to cover DDT’s lies.

Conservatives know how words can hurt their causes. A theme of the ruling class in George Orwell’s novel 1984, is “ignorance is strength.” The phrase “climate change” disappeared from the White House website minutes after DDT was inaugurated, and accurate science, climate, energy, and environment information has been erased on federal websites. References to rising sea levels, worsening wildfires, and threatened wildlife have disappeared. The Interior Department eliminated links to 92 national parks’ climate action plans.

EPA officials are ordered to eradicate the term “climate change” in grant solicitations and funding for initiatives. Public communications information also cannot use “climate change.” Colorado College environmental science professor Miroslav Kummel was told that he would need to revise his syllabus for his class, “Introduction to Global Climate Change” at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument because “all references to [climate change] in future documents, orientation talks, etc. will not be allowed.”

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention distributed a “language guidance” document to employees and contractors listing words and phrases to be avoided and accompanied by acceptable alternatives. For example, “underserved youth” are now “all youth.” “Substance abuse disorder,” no longer a disease, was replaced with “substance abuse issue.” Youths who have committed crimes are defined only as “offenders.” Last year, a request for grants to mentor child victims of sex trafficking specifically cited LGBTQ youths, one-third of the trafficked population; this year the requrest does not mention LGBTQ.

Providing more censorship, DDT’s administration is stopping the use of such words as “vulnerable, “entitlement,” and “diversity” in the Department of Health and Human Services budget. During a meeting, CDC employees were told to avoid “fetus,” “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” Only the last two terms were given an alternative: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.” “Abstinence-only” programs are being rebranded as “sexual risk avoidance” to acquire government funds. The government knows that these programs fail to work. Violence Against Children surveys from eleven countries “showed that an average of 1 in 3 young women had a first sexual experience that was forced or coerced,” according to a State Department report.

Humpty Dumpty told Alice, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.” Alice asked him how a word can have so many definitions, and Humpty Dumpty replied, “The question is which is to be master, that’s all.” Centuries later, Orwell agreed when he wrote that meaning is about power. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once defined truth as “the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”

Many of the words popularized in the new administration, including DDT’s latest vulgar term “shithole countries,” smack of authoritarianism supporting white supremacy and ethnic cleansing evidenced by fascist dictators leading up to World War II. They gained their power through suppression of the media just as DDT is trying to do. He is also using the one-party system in Washington and the tactics of Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists to control the nation.

Words that reveal injustices and encourage critical analyses disappear when people who use them are punished. Orwell’s “Newspeak” in 1984 has gone from fiction to the GOP standard operating procedures, especially since all scientific evidence and dissent is regarded as “fake news.” According to DDT, the critical media is the “enemy of the American people.” He maintains that he is the only person who can “Make America Great Again,” the only one who can save the nation. Repetition of these positions has led to almost a third of people in the nation believing that the media—except the Fox network and other more conservative sources—are false. DDT now declares Fire and Fury a “fake book.”

Authoritarianism expert Ruth Ben-Ghiat noted that fascism starts with words. Language normalizes brutality and cruelty with metaphors of racial purity, expulsion, war, and dehumanization. In The Third Reich in Power, Richard J. Evans wrote:

“The German language became a language of superlatives, so that everything the regime did became the best and the greatest, its achievements unprecedented, unique, historic and incomparable …. The language used about Hitler … was shot through and through with religious metaphors; people ‘believed in him,’ he was the redeemer, the savior, the instrument of Providence, his spirit lived in and through the German nation…. Nazi institutions domesticated themselves [through the use of a language] that became an unthinking part of everyday life.”

Adolf Hitler banned words, books, and authors while he made people disposable. The GOP goal is to destroy ways to protect vulnerable people and plunder the world’s resources for their personal gain.

DDT’s initial statement in his campaign on June 16, 2015, described the people coming into the United States as human garbage, the same message that he has repeated during the past two and a half years. In a speech to FBI graduates in December, he described immigrants coming by lottery as the “worst people …. the worst of the worst.” With no outrage from people, he normalized evil, just as authoritarianism does, in his statements about how immigrants (except those from Norway) despoil the (white) United States by raping and killing (white) women. Nobody was shocked until he used the word “shithole”; for many people it is only the word and not the policy behind it that is heinous.

Gina Apostel wrote, “When norms shift, one of the first things to change is language. In a fascist world, shocking neologisms become everyday speech.” She continued in a description about her experiences when Philippines’ late dictator Ferdinand Marcos decreed martial law in 1972 and compared that to today’s life under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who killed more people in his first year of martial law than Marcos did in a decade. “Extrajudicial killings” is a polite term for being killed by the police, and being “ka-DDS,” meaning “fellow-Davao Death Squad” rallies Duterte’s supporters, just as DDT’s supporters adopted the term “deplorables.” A new eatery north of Manila has a menu that includes “handcuffed pork belly” and “tortured pork chops,” referring to the people who Duterte kills. Another item is “the ham that fought back” because police can kill any suspect who resists arrest.

DDT praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job” in combating the illicit drug trade. Duterte called reporters “spies” when he met with DDT. Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here about the rise of an authoritarian fascist leader in the U.S. parallels DDT’s admiration dictators around the world.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” In this way, DDT uses words that make this passage from 1984 as the theme of his administration.

September 9, 2015

What GOP Means When They Say …

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 8:26 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

[From joelgp]

In conservative lexicon:

  • “small businesses” =  large corporation
  • “simpler tax” = more tax cuts for the wealthy
  • “secure medicare” = destroy it
  • “repair and replace obamacare” = destroy it
  • “secure the borders first” = treat Hispanics as second-classed citizens
  • “all lives matter” = we need to shut-up and take our murders like men
  • “horrified by planned parenthood” = I really need evangelicals in my camp
  • “take America back” = get them AAs out of our White House!
  • “the economy is in turmoil” = President Obama saved America from a great depression
  • “I won’t lead from behind” = I’m starting wars with Iran, Syria and maybe Russia too
  • “the party of the middle class” = no unions and no increase in minimum wage

Frank Luntz prides himself in tutoring conservatives on how selling their opinions through the use of emotion. In fact, he re-creates definitions for negative terms describing Republicans for a positive twist. One example is describing “Orwellian” as speaking “with absolute clarity” instead of the traditional definition from the novel, 1984, as destroying a free and open society. Luntz’s coining the term “Obamacare” was brilliant: for years almost twice as many people in Kentucky opposed Obamacare as the Affordable Care Act although they are identical.

Other conservative twisted terminology:

  • “government takeover” = health care reform
  • “energy exploration” = oil drilling
  • “freedom” = no government support
  • “tax relief” = lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy
  • “personal accounts” = privatizing Social Security
  • “babies” = fetuses
  • “immigration reform” = build walls and throw out all undocumented Hispanics in the U.S.
  • “UN reform” = get rid of the United Nations
  • “class action reform” = don’t allow this in courts
  • “war on terror” = attacking countries in the Middle East
  • “activist judges” = those who rule against conservative ideals
  • “class warfare” = opposition to extreme income inequality
  • “Fairness Doctrine” = removing public airways from regulations
  • “right-to-work laws” = lower salaries and no benefits
  • “reparative therapy” = telling LGBT people that they are unworthy and can change their biology
  • “dividing America” = any criticism of conservatives, the wealthy, or their policies
  • George W. Bush’s “Healthy Forests Initiative” = widespread logging
  • Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative” = remove clean air standards
  • “the takers” = poor people
  • “accountability” = punishment for those who need help (instead of for the failed missile defense system)
  • “bipartisanship” = willingness for Democrats to follow Republicans
  • “deregulation” = letting big business do anything it wants
  • “discrimination” = asking white males to sharing of money and power with the poor, women, and other minorities
  • “disorderly conduct” = any legal protest including Freedom of Speech
  • “faith-based” = religious action that may violate the First Amendment
  • “family values” = justification for intolerance, fear, and bigotry
  • “routine military operation” = sneak attack by an overwhelmingly superior force
  • “special interest” = any citizen or group of citizens who express concerns to their government
  • “strict constructionist” = position taken by conservative judges to justify rulings that roll back progress on civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protections, and defense citizens from arbitrary government actions while simultaneously claiming to be “above politics.”
  • “unconstitutional” = anything not in keeping with conservative thought

And much more here.

Over the past 40 years, Republicans have put billions of dollars into creating this language. After Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote in 1970 that the best students became anti-business because of the Vietnam War, wealthy conservatives set up professorships, institutes, and think tanks to change the viewpoint. By 2003, they had 1,500 conservative radio talk show hosts. Through this network, they established the GOP opposition to the progressive approach of “nurturing parent” assuming that the world is good and empathy will make it better. Most Democrats believe in helping people through a safety net, regulations, education, civil liberties, public service, and equal treatment for people.

The authoritarian parent model followed by the GOP takes the position that the world is dangerous and children, born bad, must be made good. The strict parent is the moral authority who tells his family what to do, often through painful punishment. Children who don’t become independent as adults must be freed with no support. The only purposes of the government are to maintain order, conduct business in an orderly fashion, and punish people. Actions are carried out without permission or discussion with force and authority.

Conservatives have a number of code words for racism that would be benign on the surface but are actually triggers for hate. “Illegal aliens” refers only to Hispanics coming across the nation’s southern border, and “states rights” legitimizes racism, sexism, and homophobia. Rep. Paul Ryan used “inner cities” to denigrate blacks, and “Sharia law” evokes a sense of fear not created by “Christian law,” although both are unconstitutional. Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, writes about how a speaker can use racist language and still deny that any reference to race.

Sometimes terminology suffers a fast death among conservative politicians. For example, GOP presidential candidates started using the term “anchor babies”—legally born infants in the U.S. becoming citizens—after Donald Trump began the trend. The massive criticism across the nation for people like Jeb Bush quickly closed down the usage.

In 1996, Newt Gingrich wrote a memo about how language is “a key mechanism of control.” It lists the words to be used by politicians to strengthen their message and the ones to be used for opponents. “Cheat,” “lie,” “stagnant,” and “status quo” are just a few of these.

Over a year ago, Bill Maher discussed the GOP success with language:

“Being a Republican means starting with a bedrock principle, like rich people shouldn’t pay taxes, or black people shouldn’t vote.  And then, figuring out how to sell it to low-information voters, otherwise known as Americans.  Did I say ‘don’t tax rich people’?  I meant ‘encourage the job creators.’ Did I say ‘don’t let black people vote’?  I meant ‘clamp down on voter fraud.’ Did I say ‘bring back slavery’?  I meant ‘phase out race-based freedom quotas.’”

It’s time for Democrats to increase its own messaging. Here’s a start:

Republicans are legislating a Daddy State: Conservative state and federal legislators reach into all parts of personal life—restricting access to health care, giving employers the right to snoop into personal medical records, regulating women’s health care, controlling our choice of marriage partners, etc. In the words of Rep. Steve King (R-IA), this is a gross violation of the freedoms and liberties that we love about living in the United States. We need to stop “the man of the family” from setting the rules and punishing us when they think that we’re “bad.”

Republicans are the Party of Gut and Spend: Conservatives gamble with wars to increase income for the wealthy and then gut services to the poor and needy. Gut and Spend takes money from hard-working families, decimating the middle class, and gives it to the rich and powerful. Low-income families suffer deep cuts while no entitlements for the wealthy are eliminated. The program is a Path to Poverty and bad for America.

Republicans are the Party of Large Corporate Government: Instead of a smaller government, the GOP wants an Unelected Corporate Government that takes away the rights for people to have a say in education, prisons, and the military. Turning our government over to Unelected Corporations is anti-Democratic and un-American.

People who control language control the agenda. As George Orwell’s 1984 inquisitor, O’Brien, said, “The whole aim of Newspeak [precursor to “doublespeak”] is to narrow the range of thought. In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

January 8, 2015

George Orwell, an Optimist

Filed under: Income inequality,Surveillance — trp2011 @ 8:57 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The year before George Orwell died in 1950, he published his classic novel 1984. It is a dark story of a country in perpetual war, ever-present government surveillance, and public manipulation under the control of the Inner Party elite which comprised 2 percent of the population. Big Brother, described as a highly personable quasi-divine Party leader, may not have even existed. The Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power.” Winston Smith, the novel’s protagonist, works for the Ministry of Truth which creates propaganda and historical revisionism through rewriting newspaper articles. Other ministries are Peace (perpetual war), Plenty (economic affairs–rationing and starvation), and Love (law and order–torture and brainwashing

“George Orwell was an optimist,” as Marjorie Cohn quoted Mikko Hypponen in her article, “Beyond Orwell’s Worst Nightmare.”

The National Security Agency (NSA) collects metadata on billions of our phone calls and 200 million of our text messages every day so that our government would read the content of our emails, file transfers, and live chats from the social media we use. In discussing NSA reforms, President Obama talked about Paul Revere’s patrolling the streets at night in the 18th century his the Sons of Liberty, “reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.” This weak effort justify NSA’s spying ignored the fact that patrolling streets is not monitoring people’s private communications.

Left out of this argument about the U.S. spying is how the nation’s founding fathers responded to the British searches before the American Revolution. The British used the same “general warrants,” authorizing blanket searches without any individualized suspicion or specificity of what the colonial authorities were seeking, similar to what happens today. In a petition to King George III, Congress protested this unlimited power of search and seizure and charged that they used their power “to break open and enter houses, without the authority of any civil magistrate founded on legal information.” That was the reason for the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures—preventing the United States from becoming another police state.

Almost 200 years later, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ran his COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize” political and activist groups. In the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, the U.S. government, under the guise of eliminating communism, used widespread illegal surveillance to threaten and silence anyone with unorthodox political views. The FBI’s “red-baiting” blackmailed, jailed, blacklisted, and fired thousands of U.S. citizens.

In the 1960s, the FBI’s program, “Racial Matters,” targeted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to prevent him from registering black voters in the South. Again the claim of communist activities allowed the FBI to wiretap King’s phones in attempts to discredit him. Their goal was to drive him to divorce and possibly suicide.

An attempt to justify today’s extreme surveillance programs is that it is targeting real threats. Yet an independent federal privacy watchdog, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has found “no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.” The NSA spying program covers everyone—Mexico, Latin America, the United Nations, the European Union Parliament, European leaders—even Angela Merkel’s cellphone. The only reason that anyone knows part of the extent of this surveillance comes from the disclosures by Edward Snowden, an exiled man threatened with decades of prison.

Reforms to the spying program include the requirement that NSA obtain approval from a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it gets access to the phone records of an individual. Yet this court is secret, and its judges are appointed by the highly conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. Almost no executive branch wiretapping requests have been turned down since the court’s inception in 1978. President Obama has not said that surveillance without judicial warrants or individual suspicion should be stopped.

The Doublethink of 1984 shows the thinking of today’s Congress:

“The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. Doublethink is basically the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

The purpose of unwinnable, perpetual war is to consume labor and commodities. Because the country’s economy cannot support equality a high standard of life for all, the “proles” are kept poor and uneducated so that won’t realize what the government is doing. In that way there is no danger of rebellion. These people live with hunger, disease and filth in ruined cities and towns while the top two percent have clean and comfortable homes in areas separated from their poor. Their pantries are well-stocked with foodstuffs such as wine, coffee, and sugar that are denied to the general populace.

Inner Party member O’Brien describes the Party’s vision to the protagonist of 1984:

“There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

Leaders of the Inner Party use a culture of fear to control the masses.

“War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” Read 1984 for yourself.

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