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Orwellian Newspeak has been thrust upon us by the new administration. For those of you who either don’t remember your summer reading from high school or chose not to read it at all, “Newspeak” was the means by which George Orwell, in his novel 1984, demonstrated the power of an oppressive regime’s control over dialogue and thus thoughts. The novel describes newspeak as “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.”
Language is the key to our very understanding. Studies have shown that most people think and contemplate by using a running dialogue in their head. Through the manipulation of the language that is used in the marketplace of ideas one can essentially control the parameters of any discussion. Essentially, the words used to describe the thought controls the thought. Here’s a quick refresher on Newspeak.
The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) which reinforce the total dominance of the State. Similarly, Newspeak root words served as both nouns and verbs, which allowed further reduction in the total number of words; for example, “think” served as both noun and verb, so the word thought was not required and could be abolished. A staccato rhythm of short syllables was also a goal, further reducing the need for deep thinking about language. (See duckspeak.) Successful Newspeak meant that there would be fewer and fewer words – dictionaries would get thinner and thinner.
In addition, words with opposite meanings were removed as redundant, so “bad” became “ungood”. Words with comparative and superlative meanings were also simplified, so “better” became “gooder”, and “best” likewise became “goodest”. Intensifiers could be added, so “great” became “plusgood”, and “excellent” and “splendid” likewise became “doubleplusgood”. Adjectives were formed by adding the suffix “-ful” to a root word (e.g., “goodthinkful”, orthodox in thought), and adverbs by adding “-wise” (“goodthinkwise”, in an orthodox manner). In this manner, as many words as possible were removed from the language. The ultimate aim of Newspeak was to reduce even the dichotomies to a single word that was a “yes” of some sort: an obedient word with which everyone answered affirmatively to what was asked of them
The new administration has instituted at least two instances of Newspeak principles in the first 60 days. First, the administration has decided that we will no longer refer to terrorist attacks as such. They now fall under the category of “man made disasters.” How reassuring. Under the Obama administration we can be certain will be free of terror attacks. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes man made disasters as follows: “Man-made disasters are events which, either intentionally or by accident cause severe threats to public health and well-being. Because their occurrence is unpredictable, man-made disasters pose an especially challenging threat that must be dealt with through vigilance, and proper preparedness and response.” In fact, Janet Napolitano, the Head of Homeland Security, now refuses to use the words terrorism or terrorist threats. She calls their use part of the old “politics of fear.” By eliminating the use of the word “terrorism” the administration seeks to transform attacks on U.S. sovereignty from acts of war to merely unpredictable events similar to those caused by nature in the form of hurricanes or floods. Man made disasters “feel” much more palatable than terror. I know I feel safer now.
Further, the Obama administration had decided to no longer use the term “enemy combatant” instead substituting it with the term “detainee.” The Obama administration is seeking to sanitize an unsavory ingredient in combat, that of the enemy. It appears that under the new administration there will be no acknowledgment that the US actually has enemies. Individuals seeking to seek and destroy this nation are merely regular old gents hoping to be the source of man made disasters. Perhaps we should give this a try with the economy as well. Referring to the current state of the economy as “doubleplusungood” is sure to boost consumer confidence.
Remember when Bush 43 glibly told liberals, “I won,” after they voiced concerns over his fiscal policy. Yeah, neither could I; however, that is precisely how President Obama responded to concerns over his spending proposals. In other words, Obama seems to be adopting the position on governance that says, ‘I will listen to your ideas, but only if they fit within my narrow set of liberal policy principles.’ Austan Goolsbee, the Chief Economist for Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board recently said with regard to conservative healthcare proposals, “if these ideas can fit in with [Obama’s] principles, then we’ll consider them. And if we go through and they don’t, then he won’t consider them.”
Another aspect of Obama’s “post-partisan” approach is to attack high profile members of the media who dare speak out against his policies, via Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. To date, Gibbs has savaged CNBC Correspondent Rick Santelli for suggesting a modern-day tea party (guess what? they are happening all across the country), Rush Limbaugh was purposefully attacked, “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer, and most recently former VP Dick Cheney.
Between Obama’s penchant for only listening to ideas that fit within his “principles,” and the use of the White House Press Office to publicly attack those with whom they disagree, the empty suit is FINALLY starting to fill in. And is anyone surprised that Obama seems to be trading “hope and change” for fear, loathing, and personal attacks?
While I am not surprised, a question still remains: why? Why would the President feel it is appropriate or necessary to ignore other points of view, even though he often reads from the tele-prompter how important it is to respect them? Why would he feel it is appropriate or necessary to unleash his press secretary to attack any media personality that challenges his policies?
As Obama makes his case for early admittance to the liberal tax and spend hall of fame, his increased attacks on conservative viewpoints begin to make sense. Taking the debate down to a personal level narrows the conversation and serves to distract from the actual policies being implemented. Clever, huh? I’d agree in the short run, but as people begin to understand the Obama administration’s tactics, their prospects for public support will rival that of Nancy Pelosi. Assuming they are preparing for such an outcome, then an approach that attempts to spend all of its political capital in the early run would be understandable. If political suicide could make sense. But these guys are so much smarter than I am. Surely they have considered what happens when you become a lame duck in your first term?
It appears that the President’s official policy with regard to fixing an ailing economy is to throw in everything including the kitchen sink, and his great grandchildren’s future. This is a terrible situation to put ourselves in after admittedly irresponsible spending by the previous administration. However, two wrongs certainly don’t make a right.
While the President is pursuing historic spending measures, it appears that something else is in the works. The media is giving the President’s spending habits as cursory of a review as they did of his campaign. The official commentary coming out of Washington is to attack anyone who publicly questions Obamanomics. But why? Could it be convenient for them to pursue biting personal attacks in place of honest disagreement, or debate? Further, why isn’t the media upholding its designated reason for existence, to hold government accountable? Sure, we have heard some challenges to the spending, but NOTHING compared to what the broad public is saying. So who does the media represent here anyway? The President, or the People? You decide.
In addition, once the good, hard-working people of America rescue the economy through ingenuity, innovation, and broad retooling of their various industries, who is going to get the credit? I bet Robert Gibbs, the President’s mouthpiece, will let us know. Think of it as President Obama’s own “Mission Accomplished” banner. Wait for it and see. But this time around, don’t expect the media to be so unkind to the President. Quit the opposite, as they will likely canonize him.
This may be my crystal ball gazing moment for the week, but the script seems to be set. Just in time for Tuesday, November 6, 2012…