George Orwell invented the term “Newspeak” to describe the exploitation of people by their government through language. The American government has adopted his idea with astonishing success.

As a result of the unprincipled but brilliant corruption of the English language, denizens of the 50 states have become an easily manipulated blob that sheepishly welcomes such nonsense as “Low Food Security” for hunger, “Ownership Society” for the destruction of Social Security, or “Security Intercepts” for spying on citizens.

Americans cheer tax beaks for the rich when they are called “Improving the Economy.” The government imprisons workers with American families and calls it “Protecting our Borders.” People now think of an economically and socially justified inheritance levy on the obscenely rich as a “Death Tax.” Women are denied the right to their own bodies under the rubric of “Pro Life.”

The White House will accept invitations to appear only on Fox News ,which claims (in the face of common sense) to be “Fair and Balanced.” The protection from legal recourse for large corporations that commit such actions as poisoning drinking water is called “Tort Reform.” Global warming is defused by calling it “Climate Change.” The reduced pay and job loss of working men and women is called “Free Market Economy.” The president denies health insurance to children and calls it “Compassionate Conservatism.” There is no medical coverage for 50 million Americans under a system that is called the “World’s Best Medicine.”

When, 73 times in one afternoon, the attorney general of the United States says, “I don’t remember,” the media are not permitted to call it “lying under oath.”

Spin and coloration of government communications are remarkable for depth and breadth in everyday life, but it reaches sublime levels in the matter of war. The government insists that a war in its fifth year, which has killed or displaced hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, is “Spreading Democracy.”

Once exposed as nonsense, the original “WMD” justification for war was replaced with “Establish Democracy,” and when that failed, “Stability.” Kidnapping and torture are routinely accepted as “Rendition.” Civil war has been replaced by “Sectarian Strife.”

A misnomer so extreme it blurs the vision is “Coalition” for a force of 2,000 Brits, 100 Canadians, 60 Poles, two Japanese photographers, perhaps 12 Trobriand islanders and 180,000 American soldiers. The administration escalates the war and calls it a “Surge.” Audiences listen quietly to stories of torture because they are called “Alternative Interrogation Methods.”

Every day a massive and cruel invasion is referred to as “Liberation.” A retreat from a hostile Iraq province is called “Phased Redeployment.” The military is fighting a “National Mission” with Reserves and the National Guard, while 100,000 regular Army forces remain ensconced in Korea, Japan and Germany. Women have been forced to leave their small children to serve as soldiers in Iraq under cover of “Equality of the Sexes.” Men 42 years old are recruited for war as an “Opportunity” – without specifying who was benefiting from such opportunity.

The government has tortured and imprisoned without warrant or trial and called it “Fighting Terrorism.” The bystander death of innocent women and children is called “Collateral Damage” in the “Fight against Islamofacism.” (Facism, by the way, is: “government by corporation.”)

Consider a few widely used Newspeaks so blatantly untrue they don’t need comment:

“Fight them over there so we won’t have to fight them here.”

“Don’t withdraw or they will follow us home.”

“The light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Things are improving daily.”

“Good news is not reported by the media.”

And, perhaps worst of all: In order to avoid putting the country on a war footing, this administration has justified the cost of an invasive war 8,000 miles away, as “securing our borders.”

The Orwellian skills of the government have shorn its citizens naked. Americans think of wool as silk and lamb chops as vegan snacks. Lucius Flatley of Gorham, the well-known agrarian scientist, observed, “There is a new breed of sheep that has been developed in the last generation. It is called, ‘North American Credulous.'”

Rodney Quinn, who lives in Gorham, is a former Maine secretary of state. He can be reached at [email protected]


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