Trumpspeak Is Newspeak

orwell-nineteen-eighty-four-large-cover

W.J. Astore

Fans of George Orwell’s 1984 will recall Newspeak, the development of a new language that also involved the elimination of certain words and concepts.  The method is clearly defined by the character of Syme in Orwell’s book:

“You think … our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words—scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting language down to the bone … You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?”

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten … Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller… The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect…”

Trumpspeak is America’s version of Newspeak.  Whatever you choose to call it, the intent is clear: the control of thought through the elimination of certain words and concepts.  Today at TomDispatch.com, Karen Greenberg documents the destruction of certain words and concepts within the Trump administration.  These words and concepts include refugees, climate change, greenhouse gases, America as a nation of immigrants, and even the notion of science-based evidence.

The suppression or elimination of words and phrases is one big step toward thought control; so too is the parroting of certain pet phrases and concepts, such as “support our troops” or “make America great again” or “homeland security.”  In an article about Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz that appeared in the Nation, Adam Kirsch writes of how Döblin recognized the “sinister” nature of “the colonization of the individual mind by parasitic discourses,” the way in which reality itself is “cloaked” by “predigested phrases.”  Döblin wrote of how “The words come rolling toward you, you need to watch yourself, see that they don’t run you over.”

And I think something like this is happening in America today.  We’re being run over by certain words and concepts, even as other words and concepts related to democracy and cherished freedoms are carefully elided or eliminated.

Of course, Orwell wrote about this as well.  “Predigested phrases” is captured by Orwell’s concept of duck-speak, in which proles just quack like ducks when they speak, echoing the sounds fed to them by party operatives.  Quacking like a duck requires no thought, which is precisely the intent.

Pay attention, America, to the words you’re losing before they’re gone forever; and also to the words you’re using before they run you over.

18 thoughts on “Trumpspeak Is Newspeak

  1. Oh, add Regime Change to the list of approved phrases. Regime Change predated The Trumpet (Agent Orange) going back to at least 1953 in Iran in the post WW 2 Era.

    Michael Bolton now functions as Agent Orange’s Rasputin. In April, Bolton suggested that the White House was looking at Libya as an example of how it will handle negotiations with North Korea to denuclearize.
    “We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004,” Bolton said on Fox News. ”

    Citing US Invasions of Iraq and Libya, North Korea Says ‘Repugnance’ of John Bolton Threatens Talks.

    In 2003 and 2004, former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief. But in 2011, the U.S.—with the enthusiastic backing of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—helped topple and kill Gadhafi and turn Libya into a “terrorist haven.” https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/05/16/citing-us-invasions-iraq-and-libya-north-korea-says-repugnance-john-bolton-threatens
    =====================================================
    Regime Change has been accepted by our McMega-Media as a valid doctrine of American Exceptionalism. Come to think of it “American Exceptionalism” is another Newspeak Phrase that is accepted with out question or contradiction. “American Exceptionalism” is like an Einstein Formula which has as it’s sum = Regime Change.

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    1. Thanks, ML. I almost put America as the “exceptional” nation. I didn’t think of “regime change”: that’s a great one.

      Of course, now we’re supposed to couple “immigrant” with “illegal,” which is why “refugee” is no longer allowed. The idea that suffering people might seek refuge in the U.S., and that we might show compassion for them by granting refuge, must be suppressed.

      History, of course, must always be rewritten and/or sent down the memory hole. Well do I remember when Iran was our ally; we even helped them to develop nuclear power. Now, of course, Iran is supposed to be our “great Satan.” And their nuclear program is evidence of great evil.

      And so it goes …

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  2. “other words and concepts related to democracy” – like, say, the idea of respecting the result of the election? Few now seem to remember that during the election, the orange idgit deliberately called into question whether he would accept the outcome, if he lost.

    To me, this was the moment where he out-and-out declared himself to be a wannabe dictator. And where our entire political establishment failed. Because in a democracy, a viable candidate threatening the integrity of the electoral process is perhaps the most dangerous form of treason. In 2016, Trump made a death threat against the Constitution. And got away with it.

    Reading fiction is an excellent way to prepare for where this is all headed. I recommend Tolkien’s “Akallabeth”. A re-telling of the Atlantic myth well-suited to addressing some of the fundamental problems with Anglo-Saxon culture.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akallab%C3%AAth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll accept the result of the election — as long as I win.

      One handy feature/bug of Trumpspeak: Whenever he says “Believe me,” I know not to believe him.

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      1. That is exactly what I feel when a patronising plumber says “don’t worry lady, everything will be OK” when I try to explain the reason my bathroom is flooded.
        After which the disaster expands beyond my grimmest expectations.
        The Plumber-in-Chief’s flippant statements indeed deserve similar caution.

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  3. There are the “airstrikes” on Middle Eastern cities. How about “bombing?” And the recent “clashes” in Gaza. Can we call them “assassinations?” Finally, the Pentagon publishes KIA’s and calls them “casualties.” The media calls them “fallen.” Can we compromise and call them “dead?”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You can’t make the Newspeak complaint about Trump alone – everyone in politics does it. This is what political correctness is all about, what George Carlin liked to call “soft language.” “The CIA doesn’t kill people, they neutralise them. Israeli murderers are called commandos, Arab commandos are called terrorists.” I have a few more: anyone, be they American or European, who thinks that a nation should keep its borders even reasonably secure is a “xenophobe,” never mind that person’s own immigrant status. No-one resents illegal immigrants more than LEGAL immigrants – I’m not saying whether or not they should, but that’s how it is. Let’s see, what else… right! The Patriot Act wasn’t patriotic, the Affordable Care Act wasn’t affordable, and Net Neutrality isn’t neutral. See, if your idea is terrible, all you need do is give it an innocuous name, and then deride anyone who gives it the slightest bit of scrutiny as “insensitive” or a whatever-phobe. I could go on, but I’m getting hungry.

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    1. Yes, the French resisting Germans were “freedom fighters” and the Afghans resisting Americans are “insurgents” and “terrorists.”

      Liked by 1 person

  5. news report: US troops in Niger, Mali and Cameroon to receive “danger pay.”
    Forget combat pay! You’re not in combat any more, just danger.

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  6. Karen Greenberg wonders whether this phenomenon perhaps is less haphazard and ad-hoc than might seem at first glance, and if so, who might be behind it. While not familiar with Trump’s inner circle beyond those who make the headlines, I’ll risk being called a conspiracy theorist and suggest a close look at Steve Bannon, who after all seems to be the spiritus movens behind Cambridge Analytica, the outfit that offered insiduous propaganda algorythms tailor-made for close to 100 million (and probably many more) FaceBook addicts. Goebbels would be jealous of such a micro-targeting mass tool.
    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/03/the-secret-history-of-steve-bannon-and-alexander-nixhttps://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/26/the-cambridge-analytica-files-the-story-so-far – and this socially and politically retarded AI whiz-kidd : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NesTWiKfpD0

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  7. Speaking of Orwell and the political uses of language, check out this article about the recent protests in Gaza and the way the mainstream media covered them:

    https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/05/israel-and-the-passive-voice

    Here’s the lead paragraph:

    In the United States, news reports from Israel often have something strange about them: People seem to die violently, but nobody ever seems to kill them. In 2014, when an Israeli missile destroyed a cafe in Gaza, blowing eight patrons to pieces as they watched a soccer game, the headlines in the New York Times were: “Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup” and “In Rubble of Gaza Seaside Cafe, Hunt for Victims Who Had Come for Soccer.” No word of whose missile it might have been; the missile seemed to have acted spontaneously of its own volition, and the hunt through the rubble seemed to be happening without anything even precipitating it. Just as reports on killings by police will claim that “A man died yesterday in an officer-involved shooting,” when the Israeli army kills Palestinians (as it often does), we read that “protesters have died.” The passive voice is the favorite rhetorical tool of propagandists worldwide, who “regret the mistakes that were made” without having to admit who made them.

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    1. Because Israel can do no wrong. Seriously, we’re the victims here, so we can commit whatever atrocities we please! (I was born a Jew, I’m allowed to say this)

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    2. US news reports on Israel must adhere to US national policy which is that anything anti-Israel is considered to be anti-semitic.
      US State Department “defines more general ethnic and religious hatred against Jews but also declares that it is anti-Semitic to demonize Israel, deny Israel’s right to exist, liken Israeli policy to that of the Nazis and blame Israel for all inter-religious tensions.”

      Recently the UN Human Rights Council voted to send international war crimes probe to Gaza which led to “Israel completely rejects the Human Rights Council’s decision, which once again proves that it is a body with an automatic anti-Israeli majority dominated by hypocrisy and absurdity. It is clear to all that the purpose of the Council is not to investigate the truth but to violate Israel’s right to self-defense and to demonize the Jewish state.”

      Notice they didn’t say Israel, they said the Jewish state. That “Jewish state” label has never been official but there is currently a Basic Law proposal: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. (The Muslims in Israel & Palestine certainly know it’s a Jewish State.)

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  8. From Wikipedia:

    [begin quote]
    “Alternative facts” is a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statement about the attendance numbers of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. When pressed during the interview with Chuck Todd to explain why Spicer “utter[ed] a provable falsehood,” Conway stated that Spicer was giving “alternative facts.” Todd responded, “Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”

    Conway’s use of the phrase “alternative facts” to describe demonstrable falsehoods was widely mocked on social media and sharply criticized by journalists and media organizations, including Dan Rather, Jill Abramson, and the Public Relations Society of America. The phrase was extensively described as Orwellian. Within four days of the interview, sales of the book 1984 had increased by 9,500%, which The New York Times and others attributed to Conway’s use of the phrase, making it the number-one bestseller on Amazon.com.

    Conway later defended her choice of words, defining “alternative facts” as “additional facts and alternative information.”
    [end quote]

    Oldthinkers like me unbellyfeel [Corpgov] and so amateur apparatchiks (i.e., mediocre minions) like Kellyanne Conway do not impress me as even a “good” — much less a doubleplusgood — duckspeaker. I mean, if a certified corporate stenographer like Chuck Todd could publicly give Ms Conway a lesson in fundamental semantics, then someone has set the proverbial bar, so to speak, rather low.

    At any rate, I must applaud whatever circumstance leads to increased sales of George Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984, although the simple purchase of a book does not guarantee the reading — much less the understanding — of it. But first things first. In the Corporate Subsidiary Franchise known as the United States, educationally speaking, the put-upon proles must learn to crawl before they can stand up and walk. Unfortunately, with each of them carrying around their own personal little telescreen so that the Ruling Corporate Oligarchy can keep them perpetually under surveillance, I see very little hope at present. From what I can discern, Americans already love Big Brother CEO, no matter his name, age, skin color, or gender.

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