Doublespeak and this Administration

Doublespeak and this Administration

"Doublespeak" means the use of words to disguise actual facts. To make it appear things are different then they actually are. The word is usually connected to George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty Four, but the novel really doesn’t use that word which was coined in the 1950’s. However, the novel clearly expressed the idea and did use words like "doublethink." The concept certainlly applies to this administration.

Politicians and government have always used double talk, but this administration has demonstrated the ability to use manipulation of the truth through doublespeak to a high new level. In doing so, their motive isn’t just an attempt to hide reality. It also employs proven principles of persuasion. Frank Luntz has been the Republican advisor on the art of framing issues in a way that not only conceals the actual truth, but is worded in such a way as to immediately appeal to the listener. Karl Orwell Rove has taken those ideas by employing words and phrases in the speeches and press releases of Republicans. They used doublespeak in a very successful, but misleading, manner since taking over government. U.C. Berkely linguistics professor George Lakoff has written and lectured on this subject. He has pointed out the importance of framing issues – how we express the idea if we want to convince the listener.

An example of framing as doublspeak is the Republican talk about "healthy forests" when they really are talking about increased clear cutting of forests or their naming a law the "clean air act" when it really lets industry pollute without restriction. This is why the administration including George Bush, Vice President Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary Rice all use the same doublespeak over and over. Phrases like "cut and run" or "stay the course" or "coalition of the willing" are not random phrases. These are doublespeak phrases which have been carefully studied and crafted by the framing experts.

When President Bush used the phrase "leave no child behind" it turned out to be doublespeak for seeking public approval for a popular idea, but then not funding the educational program. At the same time the administration was spending $4 billion a month in Iraq and was promoting tax breaks to the rich. "Torture" was described by the President as "following our legal obligations" and "treating detainees humanely." The administration coined "frivolous lawsuits" for restraints on the civil jury ability to make industry accountable. The Cato Institute has listed other administration examples of doublespeak: "food insecurity" for hunger, "re-deploy" for retreat, "de-brief" for interrogate, "struggle for hearts and minds" for propaganda, "death tax" for estate taxes, "transfer tubes" for body bags and "imperative security internee" for combatant. This doublespeak was adopted after the U.S. Supreme Court held that enemy combatants must have Geneva Convention protection. Once that decision was announced the enemy combatants were quickly renamed "imperative security internee."

This kind of duplicity and dishonesty has been typical of this administration. In addition to the lies about Iraq, there is the example of the President first opposing campaign finance reform, but, after it passed, publically supporting it. However, he then deliberately delayed the appointment of a pro campaign finance reform member of the FEC even though he had promised the appointment to Senator John McCain. The result was that the regulations adopted under the law were weakened to the point of allowing unrestrained spending. McCain was outraged at the duplicity and said the administration wanted to share public approval, but behind the scenes did everything they could to weaken the law. Unfortunately, McCain then compromised his integrity by supporting George Bush in the election because of his personal political ambitions. The examples of dishonesty for political gain are too numerous to list, but include a weakening of all government regulatory agencies in order to allow industry a free hand while publically proclaiming tough standards. However, the most disturbing to me involves the corruption of scientific research and the loss of an independent media. National scientific agencies have been restrained and research corrupted. The payola this administration was caught using regarding journalists and Iraq is appalling. Their failure to enforce anti trust laws against the creation of huge media monopolies has resulted in captains of industry who support the administration controlling the media. Instead of the media being the people’s watchdog of government, they become part of the problem and in doing so weaken America.

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