A Glossary of Treason
George Orwell predicted "Newspeak", but it was Right-Wing politicians, conservative cable news hosts and social media which gave it life ...
“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc (English Socialism) but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”
— 1984 — APPENDIX: The Principles of Newspeak, George Orwell
For a large, angry mob obsessed with allegedly upholding the U.S. Constitution, losing their freedom, Communism, fighting equal rights, and stifling voting rights, it’s rather curious that so many adherents of the new American Conservatism — Trumpism — have become such ardent “English Socialists” with a penchant for the linguistic gymnastics that make up George Orwell’s authoritarian “Newspeak”.
But, then again, Orwell, the noted author, and anti-authoritarian Cassandra turned out to be a right-wing snitch who in 1949 accused 38 British public figures of being Communists or “fellow travelers”, spilling the beans to a semi-secret British government propaganda unit called, appropriately enough, the Information Research Department.
Hypocrisy aside, Orwell was an obsessive linguaphile, who practiced what he preached about the precise use of his native tongue, English to not only explain and illuminate but to exploit and terrorize.
Both his classic novels, “Animal Farm” and “1984” revolve around the authoritarian use of language and propaganda to act as a censor of independent thought and as a cudgel to beat the masses into submission by not just acknowledging the contradictory nature of an idea — “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, “Ignorance is Strength,” “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” — but, that by adopting the language of deception, they become complicit in their own oppression and the oppression of others.
“Soros-funded…” — An anti-semitic trope, used to imply an organization is part of the global Zionist plot. Everything from Black Lives Matter to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing. Often added to a sentence when it’s discovered George Soros’ foundation funded a voting rights effort or bankrolled a democratic movement.
If hijacking hashtags on Twitter — or Fox News luminaries Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson repeating these words and phrases ad nauseam — has taught us anything, it’s that the United States’ far-right has grabbed Newspeak with both hands and run with it.
“Massive voter fraud…” — Roughly translated? “The process works, we lost fairly, so we’re going to steal the next elections through voter intimidation, voter suppression, and actual voter fraud.”
“Mainstream media…” — A pejorative, usually aimed at a news organization that doesn’t take what any Republican says at face value and actually uses facts and data to contradict or even support the statement to further illuminate the reader so they can make up their own minds.
Republican Newspeak often appears when rational people attempt to engage Trump supporters or the Far Right in discussions on social media. It’s a fool’s errand, but, once you understand what they’re actually talking about, avoiding such confrontations is that much easier.
It’s important to remember that Newspeak is a coded language, lousy with dog whistles — Inner City, Sharia Law, and my favorite, States Rights — whose sole purpose is to not appear racist when that’s exactly what the phrase is, it’s exactly what those who use them mean, and they are directed towards people’s fears, superstitions, and biases.
“Inner City” — Following World War II, numerous East coast and Midwest cities experienced an influx of black Americans and other minorities into major urban centers thanks to both the G.I. Bill and President Eisenhower’s Federal Aid Highway Act — this led to “white flight” to the suburbs.
“Sharia Law” — The events of 9/11 and the alleged “War on Terror” brought Islamaphobia home to roost in the United States and with it the Right Wing threat of “Sharia Law” standing in for straightforward anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment.
“States Rights” — Ah, this old Confederacy chestnut. Racists and Confederacy apologists use this fall-back phrase and argument to defend the treason that led to the Civil War in the guise of pushing back alleged “federal overreach”.
The words and phrases usually appear when the Trump mob assaults an idea they don’t agree with or barely understand; often just to “own the libtards”, just to be contrarian, or they haven’t read beyond the headline because it is a New York Times, Washington Post, or Huffington Post story:
“Biden crime family…” — Canard: Usually brought up when Trump or a member of his family, his extended family, or current or former employees are arrested, indicted, or associated with a criminal or civil investigation.
“Hunter Biden's laptop…” — See above.
“Leftist…” — Slur: Usually aimed at anyone who believes corporations should be taxed and that loopholes that favor industry and the wealthy should end. (Or anyone who supports “Black Lives Matter”. Or anyone who takes issue with the extrajudicial murders of unarmed suspects — mostly minorities — by law enforcement. Or anyone who believes in government and corporate accountability and transparency. Or anyone who actually read The Sermon on the Mount, AKA the Beatitudes, and understood that Jesus was, actually, a Leftist.)
“Woke…” — Slur: Woke was appropriated from progressive circles where it’s used as an adjective defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as being “alert to injustice in society, especially racism”. However, in Newspeak, it roughly translates into, “snowflakes who won’t let me be a racist/bigot/sexist jerk”.
“Media elite…” — Slur: Any multimillionaire TV news personality who ISN’T Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, or Laura Ingraham. Any journalist that doesn’t parrot GOP talking points.
“(I/we/they) refuse to live in fear…” — Usually a Second Amendment activist/delusional paranoid who needs an AK-47 to go to Costco, but won’t wear a disposable facemask out of a sense of social responsibility and care and compassion for their fellow American (see Leftist/Sermon on the Mount).
“But, her emails…” — Canard: Probably the greatest example of Republican “whataboutism”, this is often used to deflect from actual crimes committed by Trump and his administration.
“Benghazi…” — Deflection: After 10 hearings costing upward of US$7 million, with six of the hearings being show trials sponsored by Republicans, they failed to prove anything negative or criminal about Hilary Clinton’s handling of the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Libya in 2012. (See, “But, her emails…”)
“Stop the Steal” — Loosely translated, means: “Protect, white heterosexual Protestant Christian hegemony at all cost, even if it means trashing the principals and rule of law on which the country was founded.”
“Political prisoner” — Anyone being duly and legally investigated, arrested, charged, tried, and convicted for their role in the attempted violent, Right-wing, white supremacist coup on January 6, 2021.
The correlation between Newspeak and Hate Speech can’t be overstated.
In the week leading up to the United States 2022 midterm elections, Double Verify, the digital media analytics firm reported a marked increase in hate speech on social media platforms surrounding three particular topics — The attack on Nancy Pelosi’s spouse, Paul Pelosi, a Herschel Walker abortion accuser, and former President Donald Trump’s ongoing legal troubles in New York State — all issues which were quickly engulfed in conspiracy theories regarding that old Newspeak gem, The Deep State.
“The Deep State” – This is a shadowy group of people, faceless and nameless, yet influential members of government agencies, the NSA, or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of not just the U.S. government, but global corporations and foreign governments. (See, Soros Funded)
The battle over the future of Twitter, while predominantly a revenue issue, is integrally linked to the type of content the social media platform’s users are posting. Conservatives, like born-again Republican and new Twitter CEO Elon Musk, see content moderation for Hate Speech and misinformation (a category not too dissimilar from Newspeak) as a betrayal of the First Amendment and the right to free speech.
And while Musk pledged to potential advertisers that "Twitter cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!" He went ahead and fired a large number of the content moderation team, those responsible for monitoring Tweets and complaints that users may have violated Twitter’s Terms of Service even as dozens of advertisers paused campaigns with several global brands, like Balenciaga, and celebrities, like Woopie Goldberg and Musk’s ex-, Amber Heard, abandoning the platform entirely.
Moving forward, Twitter might not be relevant to this conversation as Musk's imperious management style, like his media sales acumen, appears to also be driving out whatever remaining employees the company has left.
“Intellectual Elites” — Condescending term for college-educated East or West coast progressives and liberals who are obviously out of touch with real — read as white, non-college-educated, blue-collar — Americans.
The greatest example of the Newspeak/Hate Speech cross-pollination had to be the Paul Pelosi attack which was amplified by not just Right-Wing commentators like Tucker Carlson, but actual Republican politicians, both mid-term candidates and those serving in Congress.
The misinformation regarding Paul Pelosi was a response to the revelation that his attacker, David DaPape, while not a Trump supporter, per se, appeared to believe in “Stop the Steal” among other conspiracies.
Within days of the attack, conservatives created the narrative that DePape was a gay male prostitute and Pelosi was his john and the attack was a tryst gone wrong. The narrative descended quickly into a homophobic free-for-all with Chief Twit himself, Musk, retweeting the conspiracy before quickly deleting the post.
Speaking with National Public Radio, Jared Holt, an extremism and disinformation researcher at the nonprofit Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said many on the right believe "the CIA set (the Pelosi attack) up to attack conservatives. And then there is the more sanitized version of, you know, just asking questions and just wondering what's going on here when really the evidence is there."
The language of conservative Newspeak all has one thing in common, the words, phrases, and their implied meanings are not driven by healthy skepticism, but by a kind of cynicism and resentment borne of existential dread that someone or something is out to get them.
That the rights delineated in the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law which followed were only meant for them — predominantly white, allegedly Christian heterosexuals — and not for the descendants of slaves, or the non-European immigrants now changing the country’s social, cultural, and racial demographics.
And while the vocabulary of Newspeak presents itself as a benign interpretation or reinterpretation of often banal words and phrases, they are actually a call to arms that helps conservatives — the much-vaunted, but aggrieved “Us” — identify the unwashed immigrants, elites, and takers — the loathsome “Them”.
When it comes down to it, Republican or conservative Newspeak doesn't even pretend to support U.S. democracy at this point, it’s just too democratic, too socialist; too messy. It’s now the codified language of bigotry, class resentment, treason, and unfortunately, and possibly inevitably, violence.
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