General Question

ETpro's avatar

Should the mainstream media just use Newspeak or call it out?

Asked by ETpro (34550points) May 30th, 2012

George Orwell gave us the concept of Newspeak in his famous novel, 1984. Perhaps his timing wasn’t as far off as we imagined. That seems to be about the time that Newspeak, as in reversing or redefining the meaning of politically powerful words, began to take hold.

If you look up “conservative” in the dictionary, you find out that it’s a good thing. According to Merriam-Webster conservative means:
3 a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : traditional
   b : marked by moderation or caution <a conservative estimate>
   c : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners

But the far right that has taken over the Republican party claims to be the true conservatives while campaigning for the destruction of just about every social institution that has emerged in America since 1900. They would like to get rid of unions, get rid of the minimum wage, get rid of regulatory agencies, kill all social welfare programs, privatize schools and prisons, destroy the Post Office, cut taxes for the wealthy so deeply that they shrink government to the point they can drown it in a bathtub

Liberal also has a positive meaning according to the dictionary:
2 a: marked by generosity : openhanded <a liberal giver>
   b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way <a liberal meal>
   c: ample, full
4 not literal or strict : loose <a liberal translation>
5 broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms

Communism and socialism both, according to the dictionary, define systems of government and economics in which the state owns all means of production and distribution of wealth. In other words, everyone works for the central government and is paid by it, and the only banking available is a government bank. But that’s the dictionary. In Newspeak, anybody who isn’t willing to let the children of the poor starve and go homeless, anyone who actually acts like a dictionary defined conservative and works to maintain existing social order and structure; is a communist, socialist, pig.

Back when Barry Goldwater tried and failed to take over the Republican party for the far right, the effort to demonize the word “Liberal” began; and we started down the road to political Newspeak. Newt Gingrich and Lee Atwater were relentless in their use of propaganda aimed at this objective. The GOP succeeded to the point that liberal is often termed the “L” word these days. Rather than defend the good that is liberalism, liberals let this Newspeak takeover happen. They started calling themselves Progressives. So now that word is under attack by the word demonizers as well. Even the word, “moderate” is now under a pejorative. Tea Party Republicans in several states ran ads accusing their incumbent primary opponent of being a “moderate” as if there is something wrong with that. What’s the opposite of moderate? Immoderate, isn’t it? Is being immoderate now a good thing?

Isn’t it time that journalists, schooled in what words actually mean, start challenging Newspeak? What is the opposite of Progressive? Isn’t it Regressive? And isn’t regressive exactly what you would call someone today who wants to take America back to the 1800s or perhaps even to feudalism with landed gentry and serfs. How about we stop the Newspeak and start calling things what they really are?

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13 Answers

Nullo's avatar

Who do you think is helping to drive the change? “Newspeak” is the domain of everybody with an agenda. And just about everybody has an agenda, including the media.

zenvelo's avatar

That’s a great summary of the use of labels in politics. And yes, I would hope that a fearless yet neutral press would call people out on it. But I fear there is no really neutral press.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Languages change and evolve. Although current usage has veered away from the dictionary meanings, this isn’t new and it isn’t exclusive to politics.

On a highly technical basis, you make a good observation, but it’s not meaningful (except for historical purposes) because languages evolve over time.

ragingloli's avatar

Big mistake.
Communism and Socialism mean ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution by the community, not by the state.
The latter of the two, state control, or the state acting as a single large corporation, was referred to by Engels as “State Capitalism”, or the final stage of capitalism.
In fact, under Communism, the state as an entity is supposed to be abolished completely.

DaisyMae's avatar

You determined that “conservative” as defined by Merriam-Webster is a “good thing.” In my opinion, breaking down barriers and challenging social norms is the good thing.

Jaxk's avatar

You seem to be trying to draw a clear line in a process that is more of a continuum. When does Government regulation of the means of production become control? When does the control of wages both minimum and maximum, become socialistic? How much government ownership of the means of production does it take to be communistic? When taxes are used to redistribute wealth and level the income of all citizens, is that socialistic?

You’re trying to use a dictionary definition that pertains to a liberal helping of spaghetti, rather than an ideology. Or a conservative stock portfolio, rather than an ideology. It doesn’t work. Progressive is an insurance company.

wundayatta's avatar

I through progressive was a kind of dinner party.

Conservative is a kind of hat.

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo No question the Media has an agenda. And since today’s media is increasingly under centralized control of a few multinational corporations, one might guess that corporatism wouldn’t be high on their list of things to fight against.

@zenvelo There is new Media emerging all the time. I don’t think this is an insoluble problem. In fact I think solutions are developing, and discussions like this help funnel into that effort.

@elbanditoroso Languages do evolve over time. I pointed that exact thing out here at the bottom of the post in a response to @josie. But note that this quotes English circa 1400, and the modern English translation to the right shows us the words haven’t changed much in meaning, just spelling and pronunciation. And that’s for evolution over 600 + years. We;re talking here about words that have not evolved but flip-flopped in meaning in one twentieth of that time or less, That’s not evolution, it’s revolution. And I am constantly amazed at how many people will go through logical contortions that leave them twisted into a pretzel just to insist that everything is just as it has always been. It is NOT. We have never before had a US congress seriously considering deliberately defaulting on our debt obligations, risking destroying the full faith and credit of our nation, just to prove compromise of any kine is bad.

@ragingloli You’re talking theoretical Communism as advanced in 19th century philosphy texts. The dictionary definition touches on that meaning, but concentrates on what actual communist examples we have to observe, Here it is:
1 a : a theory advocating elimination of private property
   b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
2 capitalized
   a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
   b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production
   c : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably
   d : communist systems collectively

Examples of COMMUNISM

On one side stood Hitler, fascism, the myth of German supremacy; on the other side stood Stalin, communism, and the international proletarian revolution. —Anne Applebaum, New York Review of Books, 25 Oct. 2007

Which makes it all the more comical that right-wing attack machines label the same person as fascist and communist. They were mortal enemies.

And the dictionary on socialism:

1 any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
   a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
   b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3 a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

@DaisyMae Welcome to Fluther. Yes, both conservationism and liberalism are good. We should not tear down a fence before we know what it was built to keep out. Conservative. When we find the fence was really built to keep us in, and there are better pastures beyond it, we should tear it down. Liberalism. Both are needed in a rational mix if you are ever to acheive good governance.

@Jaxk Once again, you wish to take any slightest deviation from the perfection of one extreme, and insist that proves the other extreme is correct. Would you honestly say that the US is a communist state just like Cuba, North Korea and China currently are? Would you honestly say that when the wealthiest 400 income tax filers in the us own more financial wealth than the bottom 50% of the nation, we are redistributing the wealth and billionaires are an endangered species, because the Koch brotherw were only able to ammass another $8 billion dollars last year?

I don’t think your spin machine works, my friend.

Jaxk's avatar


It is not me that sees all this in black and white. You seem to take the definition of socialism and since we don’t fully meet the definition we can’t be doing anything socialistic. Unfortunately the world is not black and white but rather shades of grey. When we take over GM that’s not government ownership of private industry because we only own 30% of it. When we take over Freddie and Fannie that’s only 50% of the housing market there are still private lenders. Heavily regulated to be sure but they’re still privately owned. When we take over the student loans, sure it’s government encroachment on private industry but not a complete takeover so it can’t be called socialistic. We have an absolute cap on salaries at GM. But that’s only GM and maybe some of the banks, how could that be called socialistic?

The rich own more than thier fair share of the wealth so we need to take it away and give it to government. Sure that won’t make anyone richer but if we can make the rich poorer, it will look better, be more fair. Nothing socialistic about that, it’s only fair.

It’s not the extreme that is disturbing, it is the direction we are moving. There is a reason that socialism has a bad name, it doesn’t work. It only makes everyone poor. We are not there yet but we’re on the road. If we sow the seeds of success, wealth will grow. But if we kill off the seedlings, we kill off the wealth of the future.

ragingloli's avatar

Of course I am using the meaning of the concepts as intended by its creators, because If I were to rely on what totalitarian dictatorships called and call themselves, both the Soviet Union and East Germany would have to be called “democratic republics”.
The Soviet Union called itself a union of republics and held elections, and East Germany even had “democratic republic” in its official title.

ETpro's avatar

@Jaxk The complaints you list as evidence of socialism are all results of right-wing deregulation and economic policy which had us teetering on the brink of another great depression. And you would fix that by returning to the very policies that pushed the economy into free-fall in the Great Recession of 2007? The Auto industry would be gone from US shores now had we not rescued it. They are prospering, instead, and it appears we the people will make money on the rescue. There’s no intention to own Fannie & Freddie forever either. Student loans may be a different matter. Giving the record of private enterprise profiteering on student loan debt, it may be a business best delivered by government.

As to great wealth, the purpose of progressive taxation and estate taxes are to ensure that all the wealth of a nation doesn’t end up in the hands of a small group of oligarchs. Our tax system allowed plenty of people to get very rich before Reagan made it far more regressive. And it also prevented excessive concentration of wealth which we now have in spades. The bottom quintile rise right along with the top quintile from the turn of the depression up to 1980.

If you really feel oligarchy is the right thing for America, present your case for it. Do you feel that way because you are certain you’ll be one of the oligarchs, or because you just think oligarchy is a superior model for societies, or what?

Jaxk's avatar


I never know how you make these leaps. The auto bailouts were originally intended to keep GM out of bankruptcy. It went bankrupt anyway. GM stock has to go to $51/share for the taxpayer to break even on the investment. Today it is selling for about $21/share. We’re a helluva long ways from making money on that deal. And it was the idiot ‘Cafe Standards’ that opened the door the foriegn imports to begin with. I’m not sure how you figure Freddie and Fannie were deregulated, or what the student loans had to do with the recession. Both seem to be exacerbating the problem rather than fixing it.

All this may have something to do with a basic difference in our understanding of government and taxation. I’ve always believed that taxes (all taxes) were intended to fund government. To provide necessary services. You seem to believe the tax system is designed to keep people from earning too much money. We have a fundamental disagreement on the purpose of the tax system. I know you look at the wealth disparity as a major cause of our problems. Unfortunately when I look around the world, I can’t find anything to justify that theory. For instance China has a higher wealth disparity than we do and their economy is growing like a weed. While Greece has a much lower income disparity and they are dying economically. I know we’ve had this disagreement many times but I really can’t find a way to to get too excited about it.

And finally you delve into this Oligarchy argument. We are ruled by Washington. The wealthy are always trying to curry favor with Washington but the power resides with the politicians not the wealthy. Unless we can limit the enormous power and influence of Washington, this situation will only get worse. Businesses have discovered that if they do not lobby and contribute to Washington Politicians, they are punished. If they do, they are rewarded. You want to blame the rich for this situation when the problem lies with the politicians. When Washington controls every aspect of life and business, lobbying becomes a survival technique. Government control is the bane of our society. Until we figure out how to put limits on it, things will continue to get worse.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Trite, overused and generally misunderstood shorthand does not serve the goal of effective communication or an informed public.

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