George Orwell, author of 1984, has been rolling in his grave for nigh on 20 years now because the modern conservative movement in the US have become so masterful at using “doublespeak“.  I was trying to write a post about immigration reform when I stumbled across a Fox News article (WARNING:  clicking and reading Fox News may be hazardous to your health) about a group that wants to build a wall all the way across the U.S./Mexican border–all 2,000 miles of it.  Not only is that impractical in both terms of construction costs and the nightmare of logistics in maintenance, it’s not who we should be as a nation.  Anyway, the name of the group advocating the fence?  “Let Freedom Ring, Inc”.  Is it just me or does a wall represent anything but freedom.  Walls force people to stay in and stay out.  It forces someone in authority to monitor that situation and restrict the flow of people through it.  That’s not freedom, it’s increased governmental control.  It’s authoritarianism.

These thoughts prompted me to create a list of my all time favorite “doublespeak” phrases from the GOP and their true meaning.

  • “No Child Left Behind” is really “Every Child Left Behind”–it was a resounding failure and until it was recently reformed, and now it’s only mildly failing.
  • “Compassionate Conservatism” is really “Fuck you, I’ve got mine but I might occasionally donate privately to non-governmental charities so long as I can claim it on my taxes”
  • “Clearing the market” is really “Foreclose on those houses and get it done, quickly so we can get back to making profits”
  • “Class warfare” is really “Any challenge, legitimate or not, against the rich”
  • “All of the Above Energy Policy” is really “No policy, no plan, no diversity, just drill”
  • “Activist Judges” is really “Any judge that makes a decision that doesn’t follow a literal interpretation of the Constitution unless the judge is a conservative, then he/she can do whatever they want”
  • “Patriot Act” is really “The government can spy on you and violate your civil rights and if you don’t like it, you’re not a patriot”
  • “Discovery Institute” is a conservative think-tank.   One might think from the name that they are scientific, looking into new and exciting things that would better society or exploring new frontiers.  Nope.  Their primary purpose is to force Christianity further down the throats of their fellow Americans by advocating for Creationism in Science classes, instructing conservative voters how to vote as God would, etc, etc.  That’s the opposite of discovery.
  • “American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research”  You might think that the term Enterprise refers to Capitalism, so you might expect that their main focus is economic policy.  Nope.  You might expect to see research coming out about what policies worked and what didn’t and then recommendations on what policies the public should implement.  Nope.  See research (in the Social Sciences and Public Policy) is where you start out with a hypothesis, then you do a survey of what’s been implemented and the results, to see if that hypothesis is true or not.   Then you base your recommendations off of that study.  Example Hypothesis:  Alternative sentencing by Drug Courts reduces the rates of incarceration and recidivism (i.e., re-offending).  Example Survey:  There are tons of states who have tried this over the years and in most cases, they found that yes, Drug Courts were helpful in getting drug users out of the system because they increase the odds of the person getting treatment and not just punishment alone.  Example Conclusion:  Drug Courts are recommended and here are some best practices to follow.  The Enterprise Institute does the EXACT opposite. They start with a premise:  defend conservative principles like capitalism and limited government.  So they go out and find examples that support that premise and ignore the ones that don’t.  If they can’t find anything to support their premise, they make stuff up or lie about what they find.  So, no research and no real enterprise.
  • “PEPFAR – President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief” – A G.W. Bush-era law that provided $15 billion to African nations for the relief of AIDS.  What most people don’t know is that there were three VERY big impediments built into the law.  First, the law barred funding for organizations that operate programs overseas but do not have a blanket policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.  On the face that seems reasonable.  But NGO’s (like the Red Cross) don’t have policies like this because those statements alienate the people they are trying to help and gets in the way.  For example, in Africa one of the primary means of HIV transmission was through prostitution.  Such policies would be like setting up a Red Cross tent and then putting a neon sign out front that says, “we hate prostitutes”.  Not too many prostitutes would come to them for medication or counseling and the source of the problem would not be addressed.*  Second, the law required that one-third of all the monies be directed toward abstinence-until-marriage programs and excluded comprehensive approaches, i.e., the NGO’s couldn’t discuss male and female condoms.  Why was this a problem?  Again, it’s societal.  In Africa one of the primary ways that AIDS/HIV was spread was through heterosexual intercourse (this is not true in most other parts of the world).  Not offering condoms and counseling on those methods and telling the average male to simply abstain in most cases means that man will have sex, contract HIV and will pass it on.  Third, the law did not provide any funding for needle exchange programs.  This is a BIG deal and is one the key strategies to preventing the spread of HIV.   So, in essence there was very little actual relief going on and a whole lot of imposition of American Christianist** religious values.  In the end, this law did little to actually help prevent the spread of HIV in Africa and most likely has resulted in more people dying as a result.  Probably should have just called it “PEPFSA – President’s Emergency Plan for Spreading AIDS”.
  • “Mission accomplished” in May 2003, was……do I need to spell it out for ya?

    Mission NOT Accomplished

    Mission NOT Accomplished

_______________________________________________________________________________

Notes:

*Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down this provision of the law by a vote of 6-2 in June 2013.

**I’m going to start referring to the conservative Christian movement in the US as either Christianist or the US Taliban, because they certainly not real Christians.  There are multiple instances in the Bible where Jesus helped someone first without questioning their moral choices in life.  He also looked at people as humans capable of great love and not as just a bundle of past sins that predict future behavior.  We’re all so much more than our past failings, thank goodness!  One of my favorite stories is the time he had dinner with a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50) where a prostitute attended Jesus by washing his feet and anointing him with oil, doing him great honor, whereas the Pharisee did nothing.  Jesus concludes:

“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”  Luke 7:47

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Comments
  1. alopecia says:

    My favorite doublespeak name was the “Clear Skies Initiative” which would have undercut most air-pollution regulations.

    And you were too kind to the Discovery Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. *Far* too kind.

  2. I love this!

    It was very cool to see the correlations betweens 1984, and the deceivingly feel-good terms of the GOP. Education is so complicated though that it’s hard to consider the No Child Left Behind act as a huge step behind (I graduated in Elementary Ed and spent many a nights pondering it).I think we have to completely retool the way we teach children, so for me the No Child seems more like a distraction.

    • drangedinaz says:

      I hear you on the “distraction” part. I’ve a deep and abiding suspicion that any and all educational reform is intended to be at best a distraction and at worst a purposeful attempt to defund public education. If they defund the schools, they’ll get worse. If they get worse, the private companies wanting to take over education as a money making enterprise have all that much more support to do precisely that. And so it goes…..

      • Interesting…..i haven’t thought about it from a private company perspective. What I’ve seen with the Act, and with schools in general, is that teachers and administrators have to spend way too much of their time either A. covering their butts or B. trying to go through a vexing system of bureaucracy.
        Also, poor parenting (negligent parents and helicopter parents) has changed the function of the classroom as well, and that more or less is what precipitated the creation of the act. It’s partly congresses fault, but it’s mostly ours for not understanding how to properly guide our kids.

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