posted in: The Bigger Picture | 0


Earlier this year, acclaimed author, historian, and general all-around polymath Laura Knight-Jadczyk wrote an extremely interesting article entitled “Bizzaro World“. In it, she discusses the concept of doublespeak and doubletalk, described with those names by George Orwell and Andrew Lobaczewski respectively in their writings:

Doublethink leads us to ‘Doublespeak’ which does not actually appear in Orwell’s book [1984] though he did talk about it in his essays “Politics and the English Language“, where he says “unscrupulous politicians, advertisers, religionists, and other doublespeakers of whatever stripe continue to abuse language for manipulative purposes”. 5

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms”. 6

“Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs, “servicing the target” for bombing[Pentagon Is Given an Award, but It’s No Prize”. The New York Times. November 24, 1991.]), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.” 7

Edward S. Herman, political economist and media analyst, describes in his book, Beyond Hypocrisy the principal characteristics of doublespeak:

“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.” 8

In his seminal work, Political Ponerology,14 psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski discusses the issue of what he terms “Doubletalk” at various points in his text. The first mention of the term comes in the section on Ideology where he notes that a group – any group and that includes national governments, international organizations, religions, etc – that has been infiltrated by pathological individuals, begins by gradually adapting the primary ideology and goals from the original formative ones, to what usually are completely opposite purposes. In other words, it can be a transformation of Earth to ‘Htrea’ – Bizarro World. This process leads to a sort of layering, or schizophrenia of ideology. The outer layer, or circle, still adheres to the original content that was advertised at the beginning as the group’s purposes; this layer is aimed at the lower-echelon members and the public. But within the inner circles, the core of the group, it is completely understood that the words have different meanings; that identical names signify different content. Lobaczewski notes that this very duality of language is a symptom of the transformation of the group into a Bizarro World. Lobaczewski notes:

“Doubletalk is only one of many symptoms. Others are the specific facility for producing new names which have suggestive effects and are accepted virtually uncritically…” [p. 191]

He then notes that there are certain characteristics that are additional symptoms of the pathological nature of such a group:

“We must thus point out the paramoralistic character and paranoidal qualities frequently contained within these names. The action of paralogisms and paramoralisms in this deformed ideology… Anything which threatens pathocratic rule becomes deeply immoral.” [p. 191]

Doubletalk can take many forms, ranging from the more benign, like puns and double entendres, to the more sinister, such as equivocation and insinuation. Anyone with any kind of observant mind these days will have assuredly noticed the verbal torrents of doubletalk that spew forth from the mouths of Western politicians. But it’s not just politicians. Deviant ‘humans’ of all stripe occupy positions in fields of science, media, industry, healthcare, academia… and they all operate under a shared assumption – the assumption that those ‘others’ (i.e. normal human beings with feelings) must be destroyed, dominated, or at the very least, controlled.

And doubletalk is a principal means of control for them – the “sound and fury, signifying nothing” that spreads the confusion, doubt and plausible lies that can cause naive human beings to act contrary to their own best interests. For example, on the subject of Syria, US president Barack Obama recently stated:

The Russians now have been there for several weeks, over a month, and I think fair-minded reporters who looked at the situation would say that the situation hasn’t changed significantly. […]

Now, where we continue to have an ongoing difference is not on the need for a political settlement; it’s the issue of whether Mr. Assad can continue to serve as President while still bringing the civil war to an end.  It’s been my estimation for five years now that that’s not possible.  Regardless of how you feel about Mr. Assad — and I consider somebody who kills hundreds of thousands of his own people illegitimate — but regardless of the moral equation, as a practical matter, it is impossible for Mr. Assad to bring that country together and to bring all the parties into an inclusive government.  It is possible, however, to preserve the Syrian state, to have an inclusive government in which the interests of the various groups inside of Syria are represented.

And so, as part of the Vienna process, you’re going to see the opposition groups — the moderate opposition groups that exist within Syria — some of which, frankly, we don’t have a lot in common with but do represent significant factions inside of Syria — they’ll be coming together in order for them to form at least a negotiating unit or process that can move Vienna forward.

Now, there are outright lies there – Assad killing hundreds of thousands of his own people, for instance – but the doubletalk is in the more subtle details. For instance, the adjective “fair-minded” likely means something other than the literal meaning of fair-minded, given that it is followed by a blatant lie – “the situation hasn’t changed significantly.” A truly fair-minded reporter would have to admit the situation in Syria has changed very significantly since Russia began its military campaign in Syria, not least with the recent disruption of the ISIS oil-trafficking black market to Turkey – a black market that high-level officials in the Turkish government have been involved in.

Then there are contradictory terms like “moral equation” and “moderate opposition”, as if morality could be somehow ‘calculated’ (a paramoralism itself), and alleged ‘opposition groups’ (in reality a covert proxy army of mercenaries) who start a civil war against ‘their’ government could be somehow “moderate”.

Then there is the double mention of “inclusive government” in as many sentences, a phrase which likely sounds wonderful to the Democrat party faithful in the US, but no doubt means something quite different to the US State Department.

The problem goes much deeper than that, of course – these are fairly mild examples. As to what can be done about it, Laura points to one suggestion Lobaczewski makes:

At this point, Lobaczewski makes a very useful suggestion regarding how to cope with this need to become fluent in the language of Doublespeak/Doubletalk for our own protection:

“We thus have the right to invent appropriate names which would indicate the nature of the phenomena as accurately as possible, in keeping with our recognition and respect for the laws of the scientific methodology and semantics. Such accurate terms also serve to protect our minds from the suggestive effects of those other names and paralogisms, including the pathological material the latter contain.” [p.191]

The word Lobaczewski invented to explain this field of research, ponerology, is itself an example of this principle at work. The book contains many other suggestions, but at the very least, we all need to start pointing out the doubletalk of politicians and authoritarians if we expect to have any hope of finding our way out of the Bizarro World situation in which we find ourselves.

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