A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
February 18, 2002
George Orwell's coinages from the novel 1984 have been used ever since 1949. Two of the most famous are "DoubleSpeak," an official pronouncement that says exactly the opposite of what it means, and "NewSpeak," a somewhat more indirect softening or euphemism rather than flat-out lying.
If these compelling terms have by now become clichés, it is only from being slung around as labels without content. Here, newly relevant in the gusher of news stories about Enron's collapse, are some current Orwellianisms from the public discourse, with definitions from reality:
1. "outsourcing" - no retirement; no group health insurance; a temporary contract instead of continuous employment. No consistent public scrutiny over whether OSHA standards are being met and Social Security and workman's comp are being paid.
2. "career" - some vaguely white-collar office work, ostensibly nonrepetitive, that substitutes a nebulous prestige factor for objective performance standards for promotion or job security. Has no defined hours; no safeguards; no solidarity. Hence, no retirement, etc. See #1.
3. "privatizing" - handing over public functions to private businesses, previously incorporated to defend against litigation. Hence, no public scrutiny of accounting, workplace conditions, or hiring practices. See #2.
4. "(school) vouchers" - handing over public moneys to private schools; a subset of #3. Private schools receive no public oversight and virtually no press/media scrutiny; their records are not available to reporters under FOIA - like state legislation.
5. "street people" - extremely poor or distressed people with no home and no institution to shelter them. Previously called beggars, as in, "When I was a child, growing up in this country, we did not have beggars dropping dead in the streets of American cities." The homeless.
6. "compassionate conservatism" - maintaining an affable demeanor, while opposing health insurance for poor children and cutting funds for mental health and drug treatment programs, rape crisis centers, and homeless shelters. See #5.
7. "tort reform" - legislation designed by lobbyists for corporations, passed by legislators receiving campaign contributions from the same corporations. Prevents redress for ordinary consumers and injured parties in the courts. See #3.
8. "free speech" - tax deduction from the First Amendment. Argument used by lobbyists, corporations and some commentators to justify corporate hiring of lobbyists to alter or write legislation affecting consumers. Tax deductions include cost of hiring the lobbyist, cost of transporting corporate attorneys to interview and do the hiring, cost of the lobbyist's services after being hired; etc.
9. Orwell - real name: Eric Arthur Blair. English author (1903-1950) trained by poverty and private boarding schools who saw as clearly as anyone that language can be used to conceal as well as to reveal. His insights have lost their newness but not their applicability.
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Contributed by BuzzFlash Reader, Margie Burns, Cheverly, Maryland
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