March 4, 2011

Newspeak vs. Euphemism


Orwell’s concept of Newspeak was actually relatively naive and unsophisticated compared to the real life practice among the purveyors of euphemism.
If we can say that there’s a roughly finite body of knowledge which is critical for most people to know, then Newspeak sought to artificially diminish the knowledge itself by paring down the number of words which could be used to communicate it.
Capitalist euphemism has gone in the opposite direction. It wants to vastly expand the number of words and terms beyond the extent of the actual content they convey. I’m not referring to similar denotations with different connotations. Connotation is content, and is the lifeblood of literature, philosophy, and all expression which makes us human.
By bloodless euphemism I mean terms which not only do not connote but which attenuate even the denotation.
This thought was sparked when I read this comment at this thread (an excellent blog with good comment threads, although I haven’t commented there yet):

“Spatial deconcentration” Now that’s a bit of Newspeak for you! Your point about the paradoxical double object of urban renewal is well taken. As I recall, when there were plans to build a stadium for the 49ers out at Hunters Point, there were similar plums offered about better housing and shopping amenities for the African Americans who already lived there. It didn’t sound believable then either.

“Spatial deconcentration”. It’s not really meant to convey any content, is it? Rather just a vague sense that something will be done which the good middle class citizen shouldn’t investigate too closely. If one’s social indoctrination is sufficiently intact, such terms are sufficient narcotics. By conveying no content it touches no inherent emotional buttons. It doesn’t generate innate resistance. By sounding innocuous and very boring it also tends to repel interest in its underlying subject, whatever that may be.
By contrast Newspeak has too much brutal honesty to it, and even the earlier generation of euphemism like “urban renewal” was too specific, conveyed too much meaning, promised too much.
That post was also interesting in how it was another manifestation of the liberal collaboration with predator capitalism, like I had just read about at Naked Capitalism regarding the pro-MBS alliance of the banksters, corporate liberals like the CAP, and alleged “progressives” like affordable housing advocates.
Here’s part of my comment there:

Yves: “For reasons I cannot fathom, the traditional affordable housing-banking coalition is still holding together on this issue. It should be clear by now that affordable housing programs and mortgage finance are two separate beasts, and the extent of the sops demanded by the banksters mean affordable housing goals will take a back seat.”

That’s classic liberal behavior, which in turn is part of the neoliberal corporate strategy. Most of them are corrupt and just want a cheap reward for helping with the scam, while the idealist “progressives” are cowards who cling desperately to the few crumbs they can still get through this collaboration, even when it becomes clear that the crumbs themselves will be taken away.

No matter how many times history proves this will always fail, the liberal pathology keeps repeating it, calling themselves “pragmatic” by way of delusional compensation.

This is similar to the argument I keep having with liberals and technophiles over the green energy scam. How under kleptocracy taxpayer subsidy of “green energy”, electric cars, etc. will never result in an egalitarian deployment of solar and wind energy and a People’s Electric Car (if that could work, why wasn’t oil deployed that way?), but will only go to prop up the luxury of the rich and the police state. Therefore any such subsidy is a loss to the people, both in the money stolen from us and in how the result is a further weapon against us. I wrote about this at greater length here, here, and here.
One big difference is that at least where it comes to housing and energy technology we’re at least talking about actual things in the real economy. But the GSE “debate” is over purely fictional, vaporous, parasitic financialization – securitization and mortgage debt. As I said in the first part of my comment there:

The only reason anyone would want to prop up the very existence of MBS is to serve the banksters, since we know securitization serves no social or economic purpose whatsoever, but is purely destructive.

So this entire debate is false and demented, since it’s purely over what’s the best way to continue enslaving humanity to the banks. Assuming the continued existence of mortgages at all, there’s only one rational, moral, and practical answer here: End securitization and restore the old way of local lending, local filing, and local repose of the loan. No one can give an answer which hasn’t been proven to be a lie as to why we need or want anything more than that……

We need to break the bank tyranny completely and abolish all concept of REO and mortgages.

What we really need to do is transcend this antiquated ideology of landed property and debt completely.

It’s clear that we need to abolish both financialization and capitalism itself. Since liberalism inherently supports and seeks to aggrandize both of these, it follows that we need to transcend liberalism. At best it’s a failed ideology and strategy, and by now it’s far worse. It’s intentionally pernicious.
Toward the goal of true political and economic democracy, even Newspeak would be an improvement over the euphemism adored by liberals and other corporatists.


  1. Good morning Russ,

    Before I catch up on my ‘must read’ Attempter blogs, I want you to know that it is very difficult to find your web site using the search engines.

    My computer with all my bookmarked web sites is unavailable to me until it gets fixed, so I’m doing my best using a friend’s computer with no history, etc.

    Typing ‘attempter’ in the URL and in the browser doesn’t work. The only way I was able to find your site was by typing attempter with wordpress. There must be some way of fixing that.

    Comment by LeeAnne — March 4, 2011 @ 8:12 am

    • Hi LeeAnne,

      Sorry to hear you’re having trouble.

      I just tried the URL attempter.wordpress.com and it worked fine.

      Googling “attempter” or typing that into the URL both gave Volatility as the second response.

      (Then the first specific blog post was on the fourth page. Argh. But lots about suicide attempters, in case I got too depressed about that poor showing.)

      Comment by Russ — March 4, 2011 @ 10:05 am

      • Thank you. I’m concerned about the difficulty others may have locating your blog; its no trouble for me. I noticed the problem because my computer, now out of commission, is linked to it. Yes, ‘attempter wordpress’ does work fine. But that’s very likely not something that would be known or remembered by someone looking for your work, Russ.

        Comment by LeeAnne — March 4, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

      • Thanks, LeeAnne. I know I’ve been lax about trying to push awareness of this site. That’s something I need to work on.

        I think now that I’m wrapping up the basic exposition (this corporatism series was the last basic idea set I wanted to express) and I’m going to switch mostly to discussing tone, organization, and strategy/tactics, I’ll also work more on engaging a wider audience.

        Comment by Russ — March 5, 2011 @ 5:48 am

    • You can also head over to nakedcapitalism and look at almost any comment thread. Russ’ “attempter” handle links to here.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 4, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

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