Modern Newspeak Dictionary


In this day and age it can be hard to traverse the torrent of media driven buzzwords, technical jargon and PR spin designed as much to obfuscate and muddy the waters as to clarify and enlighten. In the interests of promoting media literacy and general understanding then we present here the following guide to many of the more ideologically emburdened terms in current usage.

Adjustment, quantitative, n.

Actual meaning: Socialism for the rich.

Usage: The government gave big business the entire nation’s GDP not to move to China, thereby stimulating economic growth and making everyone say, ‘wow, quantitative adjustment is amazing.’

Adjustment, structural, n.

Actual meaning: War by other means.

Usage: Used to be we would invade you and take all your stuff at the wrong end of a musket or sword or an MG-42. Now we get the same results with an IMF plan to service your debts. The note passed to the teller by the jumpy looking guy in the overcoat read: ‘Adjust the structure of your till into this bag and don’t look at anybody or say nothing.’

Attack, n.

Actual meaning: Criticism.

Usage: As someone in a powerful position, I don’t feel like having to be responsible for the consequences of my actions today, or any other day. I think I’ll just conflate being criticized and being attacked and play the victim so that I can shift the blame for them back onto my critics and anyone trying to hold me accountable for my actions. Then I’ll reconstruct myself as a champion of democracy in the face of the terrorist peril with the aid of the mass media woohoo!

Bias, n.

Actual meaning: Impartial.

Usage: The national broadcaster was very biased in its factual reporting of government corruption and the revolving door between it and big business. In giving air to perspectives other than the far one I agree with the fact is it was revealing itself to be a hotbed of communist insurgency.

Chaos, n.

Actual meaning: Functional.

Usage: We can either have a society in which the entirety of the legislative and juridical process is dominated by and functions to uphold the tiniest minority of the mega-rich at the expense of the other 99% of the population or we can have chaos.

Civilisation, western, n.

Actual meaning: War of all against all.

Usage: A kind of casino economy based on the jungle morality of winner-take-all and survival of the fittest is the crowning glory of western civilization.

Communist (1), n.

Actual meaning: Independent thinker.

Usage: If you think for yourself, the communists win.

Communist (2), n.

Actual meaning: State capitalists you want everyone to think are communists.

Usage: The Soviet Union with its police state, bloated bureaucracy and marked class hierarchies were a perfect example of communism in practice, if not a good reason never to try to do anything meaningful about injustice and institutional insanity at home.

Creation, Job, n.

Actual meaning: Exploitation of workers, women, subject peoples, the Earth, the flaura and fauna and in fact the perpetration of practically any old dodgy shit you can imagine that requires the labour of workers to be implemented.

Usage: Emperor Palpatine announced the construction of a new and even more powerful Death Star, signaling a major boon for job creation.

Democracy, n.

Actual meaning: Corporate plutocracy.

Usage: Well you have a choice of voting between the pro-big business party from the far right or the pro-big business party from the far right, that’s the difference between democracy and dictatorship, where you have no choice at all.

Domino, n.

Actual meaning: Independent.

Usage: Endor has rebelled against the Empire, which loves it and knows what’s best and is being horribly mistreated by ungrateful, bearlike savages who have only a primitive culture and who not even understand the gift of civilization the Empire is attempting to bestow on them. This is the latest in a series of planets to fall prey to the sweeping domino effect put into motion by the insurgent hordes lead by the cultish Jedi renegades.

Entitlement, n.

Actual meaning: Right.

Usage: We had to cut back on the amount of oxygen entitlements in the atmosphere in the name of maintaining a competitive economy.

Exposure, n.

Actual meaning: Subject to market forces.

Usage: We had to get all the states of the Eurozone involved in reaching an agreement to reduce Greece to a nervous wreck huddled up sucking its thumb in a foetal position in the corner so that a bunch of bank could avoid the dire perils of unnecessary exposure; as any halfwit can tell you that’s a resoundingly obvious textbook example of what free market economics is all about.

Extremist, n.

Actual meaning: Not us.

Usage: The extremist demonising critics and anyone daring to contradict him by conflating criticism of his ideas and attacks on his person, while refusing to acknowledge any grey area between the absolutist black and whites, played the victim and blamed the victims of his own aggression as a way of avoiding have to deal with his own unwillingness to be accountable for the consequences of his actions, was not serving our interests. On that basis he was therefore wrong.

Fact, n.

Actual meaning: A stick to beat your enemies with.

Usage: The fact is that what they are doing is completely unjustifiable. When we do it it’s because disagreeing with us gives aid to the terrorists.

Faith, n.

Actual meaning: Blind obedience.

Usage: How’s about you start batting for the home team for a change and demonstrating a little faith in the Prime Minister.

Freedom, n.

Actual meaning: Slavery.

Usage: We are free to choose our masters instead of having them imposed on us, and to be exploited for wages constituting merely a proportion of the value we create ourselves, which is given back to us while the master who does nothing steals the rest, by the one we like best. We are free to choose between the pro-big business party on the right and the pro-big business party on the right at the ballot box. We have all the freedom we could ask for. Stop whining, you dirty, ungrateful communist. We are free. Keep repeating: we are free.

Growth, economic, n.

Actual meaning: Protecting and extending social and economic privilege at the expense of all other considerations.

Usage: We must reintroduce chattel slavery as a means of boosting economic growth.

Guilt, n.

Actual meaning: Self-awareness.

Usage: You and your endless guilt-mongering, I’m sick of being made to feel guilty for being a white middle class male who could time travel back 500 years and still move about freely without being molested or killed by Jim Crow, slave traders or witch hunters.

Hate, n.

Actual meaning: Criticism.

Usage: When I pointed out to the Muslim he was a backwards savage who subscribed to a religion fundamentally at odds with a civilised society while denying it was racist to establish a false binary between a heavily racialised concept of a national way of life and a religious belief system in the face of elementary logic demonstrating that it is, he reacted with a colossal amount of hate.

Horse, trojan, n.

Actual meaning: Something I happen not to like but don’t have a good argument against.

Usage: Environmentalist politics are a Trojan Horse for A Neo-Stalinist Dystopia featuring sentient communist robots who use human beings as batteries to power their society and keep them docile by plugging them all into a virtual reality false consciousness made up of a universe governed by the rules outlined in the literary output of Ayn Rand.

Jobs, n.

Actual meaning: Profits.

Usage: As everyone knows, the main reason anyone ever goes into business is because of the jobs motive.

Leftist, n.

Actual meaning: angry ghetto troll.

Usage: Don’t mind that angry ghetto troll, he’s just a leftist.

Mongering, fear, n.

Actual meaning: Science.

Usage: The scientific community is engaging in a great deal of fear mongering over the data surrounding climate change. I believe some of them are even playing into the hands of the dirty evil communists who are trying to cast doubt on the glorious beneficence of the almighty dollar, blessed be its name.

Newspaper, n.

Actual meaning: Propaganda.

Usage: I understood how you can have all the answers without knowing what the question is after I had finished reading the newspaper.

Power, hostile, n.

Actual meaning: Foreign power not able to be walked over.

Usage: The government of one particular foreign country had enough leverage over the United States to say ‘no’ to it about some things; it was therefore deemed to be a Hostile Power.

Practical, n.

Actual meaning: Opportunist.

Usage: When I argued we should move all the Muslims into internment camps for the sake of national security I was merely being practical.

Principles, n.

Actual meaning: Something you remember when criticizing your enemies.

Usage: When we wanted to criticize North Korea we suddenly remembered that police states are bad.

Realism, n.

Actual meaning: Whatever serves the status quo and the vested interests behind it.

Usage: That’s very interesting what you say about the golden rule being that those with gold make the rules and that, since the primary function of all governments is to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority, as James Madison put it, the only major problem with getting rid of states when it come to protecting society from thugs and criminals is making sure they’re not able to form another government. I on the other hand feel that we should accommodate power structures, reasoning being because I think I have a better handle on reality than you.

Refugee, n.

Actual meaning: Scapegoat.

Usage: With the global economy and the global geopolitical situation both being up the spout and us not having any solution on how to deal with either that would involve making any changes or accommodations ourselves, we were very glad that the chaos it was producing was also generating a steady flow of refugees.

Relations, public, n.

Actual meaning: Corporate propaganda.

Usage: We are not trying to put a positive spin on the lies we want to tell, we are employing a Public Relations expert.

Security, national, n.

Actual meaning: Security of the special interests.

Usage: When we had finished passing the legislation making it illegal for anyone to say bad things about corporations, especially where the revolving door between government and military contractors was concerned, and making the casting of doubt about the merit of corporations punishable by a life sentence in a privately-run work prison making iPhones for two cents a month, I made a statement to the press pointing out the necessity of doing so in the interests of defending national security.

Self-loathing, n.

Actual meaning: The capacity for self-criticism.

Usage: Those leftists sure display a lot of self-loathing about their privilege where their class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, religion and nationality are concerned.

Soft, n.

Actual meaning: Restrained.

Usage: Anyone against turning the government into a police state is soft on terrorism.

Terrorist (1), n.

Actual meaning: Not us.

Usage: The terrorist using arbitrary violence outside of all international law and United Nations oversight to achieve political ends wasn’t working for us.

Terrorist (2), n.

Actual meaning: Not working for the state.

Usage: The terrorist using arbitrary violence outside of all international law and United Nations oversight to achieve political ends wasn’t flying a drone around Pakistan from the safety of a control room in the Midwest while chomping down on a bag of Doritos.

Terrorist (3), n.

Actual meaning: Person with brown skin.

Usage: When I was sitting in Harry’s House of Saturated Fat waiting for a plate of puppy ribs, a terrorist smiled at me when they were walking past.

Terrorism, Counter, n.

Actual meaning: State terrorism; us.

Usage: We decided to employ arbitrary state violence outside of all international law and United Nations oversight and in the face of the manifest opposition of a great wave of public opposition because we felt that this was the best way to engage in counter-terrorism and defend the principles we maintain a thin pretense of understanding, I mean giving two fucks about, I mean upholding.

Voter, n.

Actual meaning: Mark.

Usage: As the voter approached me and the shills from the opposition party got ready to move the policy shells around as though there was any way we would ever in a million years let him find a pea of enfranchisement; I knew then we would take that gullible fucker for everything he was worth.

Welfare, n.

Actual meaning: The tiny proportion that goes to the poor.

Usage: The government introduced a bill to scrap welfare as an enabler of the lazy to sit around and leech off the taxpayer, with a rider approving another eleventy trillion dollars in tax breaks for companies posting more than $100 quarterly profit.

War (1), n.

Actual meaning: Disobedience.

Usage: Saddam declared war on us by refusing to make his oil reserves and other natural resources available to us at a good price and by not doing what he was told.

War (2), n.

Actual meaning: Turkey shoot.

Usage: The drone war in Pakistan killed tens of thousands of non-combatants and people who were determined to be terrorists after they were dead by remote controlled drones.

Work, n.

Actual meaning: Wage-slavery.

Usage: Entrepreneurs! Don’t tie up valuable capital in your slaves – lease them instead! Sick and tired of the hassles associated with having to feed, clothe and house your slaves? With our new system of wage labour, you can still exploit them, and with the fraction of the value they create you pay them in wages they can do the job themselves!

This dictionary is a work-in-progress. CounterPunchers should send potential entries with the subject line “Newspeak” to: counterpunch@counterpunch.org.  

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Ben Debney is a PhD candidate in International Relations at Deakin University, Burwood, Melbourne. He is studying moral panics and the political economy of scapegoating. Twitter: @itesau  

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