Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II

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.

Anarchy, n.

Actual meaning: Capitalism.

Usage: We didn’t feel like being accountable for capitalism when its shortcomings became too acute to ignore, so when it degenerated into rioting and chaos we washed our hands of responsibility for the circumstances that had created it and attributed it to people who advocate the abolition of all forms of privilege as well as the hierarchies they beget and the development of a decentralized, cooperative economy.


Bipartisanship, n.

Actual meaning: Opportunism.

Usage: The opposition has decided to adopt a bipartisan attitude to the government’s dog-whistling and scare-mongering which is sending its approval ratings through the roof.


Correctness, political, n.

Actual meaning: Challenges to the thought police who defend the status quo.

Usage: I was quite happy shoving my free market ideology down everyone’s throat and conflating being subject either to doubt of my own godlike status, or criticism of my ideas, or both with attacks on my person so that I could demonise and slander anyone whose point of view I didn’t like in the manner of an ideological cop, until someone who obviously some kind of terrorist had the sheer nerve to pointed out that that was in fact what I was doing and that my narcissism, militant ignorance and control freakery weren’t anyone else’s problems but my own. It was clear to me then that I had become subject to political correctness.


Communication, strategic, n.

Actual meaning: Propaganda.

Usage: I went to work for the government explaining to the public why it was good for economic growth and in the national interest that chattel slavery be reintroduced after I had finished my degree in strategic communication.


Explain, n.

Actual meaning: Privilege-splain.

Usage: Well, if privilege has taught me anything, it’s that what the world needs more than anything right now is those with various forms of economic and social privilege to tell those who lack them how they should feel about it.


Fail, too big to, n.

Actual meaning: Market forces are okay as long as they work in our favour.

Usage: The government intervened with trillions in free money to bail out the banks, who were caught short after having approved tens of thousands of home loans for teenagers whose main source of income was their weekly allowance, many of whom failed to receive it as a result of neglecting to take out the trash because they had finally managed to get that cute chick/dude from biology they had been eyeballing to talk to them on Snapchat after dinner on a Tuesday night when the bin was supposed to go out to the curb. They were regarded as being too big to fail.


Gooder, do-, n.

Actual meaning: Someone who actually does good and loves to do a lot of it because they’ve discovered that doing good carries its own inherent reward, and that the more of it you do the more you’re rewarded.

Usage: That miserable do-gooder actually seemed pretty happy and I couldn’t understand why they enjoyed doing positive things so much because the only time I was ever interested in doing anything for anyone other than myself was when I got paid for it.


Heart, bleeding, n.

Actual meaning: Has one.

Usage: The bleeding heart was actually capable of feeling compassion and empathy for others and didn’t just assume that everyone around them was brought into the world to be used and abused for their personal benefit.


Market, free, n.

Actual meaning: State-managed corporate capitalism.

Usage: The bankers sat around in the club smoking cigars and drinking Chivas Regal, which was slumming it a bit admittedly. ’Playing casino with the economy and then getting bailed out by the political class who we own totally rules, we should totally go in for more of the same again in three months’ time when the plebs have forgotten all about this and are too preoccupied about terrorists on welfare or some shit to notice what we’re doing and we’ve made another colossal mountain of money,’ said one of them, to which the rest of the group heartily agreed. They immediately charged their glasses and drank a rowdy toast to the free market.


Government, n.

Actual meaning: The form of misrule that prevents society from degenerating into chaos and lawlessness by perpetrating chaos and lawlessness from the legislature.

Usage: I was thinking about voting in another government, but then I just decided to throw out my history books, dump oil in a national park, give all my money to the opulent, find a random person on the street from a different ethnic background to blame for my own identity crisis and other assorted maladaptive personality traits, and cut out the middleman.


Growth, economic, n.

Actual meaning: Something that sounds like progress but only really amounts to a bribe to not notice the general degeneration of the political culture.

Usage: In the first lecture of my strategic communication class the lecturer explained that no one talks about progress anymore because the very conservative vested interests who dominate the political system don’t want any where it conflicts with their ability to generate profits, so instead we talk about promoting economic growth because as long as most people feel like they can still climb over the heads of everyone else to get ahead they won’t go to the trouble of organizing for meaningful social change everyone can enjoy and benefit from.


Hypocrisy, n.

Actual meaning: Pointing out my double standards.

Usage: The reverse racism of the anti-racists in calling out my racism for the racism that it is and refusing to let me play the victim by choosing not to tell the difference between criticism of my ideas and attacks on my person was a classic example of left-wing hypocrisy.


Individuality, n.

Actual meaning: Deviance.

Usage: The teenager who decided that they actually gave a shit about stuff and didn’t feel like a fake, apathetic scenester shithead who lived for the approval of others, didn’t say anything that they didn’t think other people wanted to say and had nothing to say anyway was immediately vilified, demonized and ostracized by everyone around them as a terrible deviant who was going to bring the pillars of society crashing to the ground.


Interest, the national, n.

Actual meaning: The vested interests of the propertied few.

Usage: We decided to reintroduce chattel slavery, sell off all of our national monuments and parks to real estate developers and give the combined proceeds to multinational corporations who paid no tax because they were registered in the Bahamas as a form of fiscal stimulation because we felt that it was in the national interest.


Life, pro-, n.

Actual meaning: Interest in the welfare of a foetus until birth.

Usage: We felt very strongly about the rights of the unborn child. When the kid was born we stopped caring and started complaining about our tax dollars being used to pay the small proportion of welfare that goes to the poor, while letting the majority that goes to corporations in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, etc pass without comment.


Money, n.

Actual meaning: God.

Usage: Our money, who art in our offshore accounts, hallowed be thy name. Further dividends come. Thy will be done on the floor of Congress as it is in the boardrooms. Give us this day our daily Rolex, and forgive us our mediocre quarterly earnings, as we forgive those who doubt your magnificence. But lead us not into socialism, and deliver us from exposure, for thine is the ability to colonize our personalities and purchase representatives, forever and ever, amen.


Opinion, public, n.

Actual meaning: A dangerous beast that needs to be kept on a short leash lest it bite someone.

Usage: In late capitalism we had to engage in the manufacture of consent via the mass media lest the plebian classes become so dissatisfied with their lot that they begin to express unhappiness with the status quo and this somehow lead to agitation and organisation for meaningful social change by polluting public opinion with sentiments and ideas meaningful to the mass of the population.


Oppression, n.

Actual meaning: Being held to account for the consequences of your actions.

Usage: I didn’t feel that accepting the moral responsibility to create meaning out of my life in an otherwise meaningless universe by leaving the womb of institutional hierarchy, learning to think and act for myself and otherwise growing the fuck up was really convenient enough for my liking, so I decided to forget how to tell the difference between freedom, or doing what you want as long as you respect the equal rights of others, and license, or doing what you want regardless of the consequences for anyone else, and went around ripping people off left, right and centre while invoking license in the name of the free market. This worked a treat for finding an excuse to piss and moan about being victimised whenever anyone tried holding me to account for my contempt for the freedom of anyone else, or even pointing out to me the fallacious nature of my propensity to conflate being criticised with being attacked as a way of shifting blame back onto my critics for daring to contradict me the same way every tyrant has done throughout history. I felt I was well within my rights to get vicious when challenged given the way I had nothing without my narcissism and the victim complex that supported it to block out the essential meaninglessness of my existence; not allowing me to value the rest of the world in a pathologically selfish manner as a way of permanently deferring ever having to deal with myself was the crowning heights of oppression.


Reform, n.

Actual meaning: Rollback.

Usage: We were obliged as a result of economic conditions to reintroduce chattel slavery as a necessary economic reform to ensure economic growth.


Responsibility, n.

Actual meaning: That onerous albatross which settles on all people too lazy to start a hedge fund.

Usage: One day I realized there was no meaning to life save that we create for ourselves. It drove me crazy; having to create my own meaning would have meant I would have had to learn to think for myself, which would have meant that I would have had to take responsibility for the consequences of my actions. I decided then and there that I would start a hedge fund, dwelling permanently in the loving womb of endless economic growth.


Security, border, n.

Actual meaning: Border protection racket.

Usage: We were watching a documentary on the Mafia, and were most impressed by the way they used the threat of violence to shake down victims in the name of protecting them from totally imaginary threats. I suggested to everyone else in the room that if you could scare the population by making them think a handful of refugees on leaky fishing boats were coming to do violence to their society and present yourself as their savior and protection, and use the panic thus created as cover to shake them down through legislative attacks on their benefits and working conditions, you could pretty much apply the exact same principle to national politics. Everyone cheered and I was immediately voted in as the new leader of the party.


Security, cyber, n.

Actual meaning: Hacking.

Usage: We hacked into the Chinese government computer mainframe and stole 300 of the Premier’s holiday snaps from his family trip to Acapulco in the name of pre-emptive cyber security. The pollution blocks out a lot of the sun in Beijing; that atheistic commie bastard was white as a sheet.


Sharing, n.

Actual meaning: Sacrilege.

Usage: Someone suggested in passing it might not be the worst idea anyone ever came up with compared to things like settler colonialism and Kony 2012 that we introduce sharing as a principle of economic production, since it seems to be good enough for toddlers in the kindergarten, and I immediately knew that person was a satanic communist who was out to destroy the very foundations of civilization itself.


Statist, n.

Actual meaning: Disagrees with a libertarian.

Usage: Two libertarians fell out and immediately accused each other of statist tendencies.


Statistics, n.

Actual meaning: Lies, damned lies.

Usage: After changing the classification rules for employment to include anyone who farted in the general direction of an employment agency, the Employment Minister called a press conference where he proudly announced a massive spike in job creation, defying any of those goddamn inner-city, latte-sipping pinkos to say anything bad about government policy.


Work, Right to, n.

Actual meaning: You have no rights.

Usage: You have the right to work. You don’t have any rights at work. You don’t have the right to join a union; you sure as hell don’t have the right to control the conditions of your work. But you do have the right to work, and you do have the right to enable someone else get rich off the work that you do by paying you less in wages than the value of the world that you do.

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

Click here to read Part One.

With thanks to Paul Kelser, Albert Baier, Eddie Stiel, and Richard Domingue.  

Ben Debney is the author of The Oldest Trick in the Book: Panic-Driven Scapegoating in History and Recurring Patterns of Persecution (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).