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.
Allegations, Discredited, n.
Actual meaning: Documented evidence of official criminality sternly denied by anonymous official sources.
Usage: The cop who answered the phone when I called the precinct refused to identify himself and had to shout to be heard over the din of all the paper shredders in the office. At the top of his voice, he explained to me that the allegations in the international news media about the methamphetamine empire being run from out behind the car pool had been SUBJECT TO AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION and THOROUGHLY DISCREDITED.
Assembly, Unlawful, n.
Actual meaning: Peaceful protest.
Usage: The local corporate media reported that the SWAT team had been called in to deal with a mob of elderly Quakers knitting in a disorderly manner outside an arms manufacturing facility. In a press conference held after everyone had been taken off for processing and all the blood had been hosed away, the chief of police described the police riot that followed as a reasonable response to an unlawful assembly.
Barbarians (1), n.
Actual meaning: Those committing war crimes without the use of cruise missiles and drones.
Usage: The barbarians destroying ancient monuments arrived at their destination in a fleet of ex-fleet Toyotas paid for by the CIA.
Barbarians (2), n.
Actual meaning: Disobedient.
Usage: The people who were impoverished and didn’t happen to have pale skin would not simply roll over and passively accept subjugation to global conglomerates and hired slavery paying two cents a day with no bathroom breaks; they were clearly super pissed off about the way the material riches of western society come at the expense of the rest of the world and decided to resist, as one would expect from a bunch of untutored barbarians.
Change, Regime, n.
Actual meaning: Fixing the electoral mistakes of people in dispensable nations.
Usage: The oppressed peoples of Alderaan elected the Organas to be their leaders, thereby demonstrating their incapacity for self-government. Emperor Palpatine was forced to pursue a policy of regime change; he gave it to those Alderaani terrorists up the clacker.
Actual meaning: That which must be preserved through the dropping of American bombs.
Usage: Our wanton carpet-bombing of the poor third world country back to the bronze age terrified the utter bejeezus out of its inhabitants and inflicted unholy levels of wholesale destruction. When the poorest 99% of the world saw what we were doing and were so demoralized that they felt like they didn’t have any option but to become hired slaves of American companies for chicken feed wages, we felt that we had once again established our credibility on the world stage.
Actual meaning: Building coalitions for a preventive or preemptive war.
Usage: We went around and asked all our rich friends if they wanted to go put the plebs in that impoverished third world country in their place. They said yes, so we immediately began drawing up plans to bomb them back to the stone age, overthrow their government and install another under our control who would obey orders and let us pillage and exploit at will. All the while the phones were ringing off the hook from the embassies concerned, but we ignored them as a distracting annoyance. The corporate media hailed our war preparations going the extra mile for diplomacy.
Economics, sound, n.
Actual meaning: Tax relief for the rich, austerity for the undeserving poor, and fat government contracts for the defense establishment.
Usage: We decided to give the entire national GDP to the One Percent to prop up the system of laissez faire and defend the principle of the limited state, half directly in subsidies and tax breaks, and the other half indirectly through the Pentagon; we elected to pay for this strategy by legislating the reintroduction of chattel slavery for the other Ninety Nine Percent. An op-ed in the Times hailed our budget as a victory for sound economics.
Actual meaning: A specialist confirming the orthodox views held by corporate and government leaders.
Usage: The corporate shill who had internalized the value system of the transnational corporate oligarchy was brought onto on the TV talk shows, and the radio talk shows, and into the public forums, where he spoke with every opportunity he was given, and the newspapers, magazines and academic journals where his writings were regularly published. In every instance he was given free reign to derail rational, dispassionate debate by scare mongering about the evildoers winning if anyone contradicted or disobeyed his paymasters. The editors of all the publications he wrote for and the producers of all the shows he appeared on were glad to be able to present the opinions of such an expert.
Actual meaning: Colossal multinational agribusiness conglomerates.
Usage: In the strategic communication meeting, we were discussing the logistics of turning the FDA into a subsidiary of the Monsanto Corporation, when we realized that if we talk openly about colossal agribusiness conglomerates repeatedly in those terms, it tends to suggest to the average plebian that a new global corporate empire has arisen covertly while they were all concentrating on celebrity gossip, mostly by taking advantage of the fact that the political system was morally compromised to begin with to colonize it through campaign donations and the like, and slowly induce society at large into something halfway between a coma and psychosis to consolidate its political control and ideological hegemony. We figured that might be bad for the process of filling our generally pretty one-dimensional lives with the means of gaining the approval of others, because we have our priorities up our arses and care more about that than we do really finding out who we are and what we’re about as human beings, so we decided to talk about “farmers” in reference to the aforesaid conglomerates, because sounding hokey is infinitely more preferable than sounding Machiavellian and sociopathic, and makes everyone think of people who actually work for a living (rather than parasites in suits who spend their lives stealing the product of other people’s labor). It also puts everyone off guard so you can keep on putting actual farmers out of business, but then again that’s far from the first time a thing that colonized and destroyed another thing took on its form in order to avoid arousing a reaction from those who would have to wear the consequences without anyone actually noticing or caring. We’ve already mentioned the political system — I mean, damn.
Guys, bad, n.
Actual meaning: Whoever it is that is currently being bombed and shot at by the U.S. and its partners.
Usage: Many citizens of the small sovereign nation decided that national sovereignty was a thing and that they didn’t want to be pawns in someone else’ empire. All of the citizens got together and decided to plot a course of development independent of the empire, which promptly got a ferocious case of the Victimised Rich Whiteys about being disobeyed. Determined that anyone who dared doubt its magnificence or defy it was giving aid to the evildoers and would pay, its footsoldiers started talking a bunch of shit about it being time to ‘go visit some pain on the bad guys’ while they all imagined they were in a Hollywood action movie to make up for having no idea why they were fighting other than that they were told their enemies were evil and that justified invading their country.
Guys, good, n.
Actual meaning: On our side.
Usage: We invade other countries using the same principle Hitler used to start World War Two with to defend and extend our control over oil resources, demonstrate to the rest of the regimes in the area what happens when someone who is supposed to be a puppet of the Empire’s primary attack dog disobeys orders, and uphold the bizarre petrodollar regime which despite not even being in the same ballpark as our own supposed first principles is what allows us to continue indulging in sanctimonious horseshit about liberty as if we have a clue what the word means. Because hey, we’re the good guys.
Actual meaning: A constant strain on profits, and thus the one thing all job-creators would much prefer to do without (except they can’t, for reasons that are not entirely difficult to figure out).
Usage: The slave creat…I mean job creators were annoyed at the acknowledgment of the fact that they were slave creators in fact and that jobs had to be done to keep society running regardless of whether there were parasites leeching off the productive activity of other people. They felt the urge to send their critics amongst the working class to the gulag and regretted having to deal with workers at all, imagining a Randroid-type Utopia where there were only bosses. Unfortunately for them, such a thing could never exists because the plain fact of the matter is that management is not productive in the same way as the working class, which is why profits can only be and only ever are generated by exploiting wage labor (and if they aren’t, as capitalist economists always argue, why do the so-called job creators always try to get work out of their slaves at the lowest possible rate?).
Actual meaning: A criminal war of aggression gone sour, leaving a distressingly war fatigued public in its wake.
Usage: Vietnam was a mistake. Iraq was a mistake. Afhganistan was a mistake. Syria will be a mistake. Russia will be a colossal mistake. Everyone knows we don’t have bad policies. We’re the good guys!
Actual meaning: Sadly, the latest traitor to join the conspiracy to Trojan horse communism on the back of climate science. Et tu, Brutus?
Usage: ‘The river that runs through America’s 10th-largest city has dried up, shriveling a source of civic pride that had welcomed back trout, salmon, beavers and other wildlife after years of restoration efforts. Over the past two months, large sections of the Guadalupe have become miles of cracked, arid gray riverbed. Fish and other wildlife are either missing or dead, casualties of California’s relentless drought.’ (San Jose Mercury News, 8/8/15)
Actual meaning: The realization of U.S. full spectrum dominance.
Usage: The US ruling class finally achieved its goal of bringing the entire Western Hemisphere under the watchful eye of a police state; they celebrated with a 5pm curfew and a long soliloquy on the Fox News network (which had long since swallowed up all the competition since the antitrust laws were repealed as a counterterrorism measure and was the only one left standing) about how happy everyone should be as they no longer had to worry about having to think for themselves thanks to the new regime of order and stability, which would henceforth shoulder the burden of having to think for everyone from here on out. No one argued or asked questions about the horrible smell being generated by the putrefying corpses of labor rights activists and civil libertarians everywhere. They didn’t want to break the peace.
Actual meaning: The obligation to cloak imperial projects in the liberal guise of humanitarianism.
Usage: The gang of imperialist thugs shook down the impoverished third world nation for its weekly takings, telling the impoverished third world nation about all the evildoers in the world who wanted to do them harm, and that it could hardly begrudge handing over a few billion dollars here and there considering all it stood to gain in terms of protection.
Actual meaning: A budget with increases in military spending offset by cuts to social programs.
Usage: The Treasurer announced that the government was cutting military spending and corporate welfare in order to fund massive increases to education, training, health and social services. The corporate media immediately pounced on them and attacked them relentlessly until they were voted out of office on account of their purported lack of fiscal responsibility.
Recovery, Economic, n.
Actual meaning: The recuperation in value of elite portfolios in the wake of a bursting bubble.
Usage: The unemployment rate was 50%, space under bridges away from direct exposure to the elements began to be considered prime real estate, and the government reintroduced the policy of transportation for minor offenses like stealing food, but the stabilization of housing prices was nevertheless hailed by the government as clear sign of economic recovery.
Poor, Deserving, n.
Actual meaning: Poor, submissive white people.
Usage: The poor white people were deserving of help. It had nothing to with the fact that they were white and willing to accommodate themselves to an economic mode of production that robbed them of control over the product of their own labor and denied them basic agency in determining the conditions of their own work. What are you, some kind of Communist?
Rich, Deserving, n.
Actual meaning: All rich people.
Usage: The rich people were rich, and therefore deserving as no one ever accumulates more wealth than they can actually produce physically by dishonest means. What is this, the Inquisition?
Rights, Investor, n.
Actual meaning: Corporate rights.
Usage: Stop whining about corporations having all the rights, man. Investors have rights. What are you complaining about?
Strike, labor, n.
Actual meaning: A total inconvenience to consumers.
Usage: The labor strike briefly disrupted the exploitation of wage labor and the concomitant flow of profits into the pockets of investors, so the government shut it down on the grounds that it violated the great principle on which the Republic was founded — namely, that people might have to make other plans.
Actual meaning: The assertion of rights by workers.
Usage: The boss had the idea that he had right to steal the product of the workers’ labor, pay them such a small proportion of that back as a wage that they couldn’t afford to support themselves, and deny them the right in the face of this situation to organize to defend their rights and advance their interests. For their part, the workers were able to and chose to tell the difference between criticizing this idea and attacking the bosses’ physical person. They were therefore exercising a horrible, cruel tyranny over their poor boss who was so hard done by but nevertheless, and even in spite of their greedy, malicious, malevolent, callous, pathological selfishness, loved them all so.
Ben Schreiner is the author of A People’s Dictionary to the ‘Exceptional Nation’. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his blog.
Ben Debney is a PhD candidate in International Relations at Deakin University, Melbourne. He is researching moral panics and the political economy of scapegoating. Twitter: @itesau