A New Labour Lexicon - A guide to the Perplexed Labour Party member
Politics and the English Language – How Herr Stürmer Changed the Meaning of Ordinary Words
We are all familiar with the abuse of language. When the Mafia ask you to pay them ‘protection money’ they are not offering you an insurance policy, at least not in the normal sense of the word. What they mean is that if you don’t hand over regular amounts of cash then your life may not be worth living.
Likewise when Keith Stürmer and his glove puppet David Evans talk about ‘rooting out’ anti-Semites what they really mean is getting rid of anti-racists and anti-imperialists. None of this is new even if the debasement of political language has reached new heights under Sir Stürmer.
In 1946 George Orwell wrote an essay "Politics and the English Language" describing this phenomenon.
‘Political language …is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’
Orwell described how
‘political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.’ That was why ‘political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.’
Orwell wrote 1984 about a dystopian future in which terms such as Newspeak and Doublethink entered the English language. We see this clearly in the Labour Party with terms such as Notice of Investigation that victims of the purge are sent.
The process bears as much relation to an ‘Investigation’ as the Inquisition did. A genuine investigation starts out from a dispassionate search for the truth whereas ‘investigations’ in the Labour Party are merely a search for any evidence, however trivial with which to exclude you. The decision has already been reached, what is necessary is turning up some evidence.
Orwell saw the debasement of language as reflecting the debasement of society and a not too subtle attempt to control and restrict the parameters of thought of the lower classes. Just as the Victorians opposed teaching children to write, as opposed to reading, because they might start thinking of challenging their condition (reading being necessary in order to read instructions), so the idea behind distorting and changing the meaning of words is to restrict peoples’ ability to think beyond the mundane.
A good example is the term ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’. When I was arrested earlier in the year on a Palestine Action outing to Elbit, I was remanded for a week in Birmingham prison. At reception a prison officer asked me whether or not I was an ‘extremist’. I used the opportunity to probe into what she meant by extremist and it was clear that she had very little idea of what this loaded term meant. I put it to her that all those who had fought for freedom in the past, from the Chartists to the Suffragettes had been termed ‘extremists’ in their time.
Of course the Jewish Chronicle, an ‘extreme’ example of journalistic malevolence (indeed to describe the Jewish Chronicle’s scribblers as journalists is another abuse of language) then said I had compared myself to the suffragettes. Proof if any were needed that stupidity isn’t confined to the lower classes!
Of course the term ‘extremist’ is used as a way of delineating the boundaries of acceptable thought. So the Prevent Thinking programme is based on eliminating extremists whom they define as people who think subversive thoughts. Ctd....