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Liberal Newspeak

Orwell's mistake in 1984 was assuming that a totalitarian socialist state would maintain the rigid linguistic conventions of bureaucratic totalitarianism. That future commissars and fuhrers would insist on everyone talking like office clerks picking out words from a coded manual of procedures.

It was an understandable mistake though. Orwell had seen 1948. But he hadn't seen 1984.

Liberal Newspeak is the hybrid product of advertising, academia and bureaucracy. It takes ideas from creative leftists, rinses them in conformity, uses techniques from the ad world to make them as safe as possible and then shoves them down everyone's throat.

Newspeak's objective was to enforce linguistic schizophrenia as a means of subdividing personalities, killing rational thought and making opposition into a form of madness. Liberal Newspeak's is less ambitious. It settles for muddling your brain. Like modern advertising, its goal is to make you feel comfortable without actually telling you anything.

Liberal Newspeak is the chirpy announcer in a drug commercial soothingly telling you about all the fatal side effects while on screen couples have romantic picnics and go whitewater rafting. That is the job of most of the news media. Forget outliers like MSNBC which caters to a self-consciously prog crowd. The media's real job is to be that announcer telling you that if you vote liberal, your taxes will go up, your job will go to China and you will die, without getting you upset about the terrible news.

The dictionary of Liberal Newspeak is full of empty and meaningless words. Community, Care, Access, Sharing, Concern, Affordability, Options, Communication, Listening, Engage, Innovating and a thousand others like it are wedged into sentences. Entire pages can be written almost entirely in these words without a single note of meaning intruding on the proceedings.

It's not that these words don't have meanings. It's that their meanings have been rendered meaningless. The techniques of advertising have been used to pluck up words that people once felt comfortable with and wrap them around the agendas of the liberal bureaucracy.

Community is a perfect example. It was the perfect word to hijack because it once seemed to mean  the dignified independence and interdependence of small town life. A community had structure. It had values. But in Liberal Newspeak, a "community" is a recognized identity group or concern group. It means a distinct population that has to be managed or rewarded or addressed in some way.

But Community is also a mandate. We are all expected to be part of communities. Community has become the opposite of individualism. It has come to mean the conformity of identity groups and unelected activists who mandate the behavior of entire identity groups. The virtual community is not a legal entity. It holds no elections or referendums. Its leadership is chosen for it from outside.

Liberal Newspeak is concerned with making people safe while telling them absolutely nothing. It's a new language that conveys reassurance rather than meaning. Its totem words are almost pre-verbal in that they mean nothing except "You are safe" and "We are taking care of you."

That is what gibberish like, "We are improving access options for all community interest groups" or "We are striving to innovate while listening to everyone's concerns" means. Daily life has become filled with meaningless pats on the head like that, which dedicated liberal newspeakers spew up like newborns. This empty babble says nothing. It's the hum of the beehive. The signal that keeps all the drones headed in the same direction.

Unlike Newspeak, Liberal Newspeak doesn't engage in any showy inversions of meaning. Those are the games that intellectuals play and above the ground level at which most Liberal Newspeak chatter takes place, there are mountains of academic jargon that work hard to invert meanings and ideas. But like the brilliant inventions of engineers, these rarely make it down to the ground level.

Liberal Newspeak isn't the work of the engineers of the left, but its marketers. It doesn't bother with frontal attacks on language. Instead it reframes everything in comforting language while teaching you to use the appropriate terms that change the context completely. It owes less of its perversity to Marxism than it does to Madison Avenue. The language that was used to convince millions to buy junk that was bad for them or that they didn't need is used to convince them to buy liberalism.

While the implications of Liberal Newspeak are ominous, its tones aren't. It deliberately embraces the feminine side of language. It strives to be comforting, nurturing and soothing. It never tells you anything directly. Instead it makes you read everything between the lines. It rarely answers questions. Instead its answers indirectly explain to you why you shouldn't even be asking the questions.

Liberal Newspeak is a language of preemption. It preempts questions and ideas. Its terminology is so vague that specific questions require a convoluted assemblage of words. The more specific the question, the more convoluted the sentence, until asking even a simple question is like trying to make a wish with a genie. And then the sheer amount of words makes the meaning impermeable.

You can't think in Liberal Newspeak. You can only feel good or bad, angry or self-satisfied. There is no room for thoughts, only feelings. You can feel guilty in Liberal Newspeak. You can be outraged, self-righteous or concerned. But you can't weigh one idea against another because it isn't a language of ideas. It's a vocabulary of emotional cues that could just as easily be taught to a smart animal.

Liberals policies go awry so often in part because Liberal Newspeak makes propaganda easy, but practical planning very difficult. The language they use is designed to make people comfortable with uncomfortable things, but descends into meaningless waves of bureaucratese when discussing any specifics. That is the difference between marketing ObamaCare and making ObamaCare work.

It's easy enough to put up a glowing website full of smiling people talking about affordability, access, sharing, concern and care. But it takes more practical communications skills to make that website work. Obama's CMS built a whole television studio to sell ObamaCare, but kept tinkering with the website specifications until the last minute and tried to manage integration with disastrous results.

Liberal Newspeak excels at telling the uninformed that everything will be fine when the government takes care of them. But project communications in Liberal Newspeak that prattle endlessly about access and relevance and community and integrity may look like a plan to the newspeakers, but is a tremendous waste of everyone's time and resources.

Newspeaker bureaucrats think that they're planning when they write memos about engagement and access, when what they are really doing is maintaining conformity in the same way that the Soviet and Red Chinese engineers constantly discussing Lenin and Mao as inspirations for their work.

Communist Newspeak however wasn't a language, it was a series of formal statements of allegiance. Once those were gotten out of the way, it was possible to talk brass tacks. But there are no brass tacks or sharp corners allowed in Liberal Newspeak. No one ever gets to the point except when attacking Republicans. The point is an attack on the integrity of the group, its accessibility, engagement and innovative listening status. Once you get to the point, the hum of the drones no longer has a purpose.

Liberal Newspeak is full of terms about listening, engaging and sharing, but it's a closed loop.

It's language as a command and control mechanism for establishing conformity. There is no room for debate in Liberal Newspeak. Arguments are settled with emotional resorts to the dominant political agendas of the day.

There is no way to disprove anything in Liberal Newspeak. All you can do is denounce your opponent's lack of ideological conformity while claiming that your experience gives you special insight into the form of oppression that the political agenda is meant to solve.

The empty words are signals like the noises that birds and animals in the forest make. They establish identity, rather than ideas. A Liberal Newspeak discussion is more likely to be about identities, racial, gender, sexual, than about anything tangible. Like two moose meeting in the north or two sparrows chirping on a power line, the only communication that really happens is an assertion of identity.

The "security" of Liberal Newspeak comes from that sense of mutual identity through conformity. Everyone has access, community and shares their concerns which are all about conformity. It's an unbroken loop of reassuring gibberish punctuated by bursts of anger at outsiders who are not part of the hive and don't understand how important community access and engaged listening really are.

Newspeak was concerned with the manipulation of meaning, while Liberal Newspeak is concerned only with emotional cues tied to identity. It doesn't replace meaning, it displaces it. It has emotions, but no ideas. It is the noise that takes the place of the signal and the hum that ends a conversation. Its purpose is to take an individualistic culture where ideas were proven through adversarial contests of the intellect and reduce it to a conformity that promises safety in exchange for never thinking again.


  1. Anonymous11/12/13

    I recently learned that the word "educate" means to train....like an animal. Gives a new understanding of our "highly educated" politicians and overlords.

  2. So glad you wrote about this Daniel as I keep pointing out the requirements that our students learn to conceive of themselves as interdependent members of a community with an obligation to the public good, instead of as individuals. Now who on earth would be looking for that as the real definition of what it will mean to be College and Career Ready?

    Or as the new required civics learning or a new view of citizenship being imposed by education trade groups where no outraged parent or taxpayer is even likely to see or hear about the blueprinted plans for 21st century classrooms?

    http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/willingness-to-make-personal-sacrifice-for-the-good-of-the-whole-to-become-an-integral-component-of-student-identity/ is based on documents released in the last week from a February 2013 conference. The same month the CCSSO, the trade group sponsoring the new national education standards, added Citizenship and new student dispositions to the outcomes to be assessed instead of old-fashioned knowledge.

    Orwell would recognize the significance of how often the word "lens" gets used in ed reforms to describe how students are to reimagine reality.

  3. Anonymous11/12/13

    Dear Mr. Greenfield,

    Your ideas are unique, insightful, and amazingly profound. No one else has your slant. I look forward to your well-chosen words (no matter the subject) every day.

    I wonder if you have any plans for a novel in the future - one with your thoughts interwoven into a plot of fantasy? I would certainly buy it as soon as it became available.

    I post your articles on FB nearly everyday. Seems I am not the only one who enjoys reading you as I get many "likes", and they usually start a conversation or 10!

    Be well, and please keep writing.

    Pamela Dale

  4. Steve D11/12/13

    Liberal Newspeak's is less ambitious.

    Less ambitious. Not at all. Just more subtle.

  5. Pamela, I've played around with it and occasionally written something. Not sure how much interest there would be

    Robins, indeed or frame

  6. Anonymous11/12/13

    If it's good, there will be interest. Ha! Look how many bad books there are. :-)

  7. Pamela: Daniel has a strong streak of the Harry Turtledove "alternative history" genre in him, as you may have noticed in his recent column on Pearl Harbor and worries about the "backlash" against Shintoism and in past columns of a similar vein. Turtledove writes his novels (and I'm not a fan of his by any means) with some earnestness, while Daniel's columns are basically satire, "entertaining" on the one hand, informative on the other. I've written a few columns like them myself on Rule of Reason. I agree that Daniel certainly has such a novel in him, and if ever written and published, it would find a ready and large readership. But writing a novel is hard work, mentally and physically (I've written 18, so I know the demands), and I'm not sure he would choose to devote time to such a project when he keeps such close tabs on current events. It's said by some critics that Orwell wrote "Nineteen Eighty-Four" as satire, but you will have noticed how seriously so many readers take it, as a purely dystopian novel chock full of observable operating principles of totalitarianism. The penchant for satire is present in nearly all of Daniel's columns, and they are the spice that makes reading them so enjoyable.

  8. Writing a novel is certainly time consuming. Especially the editing. But the practical side of this is that there isn't much of a sales infrastructure for moving conservative fiction which means this would be a "fun project" mainly sold as an ebook for readers. I was considering it more two years ago when I had more free time, but now I don't really have enough free time or energy. Or an idea compelling enough to follow through on.

  9. That said, shorter pieces may occasionally show up on the blog from time to time

  10. DenisO11/12/13

    "...shorter pieces may occasionally show up on the blog from time to time."
    Short pieces require more editing, and are harder to write, so I doubt it. You would need a hard-ass editor to keep you on the straight and narrow, -to the point.
    I'm thinking a novel like 1984, showing how the new "language" has stolen the concepts of independent thinking and questioning authority.
    It is shocking to so many people to hear facts, especially uncomfortable ones, as they see their world threatened by them, and get angry at the truth teller.
    Just two good characters, and a story filled with reality that is denied, leading to a surprise ending would be fun and hopefully enlightening.
    Go for it and enjoy,

  11. Dear, yourself a word artist as well, Daniel, do not for a moment cherish the illusion that you can change the mind of the age of Aquarius life living youngsters who, even the many smart ones amongst them, are not willing to rationally analyze the phraseology they are subjected to on a daily basis by the government via the MSM. They strictly translate what they hear into emotion and without resistance cuddle up against it even if those words are only camouflage for their often vile deeper meaning.

  12. Indeed, but fiction influences emotionally more than it does rationally

  13. I've written several novels over the years. The main problem is the vast majority of people never read novels and wouldn't because they can't concentrate long enough to read. Just found out that all reference to Christmas, including music any customer can hear which includes radio, or any decoration, is no longer allowed at the Post Office. Christmas has been replaced by Sponge Bob. Current America is like living on another planet.

  14. "...but fiction influences emotionally more than it does rationally." This is true. But why more emotionally, and not rationally? Because fiction can address values and issues that remain un-articulated and even unidentified. Suddenly, a value (or a nemesis) is objectified in the person of a character or a group of characters. That response is why people say, "I just couldn't put this book down." That's an emotional response to possibly rational values discovered in a work of fiction. It can also work for novels that dramatize irrational values.

  15. I've been wondering what exactly is so great about change. Change can be for the better or the worse. But this is a nice explanation. "Almost pre-verbal," that's just it. It's not really a word anymore so much as a sound or expression. And it's certainly connected to the fuzzy emotionalism that is replacing logic. I tried to discuss with someone the other day the Christian doctrine of Hell. His argument was basically that it's not nice or "tolerant" to say God punishes people to people who don't believe that. I tried but couldn't quite get him to see that reality exists whether or not it makes people feel better. One may not believe in Hell, but saying that I need to be more "tolerant" of other people's beliefs is a separate question of whether Hell in fact exists. Increasingly people seem to have a hard time understanding the idea that you can be polite while still being totally wrong.

  16. Anonymous11/12/13

    Absolutely brilliant.

  17. Anonymous11/12/13

    Excellent article! Liberal Newspeak reduces words to either feel good anesthesia with ominous stuff between the lines. Orwellian Newspeak is more like the devolution of English by inverting it.

    In any event, I'll be a non-conformist and call Newspeak Novo-lang. Same thing, just not as common LOL.


  18. Anonymous12/12/13

    Daniel is in a league of his own.

    But if he did have the time and energy I believe he would excel at writing literary non-fiction along the lines of Erik Lawson's Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America.

    The knowledge of history, attention to detail, wonderful narrative and contrasts between the engineers, architects building the white city for the world and the horror of H.H. Holmes hotel that he bought and turned into torture chambers where he gassed, tortured and used a kiln to destroy the evidence of his crime.

    Holmes has to be the most monstrous "artist" in history aside from another monstrous "artist" known as Adolf Hitler.

    But yes, Daniel could definitely write historical non-fiction on another historical event with fact and fiction intertwined.


  19. I think Orwell's mistake was writing the book. Instead of serving as a grim warning, it has been used as a blueprint.

  20. Anonymous12/12/13

    Brilliant, yet again!

  21. Anonymous12/12/13

    A must read for all conservatives, especially non-Quisling officials in the Republican Party and conservative talkshow hosts. Hopefully your brilliant elucidation will finally help conservatives understand that their continuing and futile efforts to win elections through presentation of facts and logic is doomed to failure as Democratic and "independent" voters don't base their opinions on anything other than feelings, media programming and the yearning to be part of the "in" herd.

  22. Anonymous12/12/13

    But let's say you have a friend who is writing a novel that might appeal to conservatives where would that ....um....friend go?

  23. I don't know.

    Anyone want to take a crack at that question?

  24. Anonymous12/12/13

    The real problem is who would your audience for your novel be? Those who would most likley read it are already likely to be either conservatives or the liberal puppeteers. And for most part, the liberal puppeteers direct the media for the audience that you would most like to influence. Those manipulated by the puppeteers probably already don't know how to use language as a tool of thought and don't know enough history to understand the satire. The liberals are composed primarily the few at the top programming their followers, who don't even know that they're followers, how to feel (and not think) about issues. Liberal Newspeak really describes the current situation well. The liberals have controlled the language, the topics and preprogrammed the emotional response to certain words and issues that masquerade as informed opinion. Even otherwise well-educated young people actually believe that Comedy Central is a news channel. . A novel, while we would really enjoy it, doesn't reprogram them, because they don't read novels, or newspapers or even blogs. The only hope our side has is to get as good as their game as they are and to get our message on the media that they utilize.

  25. "Where might one go…?" I have a micro POD publishing business. I am semi retired and I'm very selective about the projects I take on. But I do mentor authors through the process, edit and format books. I still think The Golden Apple would be a terrific picture book format. I even pulled out the files again today.

  26. "Orwell's mistake in 1984 was assuming that a totalitarian socialist state would maintain the rigid linguistic conventions of bureaucratic totalitarianism." Orwell's chief mistake was thinking that a totalitarian régime that regularly shrunk the minds of its Party members – who were indispensible in perpetuating the régime's power – by reducing, under penalty of death, the number of concepts in their minds, could actually survive without collapsing. No totalitarian régime that is such a dedicated enemy of the mind can last or keep maintaining a semi-industrial civilization going for more than a year. It couldn't keep producing telescreens and helicopters and the instruments of war, such as the "Floating Fortresses," without the mind. And if the mind refuses to think, or is punished for thinking, then that's the end of that régime. It will have self-destructed.

  27. George Orwell's book was not used as a blueprint. He was telling you how things were going to be. The plans were already long in the works.

  28. I don't know that Orwell assumed that Oceania would go on forever. Winston Smith was a creature of it and couldn't imagine it not going on forever. That is the condition of living under tyranny.

  29. Anon, some do read, but obviously more watch TV, etc

    meema, oh yes I forgot about that completely

  30. I still maintain that Orwell's Oceania wouldn't last. His terrific essay, "The Principles of Newspeak," certainly elucidated the method of locking Party members minds (and not those of the "proles") into a reduced vocabulary of ersatz compound words of perhaps fifty pages would guarantee the fall of the Party and of the régime. But Orwell subscribed to the premise that a totalitarian régime could, if not prosper, then at least sustain its existence for an indefinite time. It couldn’t. When you've negated the cognitive powers of minds you depend on keeping you in power, and attached a death penalty to the attribute of volitional thought, those minds are not going to save you from collapse. They've been, not forbidden to think, but sabotaged and are unable to think. You'll have reduced your Outer Party members to the level of chimps trained to respond to certain stimuli, and to nothing more. You'll have corroded the volitional aspect of the mind. Orwell claimed in his afterword essay, that it was the aim of the Party to obviate the possibility of thoughtcrime, and so not need to deal with anyone who insisted on thinking and expanding his range and depth of thought. Outer Party members would just automatically do what was expected of them without any risk that they'd wander off into forbidden zones of thought. The U.S. is already experiencing the consequences of high school and college graduates launched into life with crippled cognitive powers, thanks to their anti-mind education.

  31. In the Soviet example, anyone with intelligence was simply shot leaving behind a small scientific and medical class, but no one with any intelligence outside the secret police, which had more discretion, making a KGB takeover inevitable.

  32. That happened in Cambodia under Pol Pot, and during China's "Cultural Revolution." People with any kind of rational faculty capable of causing trouble were either murdered or sent to slave camps and worked to death. Probably the same thing happens in North Korea. Islam, however, anti-mind ideology that it is, is another barrel of monkeys.

  33. Anonymous13/12/13

    Here in what I still call England we have the BBC. One endless spew of liberal newspeak. Sadly the BBC is the dominant force in the media and controls the news agenda.
    It needs a Reformation or breaking up. It sent well over 100 peopel to report on the death of Mandela. It is funded by tax extortion so simply has no moral sense or need to be accountable. This is what happens when you give control of any aspect of your life to the state or it's creatures.
    Dave S

  34. Anonymous13/12/13

    The dictionary of Liberal Newspeak is full of empty and meaningless words.

    You miss the daddy of them all, the hallowed 'diversity' without which our Western civilisation would crumble and die in its own sterile emptiness.

    Or so they would have us all believe.

    In fact such is the value of this nebulous variation that following the 'workplace violence' at Fort Hood where thirteen US Service personnel died, Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. said ...

    "I'm concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers ... Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse".

    So there you have it. Commitment to care for the lives of Army recruits nil. Commitment to a politically correct ill defined concept full marks.

    This is the modern world.

  35. Yes, and that's why the US Postal Service had outlawed any public display through decoration or music that the public can see or hear, Christmas. We are to be left with nothing idiots telling us what we can celebrate and what we can't. Fort Hood has been a joke on this country. They let this scumbag grow a beard and make demands, when they should just take him apart a piece at a time on television so the Muslim terrorist can witness that we are willing to fight on his level. That would be real diversity.

  36. Anonymous13/12/13

    i don't fancy writing a novel - in what used to be a noble line of work, carpentry and residential const. the familiar phrase is, "Want to be a millionaire homebuilder? Start with 10 million."


  37. Anonymous13/12/13

    Since this article is about Newspeak, I'd like to add something else to the conversation: Last night I was watching a You Tube audio book of 1984 that included text from the novel.

    One thing really popped out. We all know about Room 101 and what Winston was tortured with, but the novel tells us why he thought he was targeted. Not his affair with Julia, but because he used the word G-d in something he wrote because he couldn't find a word that rhymes with rod. This was a conversation he had with one of his cell mates right after he was arrested. How incredibly cruel, and I don't think the word G-d is mentioned anywhere in 1984.

    He said that there were no rhymes in Newspeak.

    Every language has rhymes, English and Hebrew for sure. Orwell's Newspeak apparently should replace G-d with rod.

    Orwell was brilliant with his words. His 1984 was about a dystopia, but I think, given the Internet and recent focus on government spying etc. Oceania was a panopticon. I didn't know the word existed until I watched a video related to Laura Poitras. She wasn't in the video but whistle blowers Bill Binney (NSA) and Jacob Appelbaum, a photographer, journalist, and computer genius.

    You may disagree with their world views but they are definitely worth listening to/ I certainly am.

    Daniel--your intellect is on par with Appelbaum. However, he is an atheist and you clearly religious and spiritual.


  38. Anonymous13/12/13

    The end of modernity approaches, gnostics have perfused the order they cannot be persuaded to abandon their dreamworld until catastrophe strikes. The ruling class employ the time tested tactic of swindlers. History and the future are their tools of deception. Ontologically what they share in common is non-agency and non-existence. History has no power other than what a man, woman or movement in the present can imply its meaning to articulation - real or false in calls to action in the present. Swindlers also supervise their marks by approaching them from a future perspective giving the impression they already know the way paradise, if only the benighted would follow.

    No comparison of the real is permitted, inquiry into cause and effect is taboo along with the forbidding of questions. The dream conception is vitiated, reality, now measured by the dubious past and yet to be illusions give our order's ideological ravings the haunting atmosphere of the lunatic asylum as Voegelin portended in the last century.

    Yes Daniel, the language of real world and the dream are now terminologically blended so no disambiguation, differentiation or discernment are possible.

  39. But Al Gore was specific when he said five years ago that in five years the north pole would be ice-free. The giveaway was that he was specific, the con let us think his guard was down by tricking us into specifics.


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