It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


The Insidiousness of Double Speak

page: 1

log in


posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 02:59 AM
Doublespeak is the artful use of language to twist or distort its actual meaning. It is the use of phrases and words intended to describe a person or thing in a way that it is really not. Doublespeak is a form of language used in almost all languages across the world but is no where more prevalent than in the world of politics. Doublespeak is a tool of propaganda used to permeate the everyday common language in such a way as to accomplish a triumph of group think where the language used is intended to discredit those who have been smeared by the usage.

There are many phrases used that constitute doublespeak but in our current political climate, pardon the pun, by far the most popular phrase of doublespeak would be the term, "climate denier". Such a phrase, taken at face value or interpreted literally would suggest it is describing a person who actually denies there is a climate at all. This explains why too many self avowed intellectuals will all too often compare "climate deniers" to "flat earther's". This mixed metaphor of comparing those who question the efficacy of Co2 being a source of human caused climate change to people who once believed, even in spite of evidence to the contrary, that the earth was flat, is decidedly not intellectual and doesn't bring any substantial facts to the debate. It is not as if an overwhelming amount of evidence has been presented to effectively take a hypothesis such as Co2 being a source of anthropogenic climate change and declare it a bona fide theory, let alone declare there is proof that Co2 is a source of anthropogenic climate change.

Mixing metaphors is another form of doublespeak although not necessarily doublespeak exclusively. To call someone a wet blanket and then declare him a loose canon would be a mixed metaphor but not necessarily doublespeak, or to say a person stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns is a mixed metaphor but, again, not doublespeak. To compare skeptics of anthropogenic climate change "climate deniers" who are equal to "flat earther's" is a mixed metaphor using doublespeak.

Even doublespeak itself is not necessarily exclusively a political tool used for purposes of propaganda and can often times be used as euphemisms such as "down sizing" or "layoff" to describe an activity or action. However, when used in the political arena, doublespeak is always used for its ambiguous nature, purposely employed to mean as little as possible engendering the greatest effect. In order to have "climate deniers" there first has to be "climate change", yet another term of doublespeak used by the current AGW crowd.

Climate change is a fact of life. No one in their right mind would deny that the planet experiences climate change. Most of the skeptics regarding anthropogenic climate change make no such denial that the planet experiences climate change, and many of those skeptics don't even deny that the climate can be affected by human activity. To what extent human activity affects climate change is the debate, but only for those who are skeptics, as too many on the other side are too willing to rely upon doublespeak phrases such as "climate change" and more annoyingly "climate denier." Their reliance on ambiguous language only tends to fuel the skepticism from the other side.

As mentioned before, doublespeak is not just a tool of political propaganda, it is often used in forms of marketing and as motto's. ATS' own motto; "Deny Ignorance" is a form of doublespeak. Taken literally it could be interpreted to mean a denial of ignorance rather than how it is intended which is to mean denying any praise of ignorance or having an intolerance for ignorance. Even interpreted in this manner it is still ambiguous in that we are all in one form or another ignorant of something. Ignorance is an unavoidable by product of an altogether too short life inside an inherently subjective point of view.

Perhaps since the fabled "confusion of tongues", we have as a species, who presumably developed language in order to communicate, for some reason failed to find an effective form of communication, with the possible exception of mathematics. Would that all things could be reduced to a simple mathematical equation and all of us could easily understand that equation. Perhaps then there would be far less of a confusion of tongues. One of the most admirable qualities of mathematics is that there is no deception in it. If someone declares that 2+2=5 almost all of us can agree this is false and will endeavor to correct that person. If that person keeps insisting it is 5 and not 4 we know this person is lying and there is no real confusion, except from the person making the declaration it is 5.

Outside of mathematics it becomes exponentially more difficult to discern when a person is deceiving us. People tend to be basically good by nature and in this nature will often times take the word of another even if that word seems false in some way. We tend to want to give people the benefit of the doubt until all doubt has been removed. This is where it gets more problematic in the world of politics because we as people have increasingly found that all doubt has been removed and there is just no more reason to give a benefit of doubt. Astonishingly, those who employ politics continue to deceive even in the face of the lies found out. Just because some evil Nazi once said that if you tell a lie loud enough and long enough the people will come to believe it doesn't make it true.

More and more, when a person or a group keep telling lies loud enough and long enough what tends to happen is dissent and turmoil. Then the battle lines get drawn and the war that ensues is just an extension of the politics behind it. If scientists are to expect to be seen as seekers of truth then they must necessarily distance themselves from the language of doublespeak and begin using a language of truth as all seekers of truth should do. It is not a greater truth that the use of deception becomes necessary to get people to see the truth. That is nothing but more doublespeak. It is only when we stop lying to each other that we will begin to find a better discourse. Endeavoring to overcome ignorance is a worthy goal and intolerance of it can be a virtue, but intolerance of deception is even more virtuous and a goal we would all be better for having.

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 03:03 AM
Well written.

One day i was watching the news, and the president at the time used the term"preemptive self defense" and my jaw just dropped.

It's important to try to understand these things.

Another good example is the simplification of language in corralling thought. The internet seems to be a great tool in this process.

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 03:17 AM
reply to post by Seiko

Agreed Seiko;

It is very important to be aware of the language being used and how it is being used. I meant to ask members to compile a list of common double speak terms and post them in this thread so that we might better come to recognize them and what their purpose is. Thanks for adding the one you did. "Preemptive self defense" is a horrible term in that all self defense tends to act in a preemptive fashion. Even if one acts out of self defense after being struck or shot at, the actions of self defense we use are no doubt preemptive in that we are defending our lives or property from damage, or our loved ones. If we are acting in self defense, presumably we have not yet been damaged or killed and this allows us to act preemptively. I suspect the phrase used as it was, was an effort to justify a much more insidious action and only served to undermine the righteousness of self defense.

Before the argument of anthropogenic climate change became such a political force there were the phrases "AIDS denialists" and "AIDS dissidents" being bandied about and still are. Again these are phrases that hold no truth at all as they are describing people, some who have merely questioned some aspect of the hypothesis that HIV is the primary source of AIDS. That these people are skeptical of HIV being the primary source in no way makes them denier of AIDS or even dissidents. It is language used with the intention to discredit those skeptics without offering any sound reason why.

Thanks for your input and hopefully more can add to the list of doublespeak phrases we are all too often confronted with.

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 03:28 AM
I think reading the book "1984" gave me provided me with a valuable lesson in the meaning of DoubleSpeak!

It has made me much more aware of what is being said "between the lines". That,and understanding the motivations of those in power,I'm not fooled by what they try to pass off as truth.

Nice topic,by the way!

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 03:41 AM
reply to post by On the Edge

Orwell's book is a great one and a must read for everybody. Ironically, Orwell never used the term doublespeak in that book. He coined the words doublethink, newspeak and oldspeak but never used the term doublespeak which was coined by someone I don't know of sometime in the 1950's. Doublespeak when used in the context of this thread, however, is very Orwellian.

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 03:50 AM
If you're concerned with language and how & why it's used - you might be interested in linguists Steven Pinker or Noam Chomsky's work - specifically as they use language as a window into cognition and how the mind works. I'll post a few videos of Stevens to browse that'll get you started.

This last one is the full audio of his book on tape "How the mind works".

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 04:27 AM
One important tool in the world of business, I learned very soon, is something called Communication. Communication of any kind consists of creating a message codified with the meaning we intend to give it and send it. Between sending and receiving there are NOISES. And when the receptor gets the message he must try to decodify it with the same meanings you codified it, so he understands what you are trying to say.

That is very hard and most of the times we fail. Words mean nothing by themselves. They only mean something by the point we attach a symbolic value to them. Like the word "CUP". We have attached a symbolic value to that word that draws in our mind the image of the object CUP when we read that word. Although there are many kinds of CUPs. But in another language, CUP could have a different meaning. It could mean a GOAT. Of course, if you codified the message in ENGLISH then the receptor will not understand it as meaning GOAT since that is a meaning for the word CUP in another language and he should be using ENGLISH to decodify your message.

Now, consider this other exaple. I call you a CLOWN. How do you read that? I could be insulting you. I could be saying I find you funny. Or, maybe, I could be thinking you actually are a CLOWN! To decodify my message you would have to try to find the right meaning I used to codify it, so you can properly understand it.

And then there are the noises. Suppose I tell a third person that I think you are a CLOWN. Suppose I meant to say I find you funny. Then that third person goes to you and delivers that message, but he didn't say it in a way that you would easily understand what I meant. So you take offense, get furious and sends me an angry reply, which, of course, will confuse me since I wouldn't expect that reaction.

So, it is possible to construct a message with more than one meaning. It is impossible to calculate how many different meanings messages could have because they are open to interpretation. That's why presidents have to be careful with their speaches. The words they use with one crowd vary from the words they use with another crowd.

The meanings we use to decodify the messages vary a lot from culture to culture. Culture is one of the worst NOISES in Communication. People from different backgrounds are USED TO give different symbolic values to words and that gets in the way of properly decodifying the message received.

I believe that some people intentionally manufacture their messages to have double meanings. You see that in Poker. And in politics. But sometimes and I believe most of the times, it's non intentional.

EDIT: Something I try to do consciously, whenever I notice it as the cause of misunderstandings, is to try to understand what the other is trying to say with those words and not take them literally. This may sound obvious as you read it, but it is not that simple. Especially when there are emotions involved.

A good example is the angry customer. He bursts into your store and he is furious and he calls people names and says he is gonna sue because of this and that. But what he is really saying is "I'm not happy with your service/product. What are you gonna about it? Dont ignore me!". A lot of times when customers make an effort to SHOW their dissatisfaction, that means they want you to treat them well. Dont ignore me, he is saying. Show to me you think I am important to your business. So, it may look like the end of the world, but if you address the issue properly, ignoring the insults and the bravado and the threats and go straight to ask him what is wrong and how could you help him, then you could fix that situation and there is a chance you won't lose that customer.

[edit on 18-12-2009 by henriquefd]

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 06:12 AM

Originally posted by Seiko
Well written.

One day i was watching the news, and the president at the time used the term"preemptive self defense" and my jaw just dropped.

It's important to try to understand these things.

Another good example is the simplification of language in corralling thought. The internet seems to be a great tool in this process.

I wonder if I could use that in court for abuse and battery charges! All I got to do now is beat the crap out of someone and call it preemptive self defense. OMFG I love it lmao!

I'm sorry judge, I just didn't like how he was looking at me all shiftily, I thought he 'might' do me harm. lol

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 06:14 AM
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux


Very well thought out and well written. Wish I had the patience to explain something at such length as you do. I really learned a lot from this post about double speak, considering I didn't know a whole lot to begin with. Thank you!

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 07:10 AM
S&F! Very nice. Sorry that there will be many that will have a problem with what you have written, but those are the purveyors of doublespeak. Spread the truth.

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 09:38 AM
You are such a wonderful writer Jean Paul. My current favorite bit of doublespeak came from Al Gore when he said "the science is settled"

posted on Dec, 18 2009 @ 11:45 AM
reply to post by Lasheic

Reply to Lasheid

Thanks for posting those videos Lasheid, I must admit however, that lately I have been having problems with my router and find it difficult to get the images of video to play properly. For this reason I was unable to watch the videos you posted. I hope to have this problem fixed some time before the new year but at this time I struggle getting my wireless signal just be strong enough to get on line, let alone watch videos. It is yet another frustration I deal with these days. (Sigh). I feel fortunate enough to get online and post what I do.

I am familiar with Chomsky and have read a few of his books and some of his essays and other writings. He is an enigma to me on certain issues as I find his work illuminating and beneficial but I do not much care for some of his politics. I tend to agree with him on his assessment of media censorship and some other issues but on others we part ways in a big way. His views on political power tend to confound me as he is an advocate of anarchy or as he would put it; anarcho-syndicalism or a nicer phrase I guess would be libertarian socialism.

I think it is telling that he reduces legitimate power to examples such as a parent who uses force to prevent their child from doing dangerous things. While such power is no doubt justified, when taken to its logical extension in politics we wind up with a nanny state that seems to embody the very kind of illegitimate power he rails against. I also agree with him that contracting oneself out to an employer for a low wage is just a form of slavery and should be avoided when ever possible, yet his advocacy of "worker owned" businesses is a language I believe belongs in doublespeak.

A worker owned business would be the vast amount of small businesses that exist today where the owner of that business is essentially the primary worker as well. If that businessman develops his or her business to a point that more workers are needed, in most cases the wages offered for such employment will often times equal slave wages not worthy of a lifetime investment by the worker who contracts out for the work. The idea that the worker should be afforded an owner status just because they have agreed to help out in some of the duties required seems to dismiss the very real and hard work the owner first put in to develop the business to the point where it required extra help and discounts the fact that owner will still be working hard to maintain the business and keep it expanding.

Chomsky and I both are opposed to the "war on drugs" yet just another phrase of doublespeak since this so called war does not in anyway conform to the standards of wars fought since time immemorial and seems to have no endgame to it just an ever self perpetuating agenda of imprisoning people for behavior that is not a crime. All in all I find Chomsky and interesting man who has taught me much about linguistics. His book; Syntactic Structures was a great read.

As to Steven Pinker, I know far less but have been aware of him and would love to read his books How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thoughts. Hopefully I will get this router problem fixed through my wireless provider and have an opportunity to watch the videos you supplied. Thanks for adding your input.

Reply to henriquefd

Thank you for your thoughtful and interesting post. I think one of the most important aspects of communication is in listening, (or in the case of the internet; reading), carefully to what the other person is saying. Yet another importance is understanding the emotional level that person is at and the appropriate emotional level to use yourself when engaging that person. If the person who you described, the angry customer, is met with an emotional level below anger and not above it, then the communication exchange will crumble into non-communicative battle. However, if their emotional level is met with an emotional level way above that of anger, that too can backfire and create a problem.

Communication is key and many times the trick is to simply listen to what is being said, especially if one hopes to understand what the other person is saying. Thanks so much for your input.

Reply to Sirnex

You have come close to the heart of the matter with the doublespeak phrase "preemptive self defense". We can't hurt others simply because we fear them, there must be a good reason to harm another, which brings us close to what Chomsky is presumably getting at with "justified power". However, if someone, or as in the case of nations, some other country begins issuing threats, this is a justification for self defense.

In the United States the act of threatening another is known as assault and is a crime. While we all possess the freedom of speech threatening others comes with a consequence and the action of that speech is one that creates harm. Yet another reason to speak the language of truth for if a person issues empty threats and then feels there was no justification for the reaction to those lies, they are simply guilty of falling prey to their own deception. Thanks for your input, sometimes a brief remark using brevity is all that is required.

Reply to butcherguy

Thanks for your encouragement. Communication can be so difficult that sometimes no matter how hard I try, there will be someone who has a problem with what I said. That, however, is what debate and reasonable discourse is for. You keep spreading the truth too brother!

Reply to Asktheanimals

Thanks for your kind words and adding to that list of doublespeak phrases. "The science is settled" is a term that only really belongs to a very few principles or laws of physics and even then some scientist comes along and introduces quantum mechanics and all of a sudden much that was "settled" becomes questioned and for many the whole idea of quantum mechanics is rather unsettling.

In the end, we have many problems of communication that in order to correct them, require much more than just the facility of language. Indeed, language involves more than vocal or written words and it is as important to come to understand what a person hasn't said as what has been said. I wish I were better at communication and all too often fall prey to the very things I rail against...(sigh).

posted on Jan, 12 2010 @ 05:14 PM
I was in town on business earlier today, and as the radio went to a news brief this story linked here was discussed.

Text talk teens use 800 word vocabulary

Whilst the story was slightly exaggerated it does show a steady decline in the vocabulary of the coming generation.

By the age of 16 the majority of teenagers have developed a broad vocabulary of 40,000 words. Linguists have found, however, that many choose to limit themselves to a much smaller range of words in regular conversation.

So what we see is a capability to use a more diverse vocabulary, but a willingness to actually limit their own discourse. This does tend toward the rather cynical approach that george orwell warned us about. As we limit our vocabulary we limit our ability to express things in a more complex way.

What we're not seeing is the state trying to do this, or the ministry of information, but rather the perceived notion of being "hip". My belief has always been that they won't have to force anything on us to control us, all they have to do is make us want to buy or use it.

(k thnx bai)

posted on Jan, 13 2010 @ 08:43 AM
reply to post by Seiko

Thanks for that Seiko. This need to be perceived as "hip" or to be accepted among our peers, is indeed, problematic. I can remember in high school doing everything I could to downplay my grade point average, just to make sure I wasn't relegated to the "geek" club with all the other honor students. In fact, I had no interest in being an honor student precisely because I wanted to be accepted by my peers.

Being socially accepted should not mean that speaking well and expanding ones knowledge base is socially unacceptable.

top topics


log in