Friday, March 29, 2013

Recent Additions To The Newspeak Dictionary

Carol Goar writes that three buzzords have recently been added to the Newspeak Dictionary:

The first is governance, an amorphous word that covers everything from the way a leader wields power to the way a small charity accounts to its donors. The term encompasses laws, procedures, standards, ethics and expectations. Its meaning varies with the user. Its criteria are ever-shifting. Yet politicians, bureaucrats, business executives, non-profit leaders and pundits use the term as if everyone knows — or ought to know — what they’re talking about.

But, the truth is, our masters make it mean whatever they want it to mean:

Here is an example: “Concluding an agreement with N.W.T. will be an important and positive step in the evolution of northern governance.” The speaker is former aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan, heralding a yet-to-be announced deal that would shift responsibility for land use and resource management from Ottawa to the government of the Northwest Territories. Duncan would not provide details of the negotiations.  

The word lacks context. There are no clues -- no details -- to support meaning. In truth, there is nothing there. The most recent exercise  in making something of nothing is the latest Harper budget. In fact, Paul Wells writes, Stephen Harper doesn't do budgets anymore.

Then there is another term -- which the Harper government throws around with abandon -- diligence:

Here is how Julian Fantino, minister of international co-operation, used it in a recent letter to the Star. “While I am cognizant of the space limitations in the Toronto Star, to leave out much of what the Canadian International Development Agency provided, puts into question Jessica McDiarmid’s due diligence in representing Canada’s exemplary work in Afghanistan.” The minister was responding to a story detailing how $10 billion of the $50 billion Canada spent to build a dam in Afghanistan went to security contractors facing allegations of corruption.

He did not refute a single fact in the story. (Everything was backed up by government documents obtained through Access to Information). Nor did he challenge any of the figures. Fantino’s objection was the writer’s focus: she didn’t present a full picture of Canada’s aid to Afghanistan and didn’t explain how much good the dam would do.

That kind of publicity is his job — not hers. Yet by using the term “due diligence,” the minister was able to insinuate McDiarmid had behaved unprofessionally.

And, finally, there is that term austerity. As used by conservative politicians, it is supposed to be a virtue. David Cameron claims that what the world needs is more austerity. Yet austerity, as he defines it, has put his nation into recession for a second time. And it keeps Europe on the brink of economic collapse.

George Orwell knew that politicians twisted language. War became Peace. Ignorance became Strength. And Freedom became Slavery. Not much has changed since he wrote Politics And The English Language.


Lorne said...

As Orwell so aptly said, Owen, "political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible." It was true in his time, and even more so today.

Owen Gray said...

"Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose," Lorne.