While mainstream media, whether state-owned or in the private sector (for-profit or otherwise) often tell outright lies in order to justify the foreign and domestic policy making decisions of the political elite to whom they are financially, socially or unconsciously beholden, often times they do not even have to go that far. Because of their traditional power over shaping the dialect, mainstream media outlets need only invent a new lexicon through which to couch the terms of the debate in order to make their opponents linguistically and therefore unconsciously subservient to the mainstream media narrative.
The comedian George Carlin highlighted this phenomenon in the 1990s, during a routine in which he lambasted the use and overuse of euphemisms that bear no direct relationship to the things they are meant to describe.
Since Carlin’s death in 2008, things have got even worse. Here is just a small updated list of phrases and words the mainstream media uses to intellectually numb the masses and discredited their opposition in 2018.
Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)
Immediately, this phrase is problematic as there are more people in such a category than outside of it, due to the fact that there are more organisations that are non-governmental in the world than there are governmental. If one wants to visit McDonald’s, is one going to a ‘non-governmental organisation’? What about the local ladies book and basket weaving club? It’s an organisation and it’s non-governmental, so is it a non-governmental organisation? What about the armed militias in Texas protesting attempted restrictions on the right to bear arms – are they non-governmental organisations? Linguistically speaking they are and they’re even something beyond, they are anti-governmental organisations.
In the world of Orwellian newspeak in which we live, a non-governmental organisation is ironically used to denote organisations that do what governments generally do. But when its an NGO, the term usually refers to an organisation doing government like things, in a land ruled by someone else’s government than the one which the NGO workers are governed by.
When one realises that many so-called NGOs are actually funded by governments themselves, the name itself comes undone. Groups like the White Helmets for example are funded so heavily by western governments that they cannot and should not be called NGOs. Such groups are governmental organisations, working for the governments that want to overthrow another government, namely that of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Private military company (PMCs)
Much like with NGOs, primate military companies are deceptively named in order to distort their real purpose. First of all, if there is an armed group that is not a military, it’s real name is a militia or paramilitary body. Secondly, the fact that many of these PMCs are funded either directly or indirectly through government agencies, means that they are not actually private but are more akin to a reserve unit in a regular military. Finally, the fact that someone is profiting from this activity, means that there is a real word for such things. PMCs are just a confusing word for mercenaries and mercenaries are people paid to kill other people in far off lands, in someone else’s war, because someone somewhere in a government is afraid to send the actual military.
The phrase itself presents a problem, because one is immediately forced to determine a scale of moderation implied. When one kills another individual in violation of the laws of his country, such a person is a rebel, but he is more often called a criminal. Yet when multiple individuals commit mass murder in violation of the laws of their country, are they not simply mass murderers? For the mainstream media such people are moderate rebels, but surely someone who kills one or two men is far more moderate than a group of men killing thousands of others.
If such mass murderers are working with NGOs and being trained by foreign PMCs, then presto – they aren’t mass murderers any more. In the world of mainstream media they are ‘moderate rebels’.
Regime and government are synonymous with one another, but in today’s world, if there’s a government you don’t like, you call it a regime. By contrast if there’s a regime you do like, you call it a government. There is absolutely nothing in the etymological roots of the word regime that connotes anything different than does the word government.
When Zionists conquer Palestinian land, build on it and in the process, kick Palestinians out of their homes, the individuals in question are called settlers and their new homes are called ‘settlements’. Why this benign sounding word has been allowed to permeate the discourse is anyone’s guess.
In reality, when someone comes to someone else’s land as an individual without the consent of those whose land it is, such a person is generally called an illegal alien. When a large group does the same, it is typically called colonisation and the place they build on stolen land is called a colony.
Instead, the world is stuck with ‘settlers’ in the same way that a cat settles into its new cat box or a child settles down after a glass of warm milk. Gone is any implication that such a ‘settlement’ on Palestinian land is an act of theft and usually a violent one at that.
They don’t share our values
This phrase creeps up whenever US or European diplomats discuss countries they do not like. The real reason they do not like these countries is that they seek to make money for themselves in a system that does not include US or EU financial institutions, or otherwise have foreign policies in which the US and EU do not play a role.
Instead of simply saying this, diplomats claim that the countries angering them for purely financial reasons “do not share our values”. Ironically, the statement in and of itself does not connote anything negative. A married person often has different values than a single person and both probably have different values than a divorced person. Is one of these people inherently good and are the others inherently bad? Of course not. So why should it be with international relations?
It would be far more honest and accurate if US diplomats simply said, we don’t like country ‘x’ because they aren’t making us money, rather than ‘they don’t share our values’. Given the pervasiveness of greed in the west, many people might actually back their imperialist governments more if they simply told the truth and said that it is all about making money…not that the ordinary person ever sees a penny of that money.
What do you call it when people killing each other, send some of the people killing each other to a conference room somewhere in order to negotiate how to get their associates on the battle field to stop killing each other? Most people are guilty of calling this a peace process. But does peace itself have a process? Not especially. Peace is a condition that either exists or does not exist. One doesn’t have a sleep process, one is either asleep or awake. If one is having difficulty sleeping, it’s most accurately called an ‘attempt’ to fall asleep, not a sleep process.
Thus, maybe someday we can all rename peace process a ‘peace attempt’, because that’s what it actually is and right now various attempts at peace throughout the world are being spoiled by every one of the other words and phrases on this list.