Spinspeak Defined


Spinspeak today is one of the greatest threats to freedom in the 21st Century.

Spin docs, pols, fanatics, business titans, lawyers, academics and other worthies are willfully befogging and polluting language to muddle your brain. H.L Mencken and George Orwell knew what this snake oil can do. It destroys rational thought.

Every day the masters of spinspeak build for us fantasy models of the world through rampant use of euphemisms, adjusted definitions and reminted portmanteau words.

Does  the name for an  idea have  negative baggage?  Not to worry:  it is named  something more positive or more vague or both.

Does  the name for the opposition’s idea have  too many positive connotations?  Blink and it is named  something much more negative.

Or, who needs reality?  Simply make up  and  insist on 180 degree Orwellian claims:   War is Peace.   Wrong is Right.

As a result this plague,  we are mentally blinded and  lost in a blizzard of fuzzball words.    We argue with them.  We hurl them at each other.  We build our plans and proposals out of them.  Refusal to use them is ridiculed, hated, shouted down.  Our personal knowledge systems are increasingly impaired.

In the end, public policy based on this fuzzball language  improves only  the spin docs’  fantasy models in a fantasy world.   At best it leaves untouched  the real world  and its problems and opportunities; at worst, it cripples and destroys.

Language pollution to some degree has been a disability of the human race for thousands of years.

Under the Tang Dynasty in the Seventh Century the Chinese imperial bureaucracy created “Standard Histories” of the regime for the national archives. These histories, carefully fine tuned to imperial considerations, were called “Veritable Records.”  The fine tuning process was known officially as “appropriate concealment” and “ethical instruction.”

More than a millennium  later, the Communists and the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany did the same thing while making  immense additional contributions to the art of spinspeak.   And In the United States, many sources — Corporate America, the Academy, the Military, Hollywood, and armies of Communist Russia admirers, arbitrary do-gooders, lawyers, indicted and unindicted charlatans and self-proclaimed leaders, public relations consultants, and  assorted mountebanks and snake oil peddlers — have been busy polluting American English in the last half century.  But, despite our national insistence on equality in all matters including talent, some in this area have greater capabilities than others.

Now, at the beginning of the new century,  outstanding  polluters  of language appear 24 hours a day on TV and radio news and talk programs to explain that vultures are really canaries or that much tarnished goldfish are whales.   Politicians, long adept in the arts of bamboozlement, can hardly wait to sign on to the latest fuzzball euphemism. The burgeoning Poverty Industry and the retiring graduates of the Sixties Age of Compassion and their younger followers deserve special mention for creativity. But,  surely,  President William Jefferson Clinton proved himself a language polluter without peer.   

History most certainly will show that much of the pollution of the language that preceded the Clinton Administration was prologue to the outstanding  championship levels in the spinspeak field achieved and accepted in  the Era of Clinton/Gore. Unfortunately, those levels  continue to rise in the present day.  Mencken and Orwell would feel at home.