Doublespeak and the Demonic

Orwellian Doublespeak, description from Wikipedia:
Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs, "servicing the target" for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war "peace"). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. 
William Stringfellow on the stratagems of the Powers:
[E]ach and every stratagem and resort of the principalities seeks the death of the specific faculties of rational and moral comprehension which specifically distinguish human beings from all other creatures. Whatever form or appearance it make take, demonic aggression always aims at the immobilization or surrender or destruction of the mind and at the neutralization or abandonment or demoralization of the conscience.
The aim of demonic assault is to morally incapacitate human beings through the neutralization of the conscience. Stringfellow calls these assaults on truth babel. Babel, of which doublespeak Stringfellow explicitly names, does two things.

First, babel overwhelms and dumbfounds the conscience:
Babel means the inversion of language, verbal inflation, libel, rumor, euphemism and coded phrases, rhetorical wantonness, redundancy, hyperbole, such profusion in speech and sound that comprehension is impaired, nonsense, sophistry, jargon, noise, incoherence, a chaos of voices and tongues, falsehood, blasphemy...

Essentially, babel targets the faculties of comprehension--sanity and conscience...
Next, babel then lays the foundation for violence. Stringfellow quotes Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
Let us not forget that violence does not exist by itself and cannot do so; it is necessarily interwoven with lies. Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence. Any man who has once acclaimed violence as his method must inexorably choose falsehood as his principle. 

Graph of New York Times usage of the phrase "enhanced interrogation" over time:

 (H/T Derek Willis)

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2 thoughts on “Doublespeak and the Demonic”

  1. I'm rather new to the blog, and just wanted to say that I love the discussion of how we use euphemisms to disguise evil! I was wondering though, if you thought this doublespeak occurs in subtler forms. As a psychologist, I have noticed (and been very impressed) that you don't resort to psychology jargon when you discuss these topics. When you describe experiments you describe them like stories, not in terms of abstract constructs and theories. I've always had the sneaking feeling that, when scientists use jargon, its a subtle way to create hierarchy, a way to say some people's understanding and opinion are not important. I was wondering if you also think this a problem. Thanks for the great post!

  2. i think i have encountered more snobs on athiest blogs than any where. it's like if i had the brain function to read minds and could follow up on every link then i could 'competete' for the privilege of being considered a respectable equil. but then i should not want to because my identiy in not tangled up in a fantasy that I can control outcomes by believing in 'approved' authorities.

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