Queen Doublespeak

Republicans as a lot have built a modern political empire with their calculated and relentless program of doublespeak, the insidious manipulation of language, its name derived from the combination of George Orwell’s Newspeak and Doublethink. While it’s very difficult to differentiate one practitioner as a winner from among such a large pool, Michele Bachmann, having certified herself as a real presidential candidate with the punditocracy deserves special attention.

I defy anyone to consider the wonders she has worked with the words: benefit, income and asset, and come away entirely unimpressed. The famously government deriding congresswoman’s family farm soaked up $260,000 of filthy lucre otherwise known as federal subsidies between 1995 and 2008. While the information itself has been widely reported, Bachmann’s Orwellian language attempting to deny that she has benefitted both from the farm and from the federal government, are textbook doublespeak.

Her first hapless defense was that since her father-in-law actually owned the farm until he died in 2009 the income from the farm she has declared on her financial disclosure forms somehow wasn’t income, even though she listed it as exactly that on the disclosure form. This claim may reveal not only an attempt to deceive with language, but that she may well be the victim of what is known in psychiatric circles as a dissociative state.

After rolling out the daddy-in-law owned the farm defense, she claimed, “”And my husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm.” In this case, given that her disclosure forms declare her as having received between $37,000 and $120,000 in income from the farm over several years, one must note her novel distinction between money and income, the latter of which she has received, though not the former. In one element of this particular exercise in doublespeak, one must give her due credit for her veracity, since in all likelihood she has never derived income from the farm in the form of actual pennies. Fair point, Michele.

Of genuine interest are the novel vocabulary distinctions and conceptual innovations incorporated within the following statements of excuse: “…income to the farm has been used to support Marcus’ parents, and also reinvested into the farm to support its operations.” And, “All income that was allocated to Michele, Marcus and their children under the partnership agreement was retained by the partnership and thus they did not directly benefit from the farm income or subsidies.”

Whether it is primarily a linguistic or a bookkeeping accomplishment, in these statements, “income” that is “reinvested,” somehow during the process of investment has ceased to exist as income. According to this admirably avant-garde lexicon plowing the “income” back into the original asset produces no “benefit.”  Making the asset more valuable due to the contribution of additional investment in no way benefits Michele and her family. Got it?

I’m assuming these facile attempts at sleight weren’t intended as examples of her Christian Dominionism, according to which Christians control all facets of society and government ,and guide them according to “Christian principles.” Clearly in this Holy Scripture one finds between Genesis and Exodus, the Book of Orwell.

But she excelled at a very high level of doublespeak during her appearance on Meet the Press. In what I regarded as an intended homage to 1984’s “war is peace,” she made the statement, “I was the leading voice in Washington against raising the debt ceiling. Now that doesn’t mean default.” Some might argue this more accurately operates under the theory of the Big Lie famously found in Mein Kampf. However, by declaring that contrary to the real world operation of cause and effect, in her scenario described in doublespeak the effect doesn’t follow the cause, she is proclaiming the opposite of the truth to be the truth. If it’s a judgment call, I’m afraid I’m going to have to rule in favor of Orwell rather than Hitler here. And, she gets doublespeak bonus points for later adding, “You don’t mess with the full faith and credit of the United States,” days after having done so.

Michele, in a golden oldie of doubespeak so to speak, once again insisted during this appearance that the words submission and respect happen to be interchangeable. When Gregory told her he “didn’t even have to check” with his wife to know that the two words do not mean the same thing, she answered, “In our house they do.” In a strategic change-up, rather than the big lie or doublespeak, she chose instead to play the alternate reality card, a very popular and successful Republican choice. Touché!

But later, an even more bravura performance was in store. Gregory hoisted up her infamously bigoted statements concerning gays: “It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It’s anything but gay.” And, “It leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you’re involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it’s bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement.”

To her own explicitly judgmental statements, she replied, “Well, I am running for the presidency of the United States. I’m not running to be anyone’s judge.” This is some old school, professional level doublespeak, my friends.

Proverbial icing on the cake of her immense foolishness occurred when she asserted, “You know, all of these kind of questions really aren’t about what people are concerned about right now,” to which  in response, Gregory recalled for her her previous insistence that every candidate for president should be questioned on this very subject, and that “gay marriage is a defining issue of our time.”

And of course old fashioned gal that she is, at times she relies on the plain old tried and true lie. Having claimed the Founding Fathers worked to end slavery, and elevated the teenage John Quincy Adams to a Founding Father, an entire world of eleventh grade U.S. history students called her out. In the face of wall-to-wall corrections across the political spectrum she insisted she was absolutely right, and everyone else in the world was wrong. In the end, the unfortunate inference here is either that the Founding Fathers were miserable failures in their attempts to end slavery or else guilty of living supernaturally long lives, well  into the 1860’s.

It’s striking how often those like her who commodify their putative religious devotion as a political selling tool have so little, in fact zero compunction when it comes to shameless dissimulation and falsifying in the political realm. In fact, they seem by far the worst. Clearly, this is the place where opportunism, self-righteousness, self-delusion and deception of others come to live together in queasy harmony.


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