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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Orwellian Language


Image credit: "Thinking about it..." blog.

Many so-called "tax protesters" claim they live in an "1984" world, where words mean the opposite of what they're supposed to. That true! The problem is, it's a world of their own making.

One of the problem with the "tax protesters" is that they love using words to mean the opposite of what they really mean. Let us start with "tax protester". There are real tax protesters -- people who refuse to pay taxes to protest something, such as the Vietnam war, or Ghandi refusing to pay the salt tax.

Real tax protesters do not argue the legality of the tax. They think that a certain tax is immoral, but that's something else. They are quite willing to pay the penalty, including jail time, to make a point about the immorality of the tax.

So-called "tax protesters" are in reality tax deniers. They believe that they found some magic word ("freeman on the land", "admiralty court", "sovereign citizen", "writ of mandumbass... er, mandamus", "non-federal citizen", etc.) that makes them magically tax-free. They think that if they merely call themselves "protesters" it makes them so, just like they think that if they call themselves "sovereign citizens" they are tax free.

This is precisely what Orwell was speaking about in Politics and the English Language (1946): the use of terms, not to clarify, but to deceive:
[M]odern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.
Read any so-called tax "protester" "legal" "argument" and see for yourself. Or go to one of their conferences, and notice how, as Orwell writes:
When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.
How correct he was, more than 60 years ago! Far from being "rebels", the tax "protesters" merely conform to the same dogma everybody in their social circle agrees with, and the "truth" of the dogma is reinforced by repetition, by A telling B it's true and B telling A it's true in return. The only difference is that in their case the dogma is more absurd than most.

"Rebels"? "Protesters"? HA!

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