The Emperor's Old Clothes
Reader DL sends a link to Roger Scruton's wonderful piece in the National Review: Enter Eurospeak. Scruton's essay is about deception, specifically the 'Communist-like' deception at the heart of the proposed EU constitution, which he compares point-by-point to Orwell's Newspeak, itself a description of the Marxist program Orwell observed in the 1930s and 40s.
For no sooner had Marxist Newspeak evaporated than Eurospeak — the official language of the European Union — came in place of it. Turn to that extraordinary document on which the future of Europe now depends — the official constitution of the European Union — and you will again see language used as it was used by the Communists, not to describe reality, but to subdue reality to a ruling purpose.
In the draft constitution, things mean the opposite of what they ostensibly say. Grants of power to the nation states of Europe are really disguised forms of usurpation from them. Yet each of these expropriations is concealed in words whose plain meaning is never clear: purposely so because they are part of a linguistic process designed to lead people, a bit a time, towards a destination which would be rejected if baldly stated.
Take the critical term "subsidiarity," with which the constitution promises to protect the vestiges of national sovereignty. ... In Eurospeak, however, subsidiarity has the opposite sense, providing a comprehensive authorization to the EU institutions to expropriate whatever powers they might deem to be theirs. By purporting to grant powers with the very word that removes them, the EU constitution wraps the whole idea of decentralized government in mystery. A similar mystery is enshrined in such words as "proportionality," "solidarity," "ever closer union," and "acquis communautaire": words and phrases that suggest a popular process of lawful gain, but whose real meaning is loss. ...
Concealed within the crucial phrases is the non-negotiable appropriation of powers by an unaccountable body. ... By offering indecipherable mysteries at all the points where discussion might lead to a rejection of the agenda, Eurospeak protects the privileges of the Eurocrats as effectively as Newspeak protected the power of the Communists.
Like every form of Newspeak, the 'advances' proposed by the European constitution are cast as historical inevitability. It is of no importance if no one actually chooses or votes for these goals because they are implicit in 'world-historical movements' and only reactionary churls would oppose them. Scruton says:
From the same source comes the penchant of Newspeak for "irreversible" changes. Since everything is in motion and the "struggle" between the forces of progress and the forces of reaction is always and everywhere, it is important that the triumph of ideology over reality be constantly recorded and endorsed. Hence progressive forces always achieve irreversible changes, while reactionary forces are wrong-footed by their contradictory and merely "nostalgic" attempts to defend a doomed social order.
Eurospeak mirrors this feature of Newspeak. It pins its exhortations to a pan-dynamic vision of the political process in which all positive changes are irreversible and all negative changes merely temporary setbacks, caused by racism, xenophobia, Little Englandism, nationalism, and so on. Just as the official announcements of Newspeak refer to ever more "scientific," progressive, or productive initiatives, without ever specifying just what point on the scale of science, progress, or production we have reached, so does Eurospeak build itself around a project of "ever closer union," without pausing to consider how much union has so far been attained or how much union would be desirable. Everything is constantly moving forward along the single path ...
And of course, no dialect of Newspeak would be complete without ThoughtCrime.
In a similar manner Eurospeak fills the world with its own brand of dangerous "isms," ... Chief of these "isms" is the "racism" (and "xenophobia") ... and which has now been made into a crime. Nobody knows what this crime involves, and that is the real purpose of the label — namely, to instill in the public mind the idea of a malign force that stalks through all European society, inhabiting the hearts and brains of people who may not be aware of its machinations, diverting even the most innocent project onto the path of sin.
The post Man Bites Dog points out what is truly remarkable about all forms of Newspeak: their reliance on what is relentlessly suggested but never proved. Jimmy Carter asserts that a stronger UN and EU will weaken terrorism without offering the slightest shred of proof for the proposition. The EU asserts that the march toward a European superstate is inevitable, without saying why. Global Warming is advanced as fact even as the Populuation Bomb once was fact, though both are actually theories, with the latter lying in total discredit. Yet hundreds of millions, even billions of people routinely take these assertions as given.
Perhaps the real reason ideological propositions are set up as "obvious" and "irreversible" facts is that they are actually so intellectually fragile they must be exempted from questioning. That's why the very act of discussing these unsupported articles of faith is declared a form of "intolerance" or "hate speech" so as to make the whole ideological edifice self-supporting. But as the recent rejections of the European Charter in France and the Netherlands proved, bankrupt ideas however armored with Newspeak are bankrupt all the same with one additional property. Newspeak coated projects are prone to a suddenly catastrophic -- and to the press -- and inexplicable collapse. Keith Windschuttle in his wonderful New Criterion article The journalism of warfare cites Robert Fisk's derision at American attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein in April 2003 as an example of corrupt reporting.
The road to the front in central Iraq is a place of fast-moving vehicles, blazing Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, tanks and trucks hidden in palm groves, a train of armoured vehicles… . How, I kept asking myself, could the Americans batter their way through these defences? For mile after mile they go on, slit trenches, ditches, earthen underground bunkers, palm groves of heavy artillery and truck loads of combat troops in battle fatigues and steel helmets. Not since the 1980–88 Iran-Iraq War have I seen the Iraqi Army deployed like this.
The European Charter ratification campaign, like Saddam's impregnable defenses and the Soviet Union in 1989 collapsed overnight not because of some of some secret weapon but simply because these supposedly powerful things were really houses of cards given the impression of solidity by their publicists. They were dreams made out of Newspeak -- durable until the first light wind blew them over.