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January 18, 2011

There is a lot of political doublespeak going on today. In case that word has been blunted from years of misuse, please recall that doublespeak is meant to evoke a state where one is compelled to believe absurdities (via doublethink) if it is convenient for the prevailing totalitarian regime. If you’ve never read Orwell’s 1984, “2 + 2 = 5” is a simple example of what a doublethinker must accept as true in order to survive without raising too many hackles of the incorporated body politic. Here are a few others.

First, though I’ve had plenty to say about both Facebook and WikiLeaks already, SNL puts it pretty simply:

Of course, there’s the infamous new edition of Huckleberry Finn due out that will eliminate use of the word “nigger,” which will thereby completely eliminate the power that word ever held and surely prevent any child from becoming racist as a result of reading the novel in elementary school. Tsk tsk, Mark Twain, you should have known better.

In other discrimination-from-several-centuries-ago-news, Antonin Scalia recently said in a public interview that the Constitution does not explicitly protect women from discrimination by state actors. While it is technically true that the Constitution does not use the words “woman,” “women,” “female,” or “dollface,” the notion that the founders would not have held the truth of male/female equality to be self-evident, or at least philosophically consistent, had the political, cultural and biological climates advanced slightly farther is absurd. Of course, there’s a more “legal” argument as to why Scalia’s Constitutional position is absurd, and it’s called the Ninth Amendment.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

For those of you who have never gotten this far in the Bill of Rights, all this means is that saying “man” has certain rights does not exclude a “woman” from also enjoying them. Just like saying you have the “freedom of speech” does not mean you do not have the freedom to sing.

On another of my favorite subjects, why do we allow record companies to terrorize and intimidate students and legitimate technological innovators who do not directly take money from artists (and could do the opposite by virtue of increased buzz, loyalty, sharing, and concert attendance) for the supposed protection of rights that they themselves habitually betray? For example, when record companies release thousands of compilation CDs without securing the rights to include the constituent tracks on a given album, it unequivocally does (up to $6 billion in) damage to artists in lost sales (or a $45 million settlement) by capturing a greater proportion of the money that might be paid for a given track.

Or consider how Russia, a country that is pretty transparently run by the KGB-cum-oligarchy, has decided to kick out some of the most famous monopolies of all time in favor of freedom: Putin has announced that all Russian government computers must drop Microsoft’s software and adopt open source software alternatives by 2015. And no, it’s not just a cost-saving technique (though it will save Russia billions in licensing fees), this move for “freedom” is also a move for security, when the United States has the ears (and the balls) of the technology producers.

But just a few weeks before Mr. Putin publicly endorsed open-source software, FBI Director Robert Mueller toured Silicon Valley’s leading companies to ask their CEOs to build back doors into their software, making it easier for American law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies to eavesdrop on online conversations. The very possibility of such talks is likely to force foreign governments to reconsider their dependence on American technology. Whatever the outcome of Washington’s
engagement with the Internet, Silicon Valley will be the one to bear the costs.

The move suggests that one consider whether or not Russia’s justifiably self-interested move is worth taking for oneself, but our engrained doublethink makes us remember that we “have nothing to hide,” and therefore have no problem shelling out $75-100 every couple of years to the proprietary software monopolists for the newest thing*.

The irony in these developments is hard to miss. Information technology has been one of the leading drivers of globalization, and it may also become one of its major

*May include governmental surveillance.

And perhaps my favorite recent example of pointing out political irony and doublethink, Bill Maher tells the Teabaggers how it is: The Founding Fathers would have hated their guts.

While you idolize the Founding Fathers and dress up like them and smell like them, I think it’s pretty clear that the Founding Fathers would have hated your guts, and what’s more you would have hated them. They were everything you despise. They studied science, read Plato, hung out in Paris, and thought the Bible was mostly bullshit, and yet here is a popular painting in wing nut America. Yes, that’s Jesus with the Founding Fathers behind them, presenting the Constitution to America. Either that or it’s a settlement offer for that boy after he sued the rectory.

I sometimes suspect that part of the reason that people aren’t able to catch some of these latent absurdities is because these issues are simply too hard to pay attention to, or too complicated and obscured to see through to the truth. But then I suspect that’s just doublethink.

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