We need to have a talk about Doublespeak.

“Doublespeak: language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth”

Politicians have long been masters of doublespeak. It’s not just lying. It’s lying in a specialized, carefully cultivated way, often in order to achieve specific goals.

The real problem these days is that it’s not enough to recognized that the people in charge are lying to you. You must also hear what they really mean. In that sense, then, they’re actually using triplespeak. What our president and his agents tell us has not two, but three real meanings:

  • One is the truth they’re dodging.
  • Two is the falsehood they’re cloaking it in.
  • Three is the con we haven’t seen clearly yet.

Trump and his party are using triplespeak: one is the truth they’re dodging, two is the falsehood they’re cloaking it in, and three is the con we haven’t seen clearly yet.

Now, let’s take a couple of examples.

Examples of triplespeak

From the ABC Trump interview, Jan 25: “We’re going to launch an investigation [into suspected voter fraud] to find out. And then the next time — and I will say this, of those votes cast, none of them come to me, none of them come to me. They would all be for the other side. None of them come to me. But when you look at the people that are registered, dead, illegal, and two states, in some cases, maybe three states. We have a lot to look into.”

  1. The truth is that there’s likely little voter fraud, and if there is anything to investigate, it would be Russia’s interference in the election process.
  2. The lie he’s telling is that there is rampant voter fraud (there is, of course, no evidence of this), and that 100% of the voter fraud benefited the Democrats.
  3. The con, or propaganda, is the firm “truth” that liberals are dishonest and conservatives are scrupulously honest and good. This is an outstanding message to hammer home again and again, because it pumps up your supporters, casts the opposition as morally reprehensible, and justifies “means and ends” methodology (because again, we’re working against BAD people! Liberals! Those lying cheating cheaters!)

Almost everything about the Spicer press conference on the inauguration numbers (and his follow up) was double- and triplespeak, but we’ll stick with a single example: “Spicer then claimed that Trump drew the “largest audience to witness an inauguration period, both in person and around the world.” He did not offer any evidence for this claim, nor did he square it with the idea that it was impossible to estimate crowd size.” – Vox

  1. The truth is that the inauguration was not mobbed. It was very, very clear that it was modestly attended. It was clear to the people there, to the people who watched the event on video, to anyone who’s see pictures. It’s clear to the Trump administration, too.
  2. The lie is even more clear: Spicer lied when he said that it was the “largest audience to witness an inauguration…in person”. (I haven’t looked at the online numbers, and I don’t care. I wouldn’t care about any of this at ALL, except that they made such a big giant deal out of it and lied so blatantly.)
  3. The con is that the vast majority of the country loves Trump and supports Trump.  That he’s firmly in the right, and should rush right into everything he wants to do. Why? Well clearly, such a well-loved and well-supported president must get on with the business that his country so clearly approves of. It’s a con. It’s another “ends and means” justification, and another way to not actually bother listening to anyone’s input.

    The second con
    , not entirely covered by this quote, is that the news media is an enemy of Trump, and therefore of the State. The con says that you can’t trust what you see, can’t trust what you hear. You can only trust Trump. Do I need to spell out how radically dangerous, how frightening, how – without exaggeration – straight out of the Dictator’s Handbook this is? If I do, get with me in comments. We’ll have a civilized but very urgent talk.

Now what?

I’m an ordinary citizen, like you. Yes, I’m college educated, but I studied computer science and theater, philosophy and writing…not political science. Like you, I can certainly think for myself, but I’m not a black belt politics ninja with a hundred years of government trivia and law stored away in my head.

We are the ones, though, that have to do the work. We are the ones that have to hear this, and we must begin thinking: what’s the truth? What’s the lie? What’s the con, and what does that mean?

It’s the con that will tell you what they’re really trying to do to you.


P.S. Immediately after scheduling this post, I open Twitter to find chief strategist Stephen Bannon calling the media “the opposition party”. This stuff is getting easier. We just have to watch.