August 3, 2009

Mutatis Mutandi

George Orwell might have said: In our country, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the abolition of Proportional Representation, the arbitrary seizure of private firms , the open politization of the judiciary and the closure of opposition radio stations, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of chavismo.

Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. An electoral law is approved to ensure 51% of the votes land you 95% of the seats in parliament, and this is called "deepening electoral participation." Armed troops arrive unannounced to seize a firm a family has spent a lifetime building and hand it off to a clique of well-connected chavista bureaucrats: this is called "establishing the social property system". Judges are harassed, physically intimidated, threatened and eventually fired for resisting pressure to rule against regime opponents, and this is called "revolutionary justice". Hundreds of dissident radio stations are shut down, their employees lose their jobs, and the views they broadcast are silenced: this is called "democratizing the radioelectric spectrum" or "ending the broadcasting latifundia." Journalists are threatened with long jail sentences for stepping over any one of a dozen loosely defined, desperately blurry lines in criticizing the regime, and this is called "protecting the mental health of media users."

Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Luisa Ortega Diaz's Ley CDM. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in censoring dissidents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:
‘While freely conceding that the Chavez regime exhibits certain features which imperialist champions of bourgeois free speech may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods...’
[The original text.]