Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Doublespeak in the Chronicle

I recently finished reading 1984, George Orwell's tale of a futuristic totalitarian state. In the novel, leaders of the state engage in a thorough and constant effort to wipe out facts of reality. As one character states, reality exists in the "collective mind", and whatever the collective believes to be true is true. The individual is always wrong.

Many readers of 1984 likely believe that such irrationality can only exist in fiction, that actual human beings could not accept and advocate such nonsense. Yet, almost on cue, the Chronicle provides us with evidence to the contrary. In an editorial on the Houston Food Bank, the paper lauds the facility for its efforts to feed the hungry. Ignoring basic economic truths and observable facts of reality, the paper claims:
Food stamps are a bargain. The program is 100 percent federally funded, while administrative costs are shared 50-50 with the state. Not only does it immediately and significantly benefit the recipients, it just as promptly and efficiently benefits local farmers, grocers and other businesses.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every dollar in SNAP benefits produces $1.84 in economic activity.
The editorial ignores the fact that any money provided by the federal government must first be coercively seized from taxpayers. The editorial ignores the fact that such theft is hardly a bargain for those who have their money taken by force. The editorial ignores the fact that those taxpayers must now forgo spending on the items that they desire, such as a new car, or a home, or a vacation, or a dinner out. The editorial ignores the myriad government interventions that have created the economic turmoil and hunger that it now wants government to correct. But in true 1984 fashion, the paper implicitly suggests that such facts can be wiped out of existence if we simply believe otherwise.

Contrary to the premises underlying the editorial and implied by it, reality is not a creation of consciousness. The facts of reality are immutable, no matter how many people believe otherwise. There is no collective consciousness--there is only the minds of individuals. And it is the minds of individuals that the Chronicle regularly seeks to control and subvert.

Whether it is calling for restrictions on billboards, or advocating land-use regulations, or supporting government control of health care, the paper consistently calls for regulations and controls on the actions of individuals. The paper consistently supports measures that will prevent individuals from acting according to their own judgment. And that is not a fictionalized fantasy--it is a fact that the Chronicle cannot wipe out of existence by pretending otherwise.

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