I pointed this out on Twitter last week, but repeat it here.

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” George Orwell wrote in 1946. “Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

In that amazing essay, “Politics and the English Language” (stop what you’re doing and read it if you never have), Orwell cites examples like “pacification,” “transfer of population,” or “a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition.” Doesn’t that sound nicer than “bombing villages,” “forced displacement,” or “throwing the opposition in jail?”

The essay comes to mind constantly when working on the U.S. border and migration, where:

  • The “Remain in Mexico” program that has forced 60,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers into dangerous Mexican border towns is called Migrant “Protection” Protocols.
  • Rushing Mexicans’ asylum cases with no access to council is called the “Humanitarian” Asylum Review Process.
  • Honduras and Guatemala are called “Safe” Third Countries.
  • Mexico’s migration authorities insist on calling migrant apprehensions “rescues” (rescates). They don’t detain migrants, they “lodge” them (alojar). And deportation is “assisted return” (retorno asistido).

Here we are in 2020, having to repeat lessons about the authoritarian mindset that we should have learned 74 years ago.