Shades of George Orwell!
A few days ago, media outlets reported on the Trump Administration’s most recent effort to fulfill Tallyrand’s famous dictum that “Language is given to man to conceal his thoughts.” Or, in this case, to deceive and mislead.
The Department of Energy appears to have a surprising new nickname for natural gas: “freedom gas.”
The unexpected new moniker made its debut in a press releaseissued Tuesday to announce the approval of additional liquified natural gas (LNG) exports from a terminal on Quintana Island, Texas. It also included the term “molecules of U.S. freedom.”
Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes unveiled the term “freedom gas” in the release, which notes that he highlighted the approval at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver, Canada…
Later in the release, Steven Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy, said the department is promoting an efficient regulatory system to enable “molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world.”
Gee, almost makes me nostalgic for “Freedom Fries”…
Inept–okay, hilariously stupid–as this may be, this most recent aggression against the proper use of language is hardly a new effort by the Trump administration. In December of 2017, employees of the Centers for Disease Control leaked a list of words that they had been newly forbidden to use: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
Evidently, the administration was operating on the theory that, if there isn’t a word, the reality the word is intended to describe no longer exists. (And if you can’t see a ship named the USS John McCain, the annoying military hero for whom it is named can no longer diminish Cadet Bone Spurs by his mere presence.)
Doublespeak is a term coined by (or at least closely associated with) George Orwell. It describes language that is intended to obscure, disguise or distort the meaning of words, and the Trump Administration isn’t the first to employ it. (Remember when George W. Bush dubbed his roll back of air quality protections the “Clear Skies” bill?)
According to Wikipedia,
Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g. “downsizing” for layoffs and “servicing the target” for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.
“Downsizing” and “Clear Skies” are pretty effective uses of doublespeak. “Molecules of Freedom,” on the other hand, is just risible, and “Freedom Gas” sounds like a euphemism for farts. These silly labels are evidently meant to counter environmental concerns about fossil fuels, but they are more likely to trigger ridicule.
“Molecules of freedom” and ‘Freedom Gas” are gifts to late-night comedians.
Actually, this whole ham-handed effort at managing the language of public policy should remind sane Americans that we were lucky to “elect” Trump. We could just as easily have elected a white nationalist criminal autocrat who was smart, or at least competent–a Mitch McConnell type–who would have been able to effectively dismantle American democracy and destroy the rule of law.
We lucked out: we are reminded daily that our accidental President is an intellectually limited buffoon and that he has assembled a staff and cabinet that can’t even operate as a cabal.
Think Keystone Kops trying to be ruthless–while farting Freedom Gas.