Celebrating cutting edge advances in the Doublethink of the 90's
Written by Wayne Grytting #115

Cool Hand Luke Update

Massachusetts stole a leaf from Alabama's penal practices and initiated its first chain gang. While armed guards watched, prisoners shackled by the ankles painted fences out in the community. However, showing how trend setting the northern state is, the chain gangs are not referred to by that name. Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said his department prefers the term "tandem work crews". "Chain gangs were meant to break people down," said Sheriff Hodgson. "My program is the complete opposite - it builds self-esteem and self confidence, and helps them know they've accomplished something." Absolutely. Can't you just hear prisoners telling passerby's that they're just building up their self-esteem by being shackled together in public? And why limit such obvious benefits to prisoners? What about students? (AP 6/16/99)

Say "Cheese" Dept

The royal marriage of England's Prince Edward to Sophie Rhys-Jones was "improved" thanks to computer imaging. Prince Edward noticed that his nephew, Prince William, had not giving his all in the smile department for the official photographs. Photographer Geoffrey Sharkley reported that, "Prince Edward said he didn't think Prince William looked absolutely his best, so digitally we were able to put in another picture of Prince William from one of the other shots where he is smiling and laughing." Now the historical record will show that the young prince was very happy at the ceremony. I suspect this is just the tip of a coming iceberg. Might we be the last generation to find it amusing or even unusual to re-define historical moments? (Winnipeg Free Press 6/22/99)

Beyond Breastfeeding

Nestle's has been subject to an on-going boycott for their role in persuading Third World women to give up breast feeding for the more "modern" use of artificial infant formula. The practice is credited by the World Health Organization with a million and a half deaths a year, largely due to the exposure of babies to contaminated drinking water. Now Nestle's has found a worthy free market solution solution. So simple for the owners of Perrier. They will be marketing a bottled water called Pure Life to 20 Third World nations. In addition, Nestle's has joined the environmental movement, initiating a model educational effort in Lahore, Pakistan, where it has encouraged a local ad agency to sponsor a series of "awareness seminars" on the dangers of contaminated water. Keeping with its natural modesty, Nestle's refrained from mentioning its role in funding the campaign. (WSJ 6/18/99)

Category Mistakes

The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals denied asylum for a woman from Guatemala who was fleeing a severely abusive husband. After Guatemalan courts ruled a husband's beating of his wife was a "private matter", Rodi Alvaredo Pena turned to the more enlightened U.S. justice system. Our government openly admitted that Ms. Pena had been repeatedly raped, kicked and pistol-whipped by her husband and faced a direct and serious threat of harm if she returned home. She would suffer, but she would not suffer under any of the five categories recognized under U.S. law: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group. I can't emphasize enough the importance of acting within the proper pigeon holes. If only Ms. Pena had thought to utter some political views while being beaten... (WP 6/20/99)

A Small Clarification

The Defense Department has been recycling old ammunition, making available over 100,000 rounds of armor-piercing .50 caliber shells for civilian use. The Pentagon has been selling the bullets to a company called Talon Manufacturing for a mere $1 a ton. Talon turns 98% of the bullets into scrap but is allowed to sell 2% to needy individuals and foreign governments such as Columbia and Brazil. At least that's what it looks like on the surface. In reality, things are a bit more complicated, as a company statement made clear. "Talon does not buy ammunition from the government," it said, "but is paid by the government to demilitarize ammunition as established by contract." I do hope they are using the proper demilitarizing wands for that purpose. (AP 6/16/99)

Special thanks to The Starman and Phil Kos for spotting quality Newspeak. Send in your own cutting edge examples of Newspeak or subscribe by e-mailing to with the message "Why don't you get a listserv you Luddite" or something similar.

Wanting to go past satire to activism? Read my friend Paul Loeb's excellent new book "Soul of a Citizen". Check it out on the Web at