Doublespeak Award

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The Doublespeak Award is an "ironic tribute to public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered." It has been issued by the National Council of Teachers of English since 1974.[1][2]

Its opposite number is the Orwell Award for authors, editors, or producers of a print or nonprint work that "contributes to honesty and clarity in public language."[1]

The recipients of the award have included:[1]

  • 2013 – Rahm Emanuel, for creating a formula to calculate "school utilization" based on the average number of students in each homeroom. Schools with smaller classroom sizes would be labeled as "underutilized" and be closed down, while schools with larger classroom sizes would be labeled as properly "utilized". This is in conflict with the existing evidence that students perform better in smaller classroom sizes.
  • 2012 – American Petroleum Institute, for making misleading public statements about the regulation of oil and natural gas, insinuating that any increase in taxes would decrease corporate and government revenue, for omitting the effects of oil and natural gas on the environment and consumers, and for failing to disclose the financial conflicts of interest of the people making these claims.
  • 2011 – Chad "Corntassel" Smith, for using a federal government program that had previously been used to discriminate against Native Americans to discriminate against Cherokees with partial black ancestry.
  • 2010 – Dick Armey, for, through FreedomWorks, making fake grassroots organizations, for objecting to efforts to reduce the number of smokers, saying that smokers are needed to finance health care reform, and for disputing the existence of global warming.
  • 2009 – Glenn Beck, for attacking efforts to reform the U.S. health care system after claiming that America's health care system needed to be reformed.
  • 2008 – The term "Aspirational goal", both a tautology and a paradox, being used by George W. Bush in place of setting a deadline date for withdrawing troops from Iraq and in place of creating any plan to address global warming and climate change.
  • 2007 – Alberto Gonzales, for claiming that the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys was not political then saying that he did not recall any key events of the dismissals.
  • 2006 – George W. Bush, for speaking out against poverty and income inequality after having just signed an executive order to permit contractors to employ people below the minimum wage in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.
  • 2005 – Philip A. Cooney, for editing scientific reports to deceive the public about the nature of global warming and climate change and of the Bush Administration's negligence in dealing with these issues.
  • 2004 – George W. Bush Administration, for the same things as the previous year, for manipulating and forging intelligence data about Iraq, for creating euphemisms to downplay the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse, and for the Justice Department turning a blind eye to torture authorized by officials in the Bush Administration.
  • 2003 – George W. Bush, for lying about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction and using those lies as justification for going to war.
  • 2002 – New York State Regents, for editing English reading passages in exams to remove any content that might cause "any student to feel ill at ease when taking the test."
  • 2001 – United States Department of Defense, for referring to years of test failures in the Missile Defense System as a success.
  • 2000 – The tobacco industry, for portraying tobacco companies as benefactors of children, abused women, and disaster victims while selling a dangerous drug that has at times been marketed to these groups of people.
  • 1999 – National Rifle Association, for using loaded language to paint support for the Second Amendment and gun rights as being a duty of Americans, while painting support for gun control as tyrannical, oppressive, and anti-American.
  • 1998 – US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for referring to his critics as "illiterate" and "racist" and for speaking out against affirmative action when he has benefited from it.
  • 1997 – Bill Clinton, Trent Lott, and Newt Gingrich, for engaging in bipartisan deceit about a budget deal that they claimed would produce balanced budgets, even though it raised spending and cut taxes.
  • 1996 – Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors, for using loaded language to attack others for journalistic ethics violations that he himself was in violation of.
  • 1995 – Newt Gingrich, for numerous contradictions in his book To Renew America, including stating that "true" Americans don't blame their problems on others and then proceeding to pick out each of America's supposed problems and blaming them on a certain group, and for using a number of misleading euphemisms and titles in the Contract with America, including the "The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act", which contained no provisions that would create jobs or raise wages.
  • 1994 – Rush Limbaugh, for distorting the truth dozens of times in nearly 1,000 media outlets nationwide, including saying that long lines at gas pumps in the 1970s were attributable to foreign oil powers not fearing Jimmy Carter, even though these lines were most severe before Jimmy Carter became or ran for president.
  • 1993 – United States Department of Defense, for deliberately providing false information to Congress about the cost and feasibility of the Strategic Defense Initiative, for rigging test results in this program, and for exaggerating the progression and sophistication of these tests and their success rates.
  • 1992 – George H. W. Bush, for stating that the Gulf War would reduce the proliferation of arms internationally then ending the U.S. policy of not giving arms to other countries, for saying that diverting funds from public schools to private schools gave parents more "choice" as to where they send their children to school, and for exaggerating tax increases that occurred in Arkansas during Bill Clinton's governorship.
  • 1991 – United States Department of Defense, for creating numerous euphemisms during the Gulf War to obscure the realities of war, including referring to bombing attacks as "efforts", bombing missions as "visiting a site", and warplanes as "weapons systems" or "force packages".
  • 1990 – George H. W. Bush, for making comments that contradicted his governing, including saying taxes wouldn't be raised then raising taxes, saying that women shouldn't have to worry about getting a job after maternity leave then vetoing the Parental and Medical Leave bill, and for creating numerous terms to avoid using the word "invasion" when talking about the United States invasion of Panama.
  • 1989 – Exxon, for referring to about 35 miles of Alaskan shoreline with oil on them as "environmentally clean" and "environmentally stabilized", then using "treated" in place of "clean" and "stabilized" after reports were made of the oil's presence.
  • 1988 – Defense Sec. William Carlucci, Adm. William J. Crowe, and Rear Adm. William Fogarty, for making comments filled with omissions, contradictions, misdirections, and distortions that downplayed the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655.
  • 1987 – Oliver North and John Poindexter, for referring to profits made from the Iran–Contra affair as "residuals" and "diversions" and subtly acknowledging responsibility for selling weapons but refusing to directly state said responsibility.
  • 1986 – Officials of NASA, Thiokol, and Rockwell International, for comments made in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, including referring to the explosion as an "anomaly", the astronauts' bodies as "recovered components", and the astronauts' coffins as "crew transfer containers".
  • 1985 – Central Intelligence Agency, for its Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare manual distributed to the Contras in Nicaragua.
  • 1984 – United States State Department, for using "unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life" as a euphemism for "killing", and, after the U.S. invasion of Grenada, referring to arrests made as "detainments".
  • 1983 – Ronald Reagan, for calling the MX intercontinental ballistic missile the "Peacekeeper", and condemning countries that promote violence and terrorism in other countries while providing covert aid to the Contras in Nicaragua.
  • 1982 – Republican National Committee, for crediting Ronald Reagan for a cost-of-living increase in Social Security that originated from a law that passed before he took office.
  • 1981 – Alexander Haig, for statements made before Congress about the murder of religious workers in El Salvador.
  • 1980 – Ronald Reagan, for making numerous speeches that contained inaccurate assertions, statistics, and misrepresentations of his record as the Governor of California.
  • 1979 – The nuclear power industry, for inventing a number of jargon terms and euphemisms before, during, and after the Three Mile Island accident, including referring to an explosion as "energetic disassembly", fire as "rapid oxidation", and a reactor accident as an "event", an "abnormal evolution", a "normal aberration", or a "plant transient".
  • 1978 – Earl Clinton Bolton, for authoring a memo to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) detailing how academics assisting the CIA should behave when being questioned, including by explaining their relationship with the CIA "as a contribution to proper academic goals" and that any affiliation with the CIA is protected under "academic freedom" and "privilege and tenure".
  • 1977 – The Pentagon and the Energy Research and Development Administration, for stating that an efficient nuclear bomb is one that "eliminates an enemy with minimal damage to friendly territory."
  • 1976 – United States State Department, for appointing a consumer affairs coordinator to "review existing mechanisms of consumer input, thruput, and output, and seek ways of improving these linkages via the ‘consumer communication channel.'"
  • 1975 – Yassir Arafat, for saying that the bloodshed in Israel and Palestine exists because the Palestine Liberation Organization wants the two to coexist.
  • 1974 – David H.E. Opfer, United States Air Force press officer, for calling bombing raids in Southeast Asia "air support".

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