Category Archives: Orwellian Language

Will the Real Transparency Bill Please Stand Up?

This airfare from shows the per-person price of this flight--including the fare, taxes, and mandatory fees. Alas, luggage fees and other optional fees might still apply, but the customer does have some choices with those.
This airfare from shows the per-person price of this flight–including the fare, taxes, and mandatory fees. We can thank the Department of Transportation’s 2012 full-fare rule for this information. Alas, luggage fees and other optional fees might still apply, but the customer does have some choices with those.

Since 2012, I’ve enjoyed being able to look up airfares online and know right away what a given flight would cost–fare, taxes, and mandatory fees. Alas, the airlines provide the full fare apparently not from a desire for good customer service because of a 2012 Federal Department of Transportation rule requiring them to.

I say it’s apparently not motivated by the airlines because the airline lobby and unions are trying to get Congress to undo that rule. Doing so would allow airlines to go back to showing us only the fare upfront and then socking us with the taxes and fees late in the checkout process.

What do they call the bill that would make it harder to me to know what a flight would cost me? The Transparent Airfares Act, of course!

This is an example of Orwellian language: the name says the opposite of what it means. Advocates use Orwellian language when their position is weak.

Because the name its supporters use is dishonest, it’s important that the bill’s opponents avoid using it. What should opponents call it instead?

  • The Obscuring Airfares Act
  • The Airfare Surprise Act
  • The Airfare Bait-and-Switch Act

Or something else?

I learned about this bill from this informative Omaha World-Herald story and Christopher Elliot’s Seattle Times article.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), at right, introduced the Real Transparency in Airfares Act to counter the airline industry’s Orwellian bill. In this photo, he is receiving the foreign minister of Singapore, K. Shanmugam.

New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez (D) has introduced an alternative to the industry-sponsored bill called the Real Transparency in Airfares Act. His bill would leave the full-fare rule in place and double fines on companies that violated it. At first, I was uneasy with this name because it includes the Orwellian name of the industry bill, but this framing makes sense to me now.

Strictly speaking, though, the Menendez bill doesn’t seem to increase airfare transparency, just toughen the rule’s enforcement.

But we can do more than use a different name. We could point out that the full-fare rule protects customers, and that airline profits have been at record highs since the rule came into effect! Coincidence? Probably, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt the airlines.

Furthermore, this is another case in which wise government regulation creates confidence between an industry and its customers. Confidence is good for business. While airlines might make more money if the full-fare rule were scrapped, that might come at the cost of trust. Loss of trust increases the chance that travelers would look for other options.

What do you think? Should the industry bill be known as the Airline Industry Shoots Itself in the Foot Act?

Pro-Business Often Means Pro-Boss

An earlier post pointed out that many policies that are commonly called pro-business are really pro-management and advocates using that name. But in the spirit of using shorter words, why not call them pro-boss policies?

Boss is more emotionally charged than management and makes clear that the policies would benefit those at the top, not necessarily business as a whole.

What do you think? Is this accurate? Is it helpful to Framologists?

The Truth about Union Bosses

While reading a book about framing that I highly recommend, Frank Luntz’s Words that Work, I found the common phrase union bosses on page 91. It brings to mind a time when some labor unions were thought to be closely associated with political machines and organized crime. I haven’t heard of such associations being a big problem today. Have you?

Besides deceptively bringing to mind long-gone bad old days, union bosses also might confuse the listener about who the boss really is: the elected leaders of labor unions or management.'s management

If you share this concern, please consider talking about duly elected union leaders when others mention union bosses.

What do you think? Does it matter if Framologists accept the phrase union bosses?

When They Make It Personal, Return to the Issue

As Slate blogger David Weigel has reported, James O’Keefe of Project Veritas (an Orwellian name) challenges Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) about an amendment he proposed to the Voting Rights Act.

Weigel observes:

There is no mention of the “Voting Rights Act” in the intro. It’s called “a part of federal law that gives Eric Holder the power to approve election law in 16 states,” and Sensenbrenner’s amendment is called “legislation to give [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder back power over state elections.” Framed that way, what conservative could possibly support it?

From a framing point of view, what strikes me is that O’Keefe’s language makes Eric Holder the issue. This seems like an attempt to repeat the success the right has had in discrediting the Patient Protection Act by calling it Obamacare. As I’ve pointed out, this name makes President Obama and people’s feelings about him the issue instead of the law’s contents.

When bullies try to make an individual (such as Attorney General Eric Holder) the issue instead of the policy, return the subject back to the values at stake. As far as I know, birds are still not allowed to vote.
Eric Holder Photo Credit: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop via Compfight cc
Voting Booth Photo Credit: seeingimonkey via Compfight cc

VotingBoothSo how should Framologists reframe personalization? Instead of just saying that it isn’t about Eric Holder, we should make clear the values and principles at stake. I think these are:

  • Equality. No state or county should be allowed to discriminate against voters based on race or language.
  • Protection. The American government has a responsibility to protect the rights of its citizens. In this case, the federal government is the proper level because some states have a history of racial discrimination in voting.
  • Freedom. An abstract right to vote is meaningless if states or counties make it too hard to exercise. Protecting this right creates the freedom to vote.

So Framologists would explain that the amendment is about equality, freedom, and protection of Americans’ right to vote without discrimination. I’d recommend not naming Mr. Holder by saying, e.g., “It’s not about Eric Holder.” As George Lakoff has pointed out in Don’t Think of an Elephant, putting a no or not in front of the topic doesn’t stop people from thinking about the topic and their feelings and mental associations with it.

If it seems important to defuse the Eric Holder association, we could say something like, “If the amendment became law, of course we would expect the attorney general, whoever that might be, to enforce it. He should not only because it’s his job but because he would be protecting our right to vote and supporting freedom and equality.” That returns the subject where it belongs.

What do you think? Am I making too much of this?

“Religious Freedom” Bills Aren’t About Religion or Freedom

Related to the so-called conscience clause that would excuse unprofessional refusals of care are religious freedom bills. A current example is Kansas’ HB2453, which passed the Kansas state house last week but died in the state senate yesterday.

March against racial discrimination
Thanks to these marchers and many others, America no longer tolerates refusing admission or service to people of color. Denying these based on sexual orientation is just as wrong. Though proponents say the issue is religious freedom, the real issue is power.
Photo Credit: washington_area_spark via Compfight cc

Called “An act concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage,” the bill would have prevented government agencies from compelling individuals and religious organizations to provide employment, employment benefits, and most any product or service to anyone involved in a gay marriage or civil union or even the celebration of one. Arguably, it also would allow businesses and religious organizations to refuse service to anyone involved in a gay relationship.

Calling such bills religious-freedom bills is Orwellian because they would take away freedom. They are about domination, not religion. They would empower people and organizations to deny basic human rights such as engaging in commerce and participating in the community. That’s unneighborly, un-American, unchristian, and unacceptable.

Besides, in a free society, our freedom depends on respecting the rights of others. If we can call discrimination an act of conscience, why couldn’t others do the same to us?

As George Lakoff has pointed out, bullies* use Orwellian language when they know their position is weak. I think Framologists should expose their position’s weakness and the true nature of such legislation by framing them as, perhaps:

  • The Freedom for Me but Not for Thee Act
  • Another LGBT Discrimination Act
  • The Anti-Marriage Act
  • The Marriage Inequality Act
  • The Marriage Discrimination Act
  • The Golden Rule Violation Act
  • The Religious Hypocrisy Act

Of these, the first and the last two are my favorites. Whatever we call them, it’s important to avoid calling such legislation “religious freedom” bills because they are not. What do you think Framologists should call them?

*Lakoff used the word conservatives.

Why “Freedom of Conscience” Could Excuse Unprofessional Behavior

Many states, including my own, have considered bills to protect health care professionals who refuse to provide care they judge to conflict with their personal  religious, moral, or ethical views and to refuse to refer patients to where they could get care. The care in question usually is reproductive: abortion, contraception, etc.

Known as the conscience clause or healthcare freedom of conscience bills, such bills could endanger patients–especially those with medical emergencies or that have few medical providers in their areas.

Such bills also violate professional ethics. For example, the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers, which I have promised to uphold as an NASW member, requires social workers to refer clients to a competent professional when terminating services. Furthermore, it requires that they smooth the transition to the next provider by, e.g., providing records the professional will need. (See 1.16(b) and (e) in the code).

Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self­determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. –NASW Code of Ethics 1.02

The code also requires social workers to “respect and support the rights of clients” to make decisions that affect their lives. It does not grant social workers license to end services without referral because a client wants something that conflicts with the worker’s personal values.

Because of the harm that refusing care can cause, such refusals could violate the Hippocratic Oath’s requirement to “first, do no harm.”

Because of the protection from potential ethical violations that such bills would provide, I call them Excusing Unprofessional Behavior acts. That is what they would do. This opposes the freedom-of-conscience frame with professional responsibility.

Professionalism demands placing the client’s interests ahead of one’s own when they conflict. Though it’s uncomfortable to be asked to provide a service that you don’t think is right, it’s part of being a professional. If you really can’t do it, refer.

What do you think of the Excusing Unprofessional Behavior Act?