Translating Propaganda and Thinking the Unthinkable

On the Terms of the Powerful
By Max Kantar

Oct. 23, 2008

When you go to a foreign country, it is common to bring a translation dictionary to help curb the confusion that comes with trying to understand a foreign language. Likewise, in American politics, we also need a translation guide to understand mainstream discussion given the universal double standards, egotistical national chauvinism, and internalized elite values.

Propaganda in the US rests mostly in what is not said, but rather assumed. Such a system of indoctrination is extremely powerful as it serves the purpose of making certain thoughts not so much undesirable, but unthinkable, strikingly reminiscent of Orwell's depiction of totalitarian control and manipulation of the English language in his novel, 1984.

The language of US propaganda is indeed a foreign tongue to anyone who takes seriously the factual historical record, the nature of powerful institutions, and fundamental human decency with respect for human rights.

Included here is a list of commonly used terminology in American politics and the mainstream media. The definitions provided are the unspoken, assumed meanings of the terms, which are in fact quite different, sometimes diametrically opposed to their dictionary definitions.

For any serious social and political discussion to materialize, it is imperative that we understand the vocabulary put forth by our cultural managers in order to dismantle the prevailing system of thought control and indoctrination.

US Foreign Policy, Israel, and International relations

Peace Process

: Whatever the US is doing at the time [1]

Department of Defense:

Department of aggression and acceptable terrorism


: 1) Legitimate resistance to the terror/aggression of the US and its clients, or 2) Terrorism committed by those out of favor with Washington


: Terrorism and aggression carried out by the US and its client states

War on Terrorism

: Any violence the US or its client states use to advance the US agenda of global dominance by stifling independent nationalism, assuring control over natural resources, squashing 'good examples' of independent economic development, and creating conditions to benefit foreign (US) investors instead of the populations at hand. Basically the ideological twin and subsequent replacement of the rabid anti-communism of the Cold War.


1) Anybody that the US fights against, 2) People who defend themselves from US attack, and 3) Perpetrators of terrorism whose terror doesn't serve US power

Privately Contracted Security Forces:

Mercenaries or paid killers unaccountable to the public

"Protecting our way of life"

: A justification for US-based violence and economic exploitation that is driven by a desire to 'protect' private concentrated wealth of the richest 1% ('our') of the country. "

Failed policy"

: Usually refers to an unlawful war policy which has come to cost too much money. It reinforces yet again, the imperial rights of the US to use violence at will in violation of human rights, the public will, and international law.

Blunders, Mismanagement, Mistakes, etc:

Terms used to describe US foreign policy when large sectors of business power and the population turn against [the respective policy]...the implication being clear that US initiatives are by definition, rooted in morality and altruism, despite natural human errors of strategy, not of motives, meaning that US foreign policy "means well."

To "Spread Democracy":

To extend US control over a foreign country, usually in an attempt to undermine popular democratic efforts that threaten US political, business, and ideological interests.

"Support the Troops":

Support our policy of unlawful aggression

"The Surge worked"

: The perceived success of the US escalation of the illegal occupation of Iraq renders our initial/continued illegal aggression legitimate according to this proclamation. Nevertheless, this catchphrase also ignores the actual reasons for the decrease in violence including the non-related cease fire maintained by the Shia resistance, increased segregation through extensive ethnic cleansing, and most importantly, significantly less people to kill as half the country is dead, exiled, displaced, mangled, or in prison. [2]


Refers to a foreign government that favors the interests of elite foreign (US)

investors instead of the respective population


a foreign leader who follows orders from Washington [1]


a foreign leader who pursues a course independent from Washington's orders [1]

Human Rights:

Things that the US supports and that our enemies violate

Weapons of Mass Destruction:

Weapons (sometimes nonexistent ones) that are held by states out of favor with Washington. Notice that the US and its clients by definition do not possess anything or pursue anything that would cause "mass destruction." Therefore the definition of WMD's is purely ideological, void of physical facts.

Free/Fair Trade:

Trade policies that favor the ultra wealthy and trample labor rights, ignore environmental regulations, and prevent independent development for the poor nations involved and prevent meaningful democracy for the populations of both the rich country and the poor country in any given case.

Communist, Marxist, Socialist

(concerning foreign political parties or governments): Governments that pursue independent economic development without concern for foreign investor interests or the neoliberal development model.


A term used to describe the final measure taken by the US resort to lawless violence. In other words, when the Clinton administration noted they would act "unilaterally" if they "must," they meant that the US will act in violation of the UN and international law if international law and the UN don't support and conform to US military actions and US will.


(concerning various international opinion): 1) Those who oppose US crimes and exploitative economic policies, and 2) Open supporters of applying the standards of international law universally.


An accusation usually used to deflect criticism of Israel's ongoing war crimes as cited uncontroversially by the UN, Israeli/Jewish human rights groups, and Amnesty International, all in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on human rights.

Israel's "Right to Exist":

Israel's right to continue outwardly racist policies against its Palestinian-Arab citizens within its borders and Israel's right to maintain a racist apartheid civil/military system in the Palestinian West Bank, a genocidal siege on the heavily populated Gaza Strip, and an illegal military occupation of both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas 'Militants' or 'Terrorists':

Anybody Israel kills in the occupied territories

Nuclear weapons:

Benevolent instruments of peace for US and client states, tyrannical instruments of genocide when held by everyone else.


Terrorist, usually inherently irrational, violent, and deceitful. A hater of freedom, democracy, Christians, and Jews.

Well, who is NOT an Arab then?:

According to the honorable McCain, "decent, family men" who we may or may not have "disagreements" with. By implication, an Arab then cannot be "decent" or family orientated. For further elaboration, see the above definition.

Domestic Politics: Economic policy and Authority

Wall Street Bailout:

Well, this means exactly what it sounds like, which is why the public was opposed to the whole thing. Publicly funded (we pay) bailouts for wall street, and polite condolences for workers, children, the poor, and the sick.

Socialism, Communism, Marxism

(concerning public policy and advocacy): Policies where the public's tax money is spent on the public welfare, as opposed to transferring public funds to the ultra wealthy.

Market Based Solutions:

"Solutions" to social problems that put profit as the driving force, rather than human need by eliminating the public role in decision making, transferring additional and un-calculated costs to the public and forcing working families and the poor to bare most of the burden of market forces.

Business Community:

The richest of the rich, the elite millionaire/billionaire corporations, investors, and banks—the ones who own the country and are unaccountable to the public. Not a "community" in the friendly sense that we understand it to be. (Does not include small business owners like your local friendly family-run restaurant.)

Labor Flexibility:

Due to a significant level of desperation and sizable unemployment in the labor force, conditions are ripe for business managers and owners to slash living wages, cut benefits, disregard reasonable working condition standards, and destroy workers' unions in order to increase their power and profits.


The use of this word in referring to social programs for the public is chosen specifically to imply that those receiving the much needed social benefits are "freeloaders" and "sponging off of the government." Refers exclusively to the poor, working class, and middle class. Entitlements for the wealthy, such as tax breaks and other gifts, are not included in this categorization.


Huge sums of money stolen from the pockets of taxpayers received mostly by rich blacks who cheat the government and are too lazy to work.

Corporate Welfare/Subsidies:

What? There's no such thing! And if there was, it would never be exponentially larger than social welfare...

Personal Responsibility:

Social Darwinism or the 'law of the jungle' for the working class, poor, uninsured, and disenfranchised. Note that "personal responsibility" doesn't apply to the elite, who enjoy government protection and public safety nets.

Economic Freedom:

Unrestricted free reign for multinational corporations, billionaire investors, and massive banking institutions to run the country in their interests at the expense of the general population whose role is to work, go into debt, and supply the funds (taxes) to erect barriers to market forces for big business. Also commonly known as "liberty".

Small Government:

A massive government designed in the interests of military dominance and in the interests of the rich, while making sure public dollars cannot be spent on public interests and much needed social programs. Simply put, big government for sectors of power, small government for the needy.

Free Enterprise, Free Market:

An economic system of "public subsidy and private profit," where the government intervenes in the market regularly to protect elite business interests from market forces. [1]


The removal of economic institutions from the public sphere into private, unaccountable hands. By definition, a radical reduction of democracy.

'Hope or Change':

Change of face and rhetoric, maintenance of the status quo

Democracy, Democratic Process:

Elections every few years between two factions of business representatives, public ratifications of concentrated power.

Balanced Media Coverage:

A lively debate between a "liberal" and a "conservative" within a narrow framework of assumptions that serve the interests of power.


Refers exclusively to small criminals from the lower classes like drug dealers, petty thieves, some violent behavior. Does not include the massive crime and corruption on Wall Street, or the much bigger and more serious war crimes (which have kill millions of people) committed by presidents and congress.

War on Drugs:

a one-trillion-dollar-and-climbing policy of insanity (by Albert Einstein's definition) which shamefully and disproportionally targets Blacks and Latinos...a policy which is no more a "war" on drug use than the t.v. show "Cheaters" is a "war" on infidelity.

Full Investigation:

a term used by government officials to calm down an angry population in light of police brutality, political corruption, government misconduct, etc. The "investigation" either produces no results or simply sacrifices a scapegoat for PR reasons, while neglecting to address the deeply rooted institutional problems. [3]

Getting public unrest "under control":

Subjugating, often using violence, those who attempt to participate in decision making outside the ballot box.


(in the case that the accused is an American): 1) Those who love their country and aspire to improve it by challenging their government, and/or, 2) Americans who do not identify themselves or their moral values with the Washington-Wall Street power structure.

National Security:

An all purpose catch phrase used to justify US military aggression and restriction of civil rights.

National Interest:

Corporate interests [1] and lastly,


Fronts for socializing the cost of Research and Development for corporations and the military. They also serve the invaluable function of making sure that the educated community understands the right version of history, world affairs, and of course, the proper meaning of relevant terminology and the rules of polite discussion.


1 Chomsky, Noam, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Odonian Press, Berkeley, CA, December 2002.

2 Blum, William, "When is a holocaust not a holocaust?" Counterpunch, October 2008

3 Abu-Jamal, Mumia, All Things Censored, Seven Stories Press, New York, July 2003.

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