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I'm a big proponent of Umberto Eco's definition of Fascism that he gives in his essay Ur-Fascism; I find it really helps break down the very nebulous and poorly defined - but unmistakeable - concept of "fascistness". Most of the points are pretty self-explanatory and self-evident (cult of tradition, machismo, action for action's sake etc). However, I'm stuck on his final feature of fascism:

  1. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in 1984, as the official language of Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.

This is very unclear to me - what could this refer to? I find it very difficult to link it to any fascist movements, old and new - language reform isn't exactly top of the fascist agenda. And the last sentence seems to imply an almost Mcluhan-ist ("the medium is the message") interpretation, which doesn't relate to the rest of the point. To take it literally, reducing the ability of oppressed groups to express and understand their oppression by physically reducing their vocabulary would be a very effective tactic, but - he says it himself - that's only plausible in fiction like 1984. Even the strictest, most prescriptivist language academy doesn't have that much control. Finally, there's my final idea that it's talking about new vocabulary - i.e "Fuhrer", "Duce", "Lebensraum", "Fuhrerprinzip" - but that's common to all new movements, requiring new language to communicate new concepts. Does anyone have any examples or alternative interpretations?

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Chomsky tackled one angle on this by adumbrating what one might call corporate fascism (fascism was after all historically supported by big business against working class movements) but which he called 'The Manufacture of Consent' (this is also the title of the book where he and a coauthor presented this theory).

The main idea here is simply gatekeepers to the mass-media purposefully allow only a very restricted and "impoverished" debate on the key issues of today. Thus the population at large hardly is able to debate these key issues or to think them through. That is their "instruments for complex and critical thinking" is severely limited.

Hannah Arendt observed in her book, The Human Condition that this was part of a movement from a public world to a mass world. A mass world where mass media preys on the population. More recently, algorithms have been charged with causing political polarisation, echo-chambers and an attention deficit.

Moreover, Hannah Arendt in her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism stated that one of the key techniques that fascism operated with is to loosen the relation that language has to reality and to truth and even to invert or subvert it. This is why in 1984, Big Brother demands that citizen Winston Smith hold up all four fingers on one hand and count five. The idea here is to crush the spirit by crushing any sense that language has a relation to truth:

O'Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

"How many fingers am I holding up Winston?"

"Four"

"And if the Party says it is not four but five -then how many?"

"four"

The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung up all over Winston's body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O'Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever.

We see this today with a tidal wave of misinformation and fake news. Take for instance climate change denialism (recently the CEO's of major fossil fuel companies in the US have been subpoened to appear before congress to answer questions about their role in funding climate denialism and misinformation) and the anti-vaxxer movement. Thinking is reduced to slogans and sloganeering. This was also anticipated by Orwell:

Big Brother's voice: [harsh and grating...] Comrades repeat after me ... War is Peace! ... Freedom is Slavery! ... Ignorance is Strength ...

And today, in the most powerful nation the world had yet seen:

The Election was a fraud!

Lock her up!

Alternative Facts!

There is no climate change! That's fake news! And fake science!

And the sneering term "woke" as though being awake to what's going on is a thought crime.

Whereas earlier despicable regimes disciplined and punished bodies, fascism policed thought itself - hence the thought police (and this is one reason why I was uneasily uncomfortable when I came across the phrase 'thought leaders' - in a corporate context of course).

Hannah Arendt goes on to say:

... Intellectual, spiritual and artistic initiative is as dangerous to totalitarianism as the gangster initiative of the mob, and both are more dangerous than mere political opposition. The consistent persecution of every higher form of intellectual activity by new mass leaders springs from more than their natural resentment against everything that they cannot understand. Total domination does not allow for any free initiative in any field of life, for any activity that is not entirely predictable. Totalitarianism in power invariably replaced every first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty ...

She also writes about how alienation, loneliness and social isolation is a precursor to totalitarianism as their lack of reality, solidarity, trust and meaningful connection makes them easy prey to the propaganda machine of totalitarian movements:

The revolt of the masses against "realism," common sense, and "the plausibilities of the world" (Burke) was the result of their atomization, of their loss of social status along with which they lost the whole sector of communal relationships in whose framework common sense makes sense. In their situation of spiritual and social homelessness, a measured insight into the interdependence of the arbitrary and the planned, the accidental and the necessary, could no longer operate. Totalitarian propaganda can outrageously insult common sense only where common sense has lost its validity.

and

Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations

pointing out:

The forms of totalitarian organization, as distinguished from their ideological content and propaganda slogans, are completely new. They are designed to translate the propaganda lies of the movement, woven around a central fiction-the conspiracy of the Jews, or the Trotskyites, or 300 families, etc.-into a functioning reality, to build up, even under nontotalitarian circumstances, a society.

and finally:

What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the evergrowing masses of our century.

Recall here that the Kaiser Family Foundation have conducted a survey that says around 60 million adults in the US are often or are completely socially isolated.

The merciless process into which totalitarianism drives and organizes the masses looks like a suicidal escape from this reality. The "ice-cold reasoning" and the "mighty tentacle" of dialectics which "seizes you as in a vise" appears like a last support in a world where nobody is reliable and nothing can be relied upon.

She is saying totalitarian 'logic' destroys common sense, the foundation for all critical thinking and reasoning.

It is the inner coercion whose only content is the strict avoidance of contradictions that seems to confirm a man's identity outside all relationships with others. It fits him into the iron band of terror even when he is alone, and totalitarian domination tries never to leave him alone except in the extreme situation of solitary confinement. By destroying all space between men and pressing men against each other ...

This is a condition that the the mass apparatus of social media is facilitating to a a degree greater than hithertoo known.

even the productive potentialities of isolation are annihilated; by teaching and glorifying the logical reasoning of loneliness where man knows that he will be utterly lost if ever he lets go of the first premise from which the whole process is being started, even the slim chances that loneliness may be transformed into solitude and logic into thought are obliterated.

ie when you cannot think, when thoughts become unthought, then you can become indoctrinated.

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    I have never encountered the term "woke" without a significant portion of irony. When someone is described as "woke", it means that they are not "awake", but in fact blind to their own fallacies and prejudices, while calling someome else out on some issue.
    – And
    Feb 2 at 13:19
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    @And Woke has been used non-ironically politically since at least the 1970s.
    – gerrit
    Feb 2 at 14:03
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    I just want to point put that Orwell most likely wasn't predicting anything in his books, the issues described therein already were a real thing, although he obviously exaggerated to make a point. Feb 2 at 16:07
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – CDJB
    Feb 2 at 19:53
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    Minor nitpick: the book is called "Manufacturing Consent", not "The Manufacture of Consent"
    – Wossname
    Feb 3 at 22:38
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Despite being a new word, the use of the term 'woke' to describe everything 'I don't like' is a form of Newspeak. It uses reductionism of any issue to something the listener has already decided they are against to prevent any thinking taking place.

The encyclopedia Britannica covers this as the main purpose of Newspeak.

https://www.britannica.com/art/newspeak

Newspeak, “designed to diminish the range of thought,”

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    I agree 100% with your answer, but it does also apply to other catchall terms that are popular right now like "racist" or "transphobic". I have seen these thrown about with little care for the precision of the word, used solely to signal the speakers values. I once thought the internet would be the emancipation of the populi, but here we are. Feb 2 at 9:58
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    @StianYttervik I'm not sure I entirely agree. While the terms you've suggested do get used relatively widely, I tend to find people are willing to assess for themselves whether an action or speech is racist. Transphobic could be a good example though, partly because of its "newness" and lower individual experience (less people know trans-people than know people of other races).
    – Jontia
    Feb 2 at 11:09
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    The reason I included "racist" as an example is because it is increasingly used circularily. i.e a racist is someone who says something racistic. While I see (now) it isn't a part of britannica's definition (and, I yield to its competence...) - I consider circular definitions to be a pretty effective way of removing the analytic capability of language (that is; to decipher precisely a message as it was given) Feb 2 at 12:09
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    @StianYttervik I'm not sure that is circular. I'm pretty sure most people would agree that a person that says racist things is racist. You have to circle back to get circular logic. Person A said something racist, and you know it was a racist thing to say because person A is a racist and they said it. If instead you look at what was said, decide it was racist and from that decide that person A is a racist, that is inference not circular logic.
    – Jontia
    Feb 2 at 14:19
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    – CDJB
    Feb 2 at 19:57
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It's worth reading the appendix to Orwell's "1984", where he lays out the nature and reasoning behind Newspeak. That might clear up your question on its own. But that aside...

The first thing to remember is that Newspeak in the real world is not 'planned' in any overt, comprehensive sense. Newspeak evolves from the core nationalist principle (also according to Orwell) of the primacy of prestige. The overarching motivation of nationalists of all stripes, and fascists (ethno-nationalists) in specific, is to make the group they identify with appear superior to every other group, in every possible quality. Call it an overcompensation for a deep sense of insecurity if you like, but since this is an act of 'appearing' (as opposed to acts of 'doing' or 'being'), it is largely carried out on a symbolic level, and is heavily rooted in language. The fascist wet-dream (putting it simplistically) is to make it impossible for anyone to say bad things or think bad thoughts about the fascist identity group. In that sense, they reach for superlatives, absolutes, and strict dichotomies: 'better' and 'worse' are set aside in favor of 'best' and 'worst'; bad acts are minimized or ignored when done by 'us' and condemned as intrinsically evil when done by 'them'. Labels lose their (negotiable) definitions and take on fixed and rigid values: note how US Right-wing media often talks about 'Marxists' and 'Leftists' and 'Gays' (oh my) in ways that show they have no idea what the terms actually mean, only that the terms have emotional force that they can leverage.

For an odd example, there was a Rightist trope/meme for a while after 9/11, where pundits and influencers on the Right tried to get everyone to refer to Muslims as Musselmen. Musselmen is an archaic and slightly derogatory term for Muslims that was (for a while) adopted by Nazis to refer to concentration camp Jews. It may seem silly and irrational, but these pundits hoped to find something (anything) that would position Muslims as 'bad' in comparison to the pundit's group. The term was eventually dropped in favor of the more (emotionally) accessible term 'Islamist', but the effort to establish a derogatory (value-laden but content-free) label is instructive.

It would be nice if this were only a matter of fiction, but modern (partisan) media is laden with exactly this type of Newspeak. Whatever they agree with is intrinsically good; whatever they disagree with is intrinsically evil. There is no room for discussion, because any opposition becomes an expression of evil. What they all want to avoid is that self-reflective moment where it is possible to question the purity of an intention or the accuracy of a 'fact'. Removing that moment of questioning requires structuring language so that questioning is (a) difficult, and (b) subject to immediate sanction.

Perhaps it's easier to think of it less as 'structuring language' (a phrase which has a cold, antiseptic, intellectual feel to it), and more as reducing language to the expression of emotions. Emotions are simple and pure and immediate — hatred, love, anger, excitement — and that simplicity, purity, and immediacy make them easy to manipulate. People will hate, love, be angry at, or fear at one's command, if one speaks to the gut, not the mind. It's sad, but it's effective.

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    I enjoy the irony of you describing Right-wing media talking about "Leftists" and then using the term "Rightist" in the next sentence. Do you have any examples of the post-9/11 'Musselmen' phenomenon? A quick google search didn't turn up anything, and I'd be interested to know of where the promotion of this term was attempted. Feb 2 at 8:40
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    @Charles1267: Irony is always appreciated. But I think you've inadvertently touched on what makes this kind of 'Newspeak' so problematic. Obviously we need to names to refer to different groups (just as we need names so we can refer to different individuals), but names are not (in normal speech) value judgements. I wouldn't normally say (non-ironically): "That guy is such a Charles!". But for nationalists, names imply identity and identity is always a value judgement. Feb 2 at 15:16
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    @Charles1267: When I mention 'Rightists' I (usually) mean it in a simple factual sense (that Rightists do/think/say things differently than Leftists). When Tucker Carlson says 'Leftists' he means nothing more than a value judgement: that people who do/think/say certain things are intrinsically stupid/evil. Feb 2 at 15:19
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    @Charles1267: The Musselmen thing came from an article about far Right media (Infowars and such). Some reporter had gotten hold of emails or chat logs or some such which showed people specifically asking contributors to use the term (possibly because of its relationship to Colonial domination?). I remember it because it was such an obvious case of organized bullying, but it was a heck of a long time ago so I don't remember the source. I'll look into it. Feb 2 at 15:26
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I think Mozibur Ullah's examples are good, but missing a critical component.

I think about Orwell's example, though it is more where there is a brainwashed forced agreement. Winston raises 5 fingers, and he must answer 4 is the number held, and

the opposing view cannot be held without some sort of negative societal consequence.

I think Americans have a few of these right now. I am trying to be balanced here, but I think there is a difference in how each party in the U.S punished the other.

The reason why I don't Trump's nonsense sales phrases don't count here is because, there is very little consequence of disagreement with anything he says.

Here are the ones where I think can match

Trans women are women

This is a phrase where people have been society punished for such examples, JK Rowling for example. Despite her message being not offensive, and no one is denying biology; with all previous schooling and definition of man and woman it should be acceptable for others to continue to believe the old and system which they were taught. She was punished by society for not believing this.

Black lives matter

This is a phrase which makes sense and a logical following unifier would be to say all lives matter, but this is socially punished unacceptable to say. Even though the phrase "All lives matter" really has nothing negative in context. It even is true , but it cannot be spoken.

God bless America

I imagine that in the U.S for not agreeing with this , there would be some societal punishment and there is no proof of God's existence and many don't believe in the existence of God. It seems though that a president which doesn't believe in God wouldn't be perceived as an acceptable candidate.

Support the troops

One could face societal backlash for not supporting the American Army. It doesn't matter the conflict or what is being done; perhaps the army is actually the instigator of the conflict. These things can be punished for stating the factual.

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    Most of this answer checks out, but J. K. Rowling says a lot more than she's “just saying”, there's political nuance surrounding “all lives matter”, and “support the troops” doesn't imply supporting the actions of the army.
    – wizzwizz4
    Feb 2 at 20:03
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    I read what she said here and with any possession of external observation, I don't think she was trying to be offensive, but reason with others on her view. twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/1269407862234775552?s=20 And as far as support the troops, I found it harder to find recent things from the right to support a forced group think with punishment. If I was to go back to the 80's maybe, I am sure I could find plenty. It just seems tables are currently turned at this time. I am not American, but I tried to reference the things I see yelled out .
    – LUser
    Feb 2 at 20:25
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    This is very interesting. But I really disagree with bringing "four fingers not five" into this discussion. That's nothing to do with language. In fact it's the next stage after the language degradation. Once you've been reduced by the fascists state to not have a conceptual way of disagreeing, you are now forced to make the ultimate choice - of allowing the state to define facts as well as concepts and terms of reference. Feb 2 at 21:00
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    "'All lives matter' really has nothing negative in context" is backwards. It has nothing negative out of context, but in context it's a strawman that attempts to trivialize the BLM movement by implying the missing modifier is "Only Black Lives Matter", rather than "Black Lives Matter Too" Feb 3 at 0:57
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    – JJJ
    Feb 4 at 6:48
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Surprisingly, no answer has yet produced the most obvious examples of what Eco meant in the essay, which the author himself gave directly following the quote given in the question: the language used by the original fascists, Mussolini's National Fascist Party.

On the morning of July 27, 1943, I was told that, according to radio reports, fascism had collapsed and Mussolini was under arrest. When my mother sent me out to buy the newspaper, I saw that the papers at the nearest newsstand had different titles. Moreover, after seeing the headlines, I realized that each newspaper said different things. I bought one of them, blindly, and read a message on the first page signed by five or six political parties — among them the Democrazia Cristiana, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Partito d’Azione, and the Liberal Party. Until then, I had believed that there was a single party in every country and that in Italy it was the Partito Nazionale Fascista. Now I was discovering that in my country several parties could exist at the same time. Since I was a clever boy, I immediately realized that so many parties could not have been born overnight, and they must have existed for some time as clandestine organizations.

The message on the front celebrated the end of the dictatorship and the return of freedom: freedom of speech, of press, of political association. These words, “freedom,” “dictatorship,” “liberty,” — I now read them for the first time in my life. I was reborn as a free Western man by virtue of these new words.

This perfectly represents the "impoverished vocabulary" mentioned in the quote given in the question, and clarifies Eco's meaning quite well. Unlike what the question asserts, Eco did not believe that the restriction of language was only possible in fiction. The fascist government of Mussolini apparently pushed words like "freedom" and "dictatorship" so far to the margins of society that an moderately educated 11-year-old could have no concept of them. Eco implies that this helped build the idea that having a single party that governed society was both natural and inevitable. This is perfectly in line with the Newspeak of 1984, in which eliminating words from the language, particularly when not replaced with other vocabulary, is a standard tool.

Most of the other answers talk about language that is (or that the question writers believe to be) euphemistic, or to framings of issues that exclude diverse or heterodox perspectives. While potentially conceptually related to the ideas that Eco is talking about, this is unlikely to be Newspeak in the sense that he means, which appears to be the main way in which Orwell used it in his book, the simplification of vocabulary and language structure in order to reduce the possibilities of dissent. Newspeak does not primarily seek to stigmatize the use of negative terminology to refer to Big Brother or the expression of ideas contrary to him, which is cause enough for execution and torture in any sense: it tries to restructure the language in such a way that it becomes impossible to say, not only that Big Brother is a dictatorship and the people of Airstrip One are not free, but even that any country, even whichever one is supposedly Oceania's enemy, is unfree.

There is certainly some element of euphemism in phrases like joycamp (labor camps) or Minipax (the Ministry of Peace, in charge of waging perpetual war) but that euphemism is not enough concepts themselves must be eliminated. That is the essence of Newspeak.

As such, contrary to the question, linguistic reform and control has often been important to fascist governments. In 1944, for instance, Hitler planned a spelling reform that would have simplified the complexity of the language by changing words of non-German origin to be written in accordance with German pronunciation: not particularly malevolent in itself, perhaps, but well in line both with the "impoverishment of language" principle of ur-fascist Newspeak mentioned by Eco, and the need of a nationalist regime to exalt what it views as distinctive about its country at the expense of any foreign influences.

Although, as mentioned previously, euphemism was not a central part of Newspeak in 1984, it still played a role. As Eco noted, euphemism for euphemism's sake is not particular to Newspeak: the purpose of euphemism in Newspeak is primarily to displace words from the language altogether. If one can condemn the enemies in specific terms, one can also condemn the regime, something that a totalitarian government cannot tolerate. Consider, for instance, the usage of the term Sonderbehandlung in Nazi Germany. It was used not only to refer to the systematic killing of Jews and other "undesirables," but also to execution of Germans opposed to the regime, and even, seemingly, in contexts entirely unrelated to execution. This is the impoverishment of language that Eco refers, and is classic Newspeak: "execution" as a concept ceases to exist. Anything up to and including the worst atrocities can be incorporated into the concept of Sonderbehandlung.

These tendencies are reflected in many modern authoritarian and totalitarian movements of various political orientations, though often ones that would be considered considerably milder than Nazism or Italian fascism.

For instance, a recent bill introduced by the Republican Party of the USA would stipulate the following:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law munder this act to the contrary, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, the board of a school district or the board of directors of a public school academy shall ensure that the curriculum provided to all pupils enrolled in the school district or public school academy

does not include coverage of the critical race theory, the 1619 project, or any of the following anti-American and racist theories...

This bill not only seeks to specify a particular curriculum through standards that are quite questionable on their own merits and seem largely motivated by the desire to avoid discussion of anti-racist concepts that make the Republican Party uncomfortable, but also, and more relevantly for the purpose of this answer, would prohibit any coverage of "critical race theory," which presumably encompasses positive, negative, or deconstructive coverage, and would effectively amount to a prohibition on any discussion of the term in the affected school systems, thus eliminating it from a particular educational ambit: a central element of Newspeak, as Eco defines it.

In a similar but more extreme vein, the CCP in China also seeks to eliminate words and phrases that it views as a threat to the government. For instance, talking about "lifelong control" was prohibited on Weibo in the wake of Xi Jinping gaining precisely that, and allegedly even the word "disagree" was considered at least temporarily off-limits.

These modern successors to Eco's Newspeak continue to illustrate the basic idea: to eliminate words that are considered a threat to the governing power. Mere euphemism or dysphemism, the replacement of a word by another that denotes a similar concept, does not appear to be a major part of Eco's Newspeak, nor does stigmatization of the use of certain concepts in combination, though both of these can be tools of control: the key is to restrict and confine the language so that it becomes difficult, not simply to express ideas in a way that offends the status quo, but to express them at all.

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Not everyone will like me quoting it, but here's something which I find speaks well to Orwell's flagging of the deliberate dumbing down of political discourse, albeit from the opposite side of the political spectrum.

It just goes to show that reductio ad absurdum histrionics and synthetic terminology are hardly a right-wing exclusivity and were not intended to be depicted as such in 1984, not by the author of Animal Farm.

Republicans are basically the the Taliban of the USA at this point. In that they simply reject civilized society .

This appeared, as a comment, in an Ars Technica article about climate change, something that I tend agree with and think that Republicans are entirely wrong in not taking seriously. Ars Technica is also mostly a moderate, factual, science-based publication.

This comment seems to have been removed, as it appears in archives but not the primary thread view. What I find distressing and noteworthy is that, when I viewed it, it had received 17 upvotes and 3 downvotes.

It conveys no useful information - it's not even being used in a religious conservatism context. Taliban just like throwing Communism or Nazism out of context is just used to... dumb down the conversation.

The one thing it manages quite effectively is to chase away moderate Republican readers who might be better served getting climate change information from Ars Technica than from Fox News.

OK, but surely it is not representative of actual political speech? Not so quick. see Chicago Suntimes:

The Texas Taliban wing of the Republican Party In total control of the state, Republicans have a free hand that they’ve used to enforce extremism.

Or, Wisconsin State Journal

The similarities between the Republican Party and the Taliban are striking.

Each believes in restricting voting, subjugating women and limiting access to education. Neither believes in science.

Michael Moore:

Their Taliban, our Taliban, everybody’s got a Taliban. They’re at their best when they confiscate the halls of power.

To be fair, Michael Moore's tweet shows the Jan 6th bozos so maybe that's a little less over the top.

This type of "Reps are Talib" speech isn't widespread, yet, among the professional journalists, but I bet you wouldn't have long to look if you tried to find it in individuals' political speech.

Have no fear, lots of radical left and Communist and this and that can be found on right wing forums. And, on balance, I am likelier to sympathize with Ars than Fox readers.

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    This is certainly bad, but is this really an example of what OP is taking about? It’s smearing a group through simile, but it’s not redefining any words or reducing the complexity of language. Also wouldn’t neo-fascist ur-speak need to come from an organized group, not a random internet poster and a dozen others? I’m not defending this by any means, but I feel like you’re describing a different phenomenon here
    – divibisan
    Feb 3 at 1:40
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    It's about as relevant here as the woke example being given by Jontia. No more, no less. Feb 3 at 1:45
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Thanks. But I'd say the key difference is woke is widely used as a pejorative term as discussed Guardian and Metro and is regularly used by high profile media and political individuals. It's not a random comment at the end of news article by an anonymous individual. But I can see the language used to shut down debate angle +1
    – Jontia
    Feb 3 at 9:35

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