Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
Editor’s Note: This was written in 2020. I’m sure we have plenty of new annoying words to add to the list by now. Add your 2021 Brainwashy words in the comments. ~ DL
Remember how after September 11th happened, there was that nasty bill that formed the TSA and authorized all sorts of surveillance against the American people and they called it, ironically, The Patriot Act?
Of course, we knew then that the bill was anything but patriotic, however, that didn’t stop it from being passed and trampling all over the Constitution. The word “patriot” was perverted by those in power who wanted everyone to fall into lockstep with the unconstitutional searches at airports and many other invasions into our privacy.
Which brings us to another word that doesn’t mean what people think it means – it was all done in the name of “security.”
If you’ve been watching any type of media coverage or reading articles, you’ve probably seen or heard a plethora of words and phrases which are currently being perverted due to the coronavirus pandemic. I don’t know about you, but if I never heard “safe” or “new normal” again, I’d be a much happier person.
If you feel like people are being brainwashed through repetition, that’s because they are. Quite simply, these buzzwords and several others we’ll discuss are being used to indoctrinate the public. As Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany, wrote:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” (source)
We’re incredibly divided right now and the words are being as fuel to the fiery arguments taking place both online and in-person, during altercations in which one party feels the other party is being callous and horrible.
Let’s take a look at this hostile takeover of our vocabulary with a dozen words I’d like to have stricken from conversations, advertising, and the media.
The new normal
While it’s absolutely true we’re never going “back to normal” like we were before the pandemic, there’s a “new normal” being foisted upon us which is blatantly fueled by fear. Earlier on in the lockdown, I used this phrase a few times in reference to the economy. Sorry about that.
The “new normal” is most often used to get people to accept whatever unconstitutional or undignified rule that people in charge want us to find tolerable, like taped squares on the floor that we’re supposed to stand in while waiting in properly spaced lines. You know how cats will curl up in a taped-off square on the floor as though it was a box? Now they want humans to do that for the privilege of buying alcohol or food.
Other bizarre “new normal” activities are having your temperature taken by someone brandishing an infrared thermometer gun, scurrying around in a mask in stores trying to avoid other humans like you’re playing some kind of weird game of tag, and publicly shaming those who don’t act terrified because they clearly hate old people.
We’re all in this together
The saccharine phrases “we’re all in this together” or “we’re all in this together…apart” were bandied about early on in the lockdowns. Celebrities serenaded us badly with John Lennon songs. They made videos of themselves looking concerned at their mansions, telling us not to worry, because “we’re all in this together.” Except, of course, they still have millions of dollars in the bank and the rest of us weren’t supposed to go to work or open our businesses to make the money we need to survive.
Indeed, we all owe these celebrities an unfathomable debt of gratitude for reminding us that they, too, are “in this together.”
Social media outlets even made little frames for your profile pictures bearing those wildly annoying words. Articles encouraging us to hunker down in our homes reminded us that everyone, rich or poor, was “in this together” too. It’s just that the rich people were “in this together” on yachts and private islands while the rest of us crammed into the kitchen on Zoom meetings with our employers while banning our kids from streaming anything so we had enough internet.
Stay home. Just stay home.
How many times did you hear this phrase early in the lockdown? You probably lost count at umpteen million. #StayHome was a viral hashtag on Twitter, people ended social media status updates encouraging others to just “stay home,” and we were all told that if we didn’t “stay home” we were risking the lives of every person we loved and a few we hated because we were going to unconsciously spread the virus and kill people.
Clearly the only people who were asymptomatic were the a$$holes who wouldn’t “stay home.” They were COVID Marys and COVID Marks, thoughtlessly spreading illness to old people and kids with cancer merely because they wouldn’t just “stay home.”
In order to get us to all “stay home” stores in some states took to establishing what their government felt were “essential” purchases, and banning all other purchases even if you were already in the same store. (More on the word “essential” in a moment.) Thoughtless people didn’t realize if you only bought lettuce or a gallon of milk, you wouldn’t pass on your cooties. Cooties were only passed when you bought duvet covers or garden seeds.
Jeez. Stay home, you jerks.
Another phrase that makes me want to snarl viciously at those using it is “social distancing.” I’ll admit, I’ve always had an invisible personal space bubble I don’t like having invaded, but the whole social distancing thing means now that stores have arrows telling you which way you can walk down an aisle and the afore-mentioned taped boxes or Xs on the floor for standing in an appropriately social-distanced line.
Due to “social distancing” we spent months being unable to visit with loved ones, go into restaurants to eat, or go into the liquor store aisles to select our own much-needed whiskey. We’ll continue socially distancing in all sorts of ridiculous ways in the “new normal” future, with venues only allowing a small portion of their former capacity of customers inside at a time.
Hand in hand with social distancing is the phrase “six feet.” If someone gets too close to you in the store, you can shout angrily from behind your mask, “Six feet, mofo!” and it’s perfectly acceptable. Six feet is the gold standard, the protective bubble that keeps you “safe” from getting COVID 19 when you can’t “stay home.”
All those Xs on the floor of stores are measured out to be six feet apart. Children returning to school will have to stay six feet away from other children while marching around the playground in dismal formation. Offices are being redesigned so everyone can stay six feet away from everyone else.
The word “essential” has also been corrupted. If you were able to keep working throughout the entire lockdown, it’s because you were an “essential” worker doing an “essential” job. “Essential” was defined separately by the governor of each state, so it varied from place to place. My daughter, who works in a beauty supply store, was initially not “essential” but a month in when everyone’s roots began to show, she became essential and got the travel papers to prove it.
The word “essential” was also used to describe purchases that the government felt were important enough for you to be allowed to make in person, and for trips outside the home. It was “essential” to go to the grocery store, the doctor, the pharmacy, and out to walk your dog. However, the dog had to be walked on neighborhood streets with all the other people essentially walking their dogs, instead of on a trail out in the forest alone, because the trails were closed because they weren’t essential.
Depending on the business you’re in, you may have heard the word “pivot” until you wanted to vomit. Small businesses were super-busy “pivoting” to try and stay afloat while loans meant for them went to billionaires and giant corporations. You could “pivot’ by manufacturing something else – something “essential” like hand sanitizer – or by offering delivery or curbside pickup of your products.
Some of the “pivoting” was just different marketing. Buy this laundry soap, because we’re washing clothes for healthcare workers in it. Buy our car, because we support essential workers. Buy from us because here’s how we’re keeping our employees safe.
Other “pivots” were allowing people to work from home, supporting your customers in different ways, and selling goods from an appropriate social distance, like literally selling new vehicles over the internet and dropping them off in people’s driveways.
Uncertain or unprecedented times
How many emails could possibly have the subject line starting with “in these uncertain times” or “in these unprecedented times”?
It turns out, a whole lot. I can’t enumerate how many emails I got assuring me that various companies had my back in these “uncertain times.” Everyone from Victoria’s Secret to my internet service provider sent me a message letting me know how they were doing business in these “unprecedented times.”
Car brands had commercials about why you needed a particular vehicle during these uncertain times because we all definitely need a new car while the business that employs us is trying to pivot. Articles had headlines about handling these “uncertain times.” I confess, I too had an article about uncertainty early in the crisis. Again, sorry I used that word.
The continued use of this word makes people eager to latch on to anything that is “certain.” It makes them want to accept “the new normal” so they don’t have to be so “uncertain.” And since all this is “unprecedented” we have no idea what that “new normal” is going to be, so it can be anything, no matter how draconian.
Flatten the curve
When the lockdowns were first announced back in March, the entire goal was to “flatten the curve.” That meant that hospitals would not be overwhelmed like the hospitals in Italy and China. Instead of a graph going straight up into the stratosphere, we’d have a gentle hill, spacing out the illnesses.
Everything became about “flattening the curve.” You can’t “flatten the curve” while going about your business. CBS News explained (while using 4 of our least favorite words and phrases):
Communities are being urged to practice, some are closing, and are being canceled, and companies are asking employees to work from home — even if they’re not experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Many are wondering why they are despite the fact that they’re not sick. The answer has to do with “flattening the curve” — an answer that could leave some people confused.
You’ve likely seen “flattening the curve” graphs being used in articles and shared on social media as a way to explain the importance of responding aggressively to curb the. But what does it mean to flatten the curve, and how do we do it?
Friday on “CBS This Morning,” CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook explained what has become a buzzword in the wake of the outbreak.
“Is it really worth while to do all of this source)and The answer is yes,” Dr. LaPook said. “Normally, right now — without any measures — the epidemic might go up [sharply] and go down. That peak number of cases could overload the system and that’s what people are worried about.” (
Unfortunately, even after the curve was flattened across the nation in April, that was no longer sufficient. Many people are still stuck at home and many businesses are still unable to reopen.
The most overused word in this entire list of hijacked vocabulary has to be “safe.”
If taking a shot every time you heard or read the word “safe” was a drinking game, we’d all be wasted by 9:30 am. Out of all the words I never want to use again, “safe” is the ultimate. The word was already hijacked somewhat by the “safe spaces” nonsense where people were supposed to go when they felt vulnerable because somebody said something mean or wore a MAGA hat around them.
Now, “safe” has crossed the Rubicon. Every other article on the internet is about remaining “safe.” Church marquees want you to stay away from service to be “safe.” Instead of saying “bye” or “see ya later,” the salutation when someone is leaving is now an implorement to “stay safe.”
Some things that used to be okay but now aren’t safe are: kids playing at a playground, adults shaking hands with other adults when doing business, going for a hike, eating at a table in a restaurant, getting your hair cut, or basically having fun in any way beyond playing a wild game of Scrabble against those with whom you are “staying at home.”
You all know that Ben Franklin quote about safety and liberty. I’m not even going to quote it.
Dishonorable mentions: “curbing the spread” and “wash your hands”
While not used quite to the same dizzying level as the words above, I’m also pretty sick of hearing about “curbing the spread” of the coronavirus and “washing my hands.”
First of all, every business that sent me an “uncertain” or “unprecedented” email wanted me to know what they were doing to “curb the spread” of the virus. Every White House or gubernatorial press conference explained with deep sincerity how following all the rules would result in a “curb of the spread” of COVID19. (Of course, they also said the lockdown was only going to be for 2 weeks, and here we are finally emerging 60 days later in some parts of the country, almost as long a time as I predicted in the analysis I wrote back in March when a whole bunch of readers said I was nuts and angrily unsubscribed. Let me also note that the lockdown has not yet been completely lifted in several highly populated parts of the US.)
And I was already washing my hands, thank you very much. If you need to be told to wash your hands as an adult, you clearly missed out on some important childhood lessons.
This is what brainwashing is like.
If you ever wondered what it was like brainwashing somebody, this is what it’s like. Having the same words used over and over, words that used to mean something, until they begin to come out of your mouth too. When you consistently hear these phrases and the opposite of these phrases is used to incite irrational fear, that’s brainwashing.
I’m not being a paranoid, tinfoil-tiara-wearing nutcase when I tell you that we’re all the targets of a mass media operation to make us accept this draconian outrageous “new normal.” When you hear things over and over again, when you hear a script coming from the mainstream media, from social media, your sucker of a neighbor who snitches on kids playing outside, and when every other article has one or more of these words in the headline, there’s an agenda.
And that agenda is going to result in the loss of more freedom and the addition of more surveillance. (Anyone looking for a contact tracing job?)
I’m not saying that this virus wasn’t real or that it wasn’t a public health threat. It was. The fact that things didn’t get as bad as predicted doesn’t mean that the measures taken were entirely unnecessary – it means they worked. But it doesn’t mean that those measures need to be continued forever and ever.
However…as with all things, when the government gets a little bit of extra power and control, they become greedy for more. They didn’t let this crisis go to waste, and they aren’t letting any grass grow under their feet while they plot to make all this nonsense permanent.
A fearful, indoctrinated populace is a populace that is easy to control.
What words are driving you nuts?
What words or phrases make you want to fling yourself (or the person using them) into oncoming traffic?
Maybe I’m just cranky after being locked up for 2 months, but I’m stunned all my teeth have survived without being cracked as I clench my jaw in annoyance every time I hear or read these phrases.
If you catch yourself using these words, please, for the love of kittens, STOP. Stop perpetuating the propaganda. And if I missed any of the new buzzwords that annoy the snot out of you, please let me know in the comments. Which words would you like to see stricken from public discourse?
Daisy Luther writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.