HomePolitical correctness, wooden language and newspeak

Political correctness, wooden language and newspeak

Rectitude politique, langue de bois et novlangue

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Published on Thursday, March 12, 2020 by Céline Guilleux


Le présent appel s'inscrit dans une réflxion sur la valeur de l'information dans nos sociétés globalisées. Il s'agit de s'interroger, de comprendre et d'analyser la manière dont ces modes de communication de masse contribuent au vacarme général; de saisir comment et pourquoi ils se propagent; de clarifier aussi de quoi ils parlent et à qui ils s'adressent. Se donner le temps de réfléchir ensemble critiquement afin de développer une littératie pour s'y orienter et que tout cela prenne un sens.


Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, North University Centre of Baia Mare, Romania and Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Canada invite you to take part in The 2nd International Conference Mass communication in the context of contemporary forms of propaganda with the theme Political correctness, wooden language and newspea

Date and place

10-11 July, 2020

Baia Mare, Romania


When there is a lack of coherence or even a contradiction between the tangible facts of everyday life, between the individual experiences of ordinary people and their abstract representations in public messages and discourses often mediatized, one should ask the following questions: why do such things happen and how is democracy understood? Does this continuous and accelerating (re)shaping of reality cause a generalized breakdown of coherence leading to the democratic and psychological discomfort of numerous citizens? What impact does it have on a country’s social and civic cohesion? Is this a battlefield well camouflaged by mass media and the senseless discourses of present-day politicians or managers?

This above-mentioned social phenomenon is also a political strategy, none of the discussed mechanisms being new. The use of the polysemous notion of political correctness is necessary in order to distinguish them. Borrowed from the Stalinist jargon (1930), this concept made reference to a “state of obedience and blind submission that aligned itself with the dogmatic ideology imposed by the central committee of the party[3]. In the ex-Soviet countries, the political regimes used to impose their own ideology, denying the real needs, intentions, actions and feelings of the great majority of the citizens. As a consequence, for the purpose of individual freedom, the fight for human rights became indispensable. Human freedom became valued more than “communist” equality.

Nowadays, political correctness also plays an essential role in the West. In this way, leading to advocate for the sensitivity and dignity of those who might be in danger of being discriminated against due to their differences. Their otherness is claimed to be legitimate so as to prevent a vilifying perspective on them. At the beginning, the intention was justified by the desire to prescribe more equal relationships between individuals, but in time, many begun to denounce it as the social control of people’s freedom of expression, meant to disqualify any disagreement or divergence. And thus, a dangerous polarity slowly arises between those that legitimate political correctness and those that question its validity. By placing “neoliberal” equality higher than freedom itself, the tension between equality and freedom intensifies in the name of these opposing visions of democracy.

A government and its institutions can take action towards rectifying the inappropriate perceptions, attitudes and behavior, replacing some terms with other expressions that could improve or emphasize the image of the people or actions that are thought to be undervalued. In 1949, Orwell used the Stalinist example in his “1984” novel, naming the creation and imposition of a new official language newspeak. At the same time, Klemperer spoke about the implementation of LTI (Lingua Tertii Imperii), the so-called language of the Third Reich. Our current public space is also occupied by a multitude of new right-wing or left-wing correct languages. One easily identifiable example is the managerial language with its terms of excellence, performance and productivity. In this way, the authorised language of the times, politically correct, can easily be in conflict with:

  1. The authentic way of speaking of ordinary people;
  2. The words that allow for the critique or questioning of these new terms;
  3. Language as a “locus” of reflection and analysis.

Is there a war, as well as a convergence, between the new right-wing and left-wing newspeak? Do they have the same common denominators, the same means of communication, aiming for excessive rationalization, strict administration and supervision of representations and publicly expressed words? Are the societal relations between majority and minority groups always reversed by a unique valorization of the latter? Who represents who? Are there limits beyond which the networks of political correctness become authoritarian and constrictive? Which are the democratic mechanisms that would allow for questioning and debate? How can we avoid social fracture? Rapports

The newspeak facilitates political correctness, its formulae being quite precise. The wooden language conveys senseless, vague and interchangeable statements, avoiding the articulation of what is actually meant. These two linguistic configurations are easily confused: their assertions are fixed, rigid, stereotypical, repetitive and address neither our understanding nor our intelligence. The absence of authenticity becomes a code, a jargon of generalizations, euphemisms and truisms. The vocabulary used in political, economic or mass media discourses abounds in resolutions and promises that do not say anything. Social acceptance is glorified and at the same time, citizens’ obedience and passivity are required. In fact, this leads to constant dissatisfaction and conflict. As a result, the quality of education in our societies is questioned. How much freedom of expression and freedom of conscience do our universities offer? Under these limitations what kind of professionals are graduating? Academic circles are not too welcoming when it comes to political correctness especially because it brings about avoidance and self-censorship, restraining the academic freedom of professors and their choice of research subjects. Is language just a tool that helps us express ideas about freedom or the very place where we express this freedom?

The new representations of reality shaped a new norm of de-contextualization, as the historical and social causes are erased. What might be its impact on our way of thinking, when meaning we create depends on context and circumstances? Do we have to rectify everything and let ourselves be controlled by a single perspective? Is the dogmatic dimension, requiring the submission of public interest to a “specialized class” of people, an administrative elite rooted in this de-contextualization? The great majority of words become positive. Do they protect the individuals against behavioral deviations until politically correct formulas start thinking in their place? People no longer find the words to express themselves without insulting when they disagree with or are provoked. We can easily notice how many members of society are becoming indifferent and unresponsive, even apolitical. Must we be constrained to this public silence required by political correctness or should we challenge it by our counter-power citizen actions? Is this the role of popular dissatisfaction? What kind of critical thinking do we need in this all-embracing context of political correctness that hides the plurality of opinions?

Many declare a global crisis in communication. How did we reach the current context of public communication, built exclusively on political correctness, functioning through mass manipulation, newspeak, fake news and wooden language? The visceral reactions of ordinary people are adding up and the insulting messages we are constantly exposed to on social media channels are becoming almost unbearable. Are these real effects and results, the evidence of the ideological failure of political correctness?

Submission guidelines

The abstracts are to be sent no later than May 15, 2020.

They can not exceed 4000 characters (including spaces and titles). They can be written in Romanian, French or English. An official answer regarding the acceptance or rejection of your proposals will be sent by the beginning of May.

The abstracts will be assessed by the scientific committee of the conference and must be accompanied by a short bibliography. The evaluation criteria are the following:

  • Pertinence to the general topic and objectives of the conference;
  • Explicitness of the research context or practice;
  • Explicitness of the theoretical and methodological bases that endorse the research or field experience.

The papers will be grouped according to their topic so as to be presented in different workshops. The presentations will not exceed 20 minutes, being followed by 15 minutes of discussions.

The abstracts should be sent to the following addresses:


Scientific Committee

  • Adrian Oţoiu, PhD, Université Technique de Cluj-Napoca, Centre Universitaire Nord de Baia Mare, Faculté des Lettres, Roumanie
  • Petru Dunca, PhD, Université Technique de Cluj-Napoca, Centre Universitaire Nord de Baia Mare, Faculté des Lettres, Roumanie
  • Catinca Adriana Stan, PhD, Université Laval, Faculté des Sciences de l'Éducation, Canada
  • Dan Horațiu Popescu, PhD, Partium Christian University, Oradea


  • Baia Mare, Romania


  • Sunday, March 15, 2020


  • propaganda, communication de masse, rectitude politique, langue de bois, novlangue, fait alternatif


  • Ina Motoi
    courriel : ina [dot] motoi [at] uqat [dot] ca

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Ina Motoi
    courriel : ina [dot] motoi [at] uqat [dot] ca

To cite this announcement

« Political correctness, wooden language and newspeak », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, March 12, 2020, https://calenda.org/761914

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