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How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 6



Welcome to part 6 of a 10 part series:

How to get smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies

In this article we’re talking:

  • Political correctness
  • Groupthink
  • Doublespeak
  • Tribalism
  • The Bandwagon effect

Let’s begin…

25. Political Correctness

“The two pillars of ‘political correctness’ are, a) willful ignorance, and b) a steadfast refusal to face the truth.” – George MacDonald Fraser



Contrary to popular opinion, political correctness isn’t just:

“the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against” – Oxford Dictionary  

It’s really about dishonesty and fakeness and the policing of language and thought.

The urban dictionary’s definitions are a lot closer to the mark:

“A way that we speak in America so we don’t offend whining pussies.”

“A method of controlling and dictating public speech and thought.”

“A powerful form of censorship.”

I agree with this quote 100%:

“Political correctness is by definition dishonest and is, I believe, the most insidious doctrine to plague the Western world since those abominable soul mates communism and fascism with which it has more in common than its dupes seem to realise. It cannot face truth, it rejects what is, simply because what is does not suit what the politically correct thinking ought to be.” – George MacDonald Fraser

The problem with Political Correctness

Here’s the problem with political correctness:

It’s fake.

It’s dishonest.

It silences people.

It stifles debate.

It’s anti-free speech.

It’s anti-truth.

It forces you to deny reality.

It prevents any criticism of:

  • Black people or minorities – because that would be “racist”
  • Gays and transgenders – because that would be “homophobic” and/or “transphobic”
  • Muslims – because that would make you a “bigot” and “islamophobic”
  • Women – because that would be “misogynistic” and “sexist”

Even if that criticism is 100% justified.

In fact, it seems that the only people it’s OK to criticize and be racist and sexist towards is white men.

Except according to liberals:

  • It’s impossible to be racist towards a white person
  • It’s impossible to be sexist towards a man

Political correctness also assumes that feelings are more important than facts (they’re not) and the truth shouldn’t be spoken if it might potentially offend someone.

Here’s the problem with that:

  • These days: EVERYONE IS OFFENDED BY EVERYTHING. If no one could say something that could possibly be offensive to another human being – no one could say anything e.g. some people will get offended if you say “good morning”
  • Just because someone is “offended” by something – that doesn’t mean they’re right, or that other people should have to monitor their language or change the way they speak or walk on eggshells around them

“When people have invested their identities into clichés, the only counter argument they have is ‘being offended’.” – Stefan Molyneux

“When people say they’re offended, just cause you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right. Offense is about feelings, and feelings are personal. Some people are offended by equality. So what?” – Ricky Gervais 

Spiritual teacher Wayne Dyer (RIP) was 100% right when he said:

“Do you know that most people I meet, spend their lives looking for occasions to be offended. They’re actually out there hoping that they can find some reason to be offended. And there’s no shortage of reasons. They’re out there everywhere. The way this person dressed. What this person said. Someone used language that they didn’t like. Someone doesn’t share the same customs that you share.” – Wayne Dyer

When I first heard Wayne say that I didn’t believe him. I thought he was exaggerating to make a point. But I’ve come to realize that he’s 100% right.

There are people out there LOOKING for reasons to be offended.

People who LOVE to get offended and upset by EVERYTHING.

Professional victims who LOVE to complain and play the victim card.

Who gets to decide what’s “politically correct” or “offensive” anyway?

I’ve noticed that the majority of these hypersensitive PC SJW’s who are quick to denounce any criticism of Muslims or the Muslim faith, seem to have no problem attacking Christians or Christianity or using the words “Jesus Christ” as a curse word with no consideration as to how that might make Christians feel. Nor do they seem to have any problem attacking Mormonism, Scientology, or any other religion.

See this raises an important point: political correctness isn’t really about being polite and respectful towards others, it’s really just about policing any kind of language that liberals don’t like, and the redefining of words to suit the liberal agenda.

That’s why some things are “PC” and others aren’t.

That’s why it’s OK to criticize Christians – but not Muslims.

That’s why it’s OK to criticize heterosexuals – but not homosexuals.

That’s why it’s OK to criticize white people – but not black people.

That’s why it’s OK to criticize men – but not women.

But why is it OK to criticize men – but not women? Aren’t they equal?

Why is it OK to criticize or offend Christians but not Muslims?

Why can’t a Christian pastor or Catholic priest refuse to marry homosexuals if it goes against their religion?

Will Islamic religious leaders also be forced into marrying homosexuals?

If the PC police and SJW’s are so offended by offensive language, why aren’t they attacking rappers like Snoop Dogg and Nicki Minaj who can’t stop using words like nigger, bitch, and ho?

No, the PC police need to attack the real culprits, the biggest racists and sexists, people like Justin Timberlake, Matt Damon, Michael Keaton, and the Dalai Lama.

In my home country of New Zealand we have a MASSIVE problem with Maori crime and violence

Maori make up 14.6% of New Zealand’s population yet they make up 51% of it’s prison population.

More than 50% of male prison inmates are Maori.

More than 58% of female prison inmates are Maori.

New Zealand also has the highest rate of domestic violence in the world, with one in three women and 42% of Maori women experiencing physical and/or sexual violence from a partner in their lifetime, and at least 80% of crimes aren’t reported to the police.

But does the average Kiwi or the NZ media talk about Maori crime and violence? No. Maybe only behind closed doors. Why? Because it’s not politically correct. Even though almost every Kiwi has seen and/or experienced Maori violence, no one wants to talk about it because it’s not politically correct and no one wants to be called a “racist”.

The 1994 movie Once were Warriors was one of the few times New Zealand spoke up about it’s Maori violence and domestic violence problems.

This is the problem with PC culture: Instead of encouraging an honest debate of the facts, it simply takes a totalitarian attitude and censors any opinion it doesn’t like which might “offend” and calls it “racism”, “sexism”, or “hate speech”.

Facebook censors posts.

Google censors searches.

Twitter censors tweets.

YouTube censors videos.

Political correctness is an insidious cancer which censors thought and speech in schools, universities, in the corporate world, and throughout society.

It also introduces a lot of bullshit words and concepts:

Cultural appropriation.


Trigger warnings.

Safe spaces.




This is what I hate most about political correctness: in theory it’s a good thing (I don’t believe anyone should be offensive, rude, racist, sexist etc. in their words or actions) but it’s being used as a weapon by liberals and SJW’s to police language and thought and to censor and silence anything or anyone they don’t like or agree with.

It’s not only trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos or white supremacists like Richard Spencer the “PC Police” and SJW’s try to prevent from speaking at college campuses, it’s highly intelligent conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro and clinical psychologists like Jordan Peterson who are being protested and unfairly accused of being racists and sexists and white supremacists when they’re not.

PC culture is so out of control on US college campuses that even legendary comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, John Cleese etc. refuse to play because too many college kids can’t take a joke. Either that or they think they can tell Jerry Seinfeld how to be funny

“There’s a creepy PC thing out there that really bothers me.” – Jerry Seinfeld

“Our college campuses have become places where people are afraid of ideas. They think they know the truth and everything they need to know, about race, about gender, about rape, about you name it. They don’t want to hear opposing points of view. Opposing points of view just offend them. They want to be kept safe from ideas they disagree with. People today when they enter college want to leave with exactly the same ideas as when they entered. They do not want their ideas to be challenged.” – Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law Professor  

In case I’m not being clear enough:

I don’t believe anyone should be cruel, racist, sexist, rude, offensive, or violent to people, and I know there are lots of assholes, bigots, racists, sexists, psychopaths, sociopaths, thugs etc. out there who say and do things to provoke and hurt people.

But there are also lots of people who are far too sensitive, who get offended by every little thing, who use the words “bigot”, “fascist”, “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobe”, “Nazi” etc. as a weapon to silence anyone they disagree with.

Obviously I’m not the only one who feels this way. Millions of people do.

According to a 2016 Angus Reid Institute survey, 76% per cent of Canadians (widely regarded as the friendliest people in the world) think political correctness has gone too far, as do the majority of Americans, English, Australians and New Zealanders. They’re not wrong.

In fact, I think the main reason shows like Family Guy and South park are so popular is precisely because they’re so politically incorrect. I also think that’s one of the main reasons Donald Trump got into the White House. People are just sick and tired of PC bullshit.

Political Correctness gone mad

Here are some examples of political correctness gone mad…

Students at Yale bully sociology Professor Nicholas Christakis because his wife had the audacity to suggest, in an email, that students could maybe decide what Halloween costumes to wear by themselves:

YouTube comment: “Seems odd that they snap their fingers instead of clapping, because they don’t want to trigger anxiety, but yet scream like crazy at the professor.”

Campus employee assaults white student for “cultural appropriation”:

Schools and universities throughout the western world are instructing teachers to avoid words like “boy”, “girl”, “man”, or “woman” in favour of “gender-neutral” terms: ze/zir/zirs and xe/xem/xyrs, in order to avoid offending transgender students.

Hopefully the world doesn’t go down the insanely PC path of Sweden:

Of course there are many more examples:

1400 girls raped but police didn’t do anything for fear of being called “racist”

Asking people “where are you from?” is now considered “racist”

Don’t say “Merry Christmas” in case it might offend someone

Santa’s can’t say “ho” “ho” “ho” instead they must say “ha” “ha” “ha”

Social-Justice Math Class: ‘Math Has Been Used as a Dehumanizing Tool’

Council bans ‘brainstorming’ and replaces the term with ‘thought showers’… for fear of offending epileptics

Students told to wave ‘jazz hands’ at conference speakers – because whooping and clapping might be too scary

A UK recruiter was stunned when her job advert for “hard-working” and “reliable” applicants was rejected by a Jobcentre because it could be “offensive” to unreliable and lazy people

Safe spaces equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies

Oxford University warns that failure to make eye contact can be a “microaggression” and “subtle racism”

False rape allegations

In Queensland, Australia, gender will no longer be listed on drivers licenses

Don’t call pregnant women ‘expectant mothers’ as it might offend transgender people

Sign a contract before sex with a “Consent Conscious Kit”

University of Wisconsin: Stop Saying ‘Politically Correct’! That’s Politically Incorrect!

Political incorrect truths

  • There are only 2 genders. Male and female. Deal with it.
  • Children growing up in 2 parent families do better
  • Everyone is biased towards their own race
  • Fat is not healthy – or sexy
  • Feminists are often just angry man haters who engage in misandry
  • Height matters
  • Looks matter
  • Men and women are not equal. They are different. Men have strengths women don’t have. Women have strengths men don’t have. Duh.
  • Islam is not a religion of peace
  • Most African countries are shit holes (not just Haiti)
  • Some countries and cultures are objectively better than others

Free Speech vs Political Correctness

In summary: We can either have free speech or political correctness – but not both.

No culture, gender, group, ideology, race, religion, tradition etc. should be off limits or protected from criticism if/when it’s in the wrong.

The truth doesn’t need defending. Wrong is wrong. No matter who says or does it.

You maybe forced to speak in a politically correct way in your school or in your workplace, but don’t let the PC thought police or SJW’s censor your thinking, and tell you what you can and can’t think or what’s “appropriate”.

If you’re thinking: “I want to live in a world with free speech – but not hate speech”, let me ask you something: If normal words like: “boy”, “girl”, “man”, “woman”, “ladies”, “gentleman”, “mother”, “father” etc. are now considered “offensive” and “politically incorrect” what words are going to be offensive next?

Where do we draw the line?

SJW’s are some of the biggest hypocrites on earth:

They want to be heard – but they don’t want to listen.

They talk about tolerance and respect – yet they have ZERO tolerance or respect for anyone that disagrees with them.

They demand “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, yet they have no problem yelling, screaming, swearing, protesting, rioting etc. destroying property and committing acts of violence the moment they don’t get their own way.

Why should a small group of constantly unhappy people who love to bitch and moan and complain about everything, be able to tell the rest of the world what they can and can’t say?

To the constantly offended I say this:

Who cares if you’re offended? Fuck your feelings. Get over yourself.

Just because you’re offended that doesn’t mean you’re right.

I’ve heard it said: “I’d rather be correct than politically correct” 

And: “Being politically correct doesn’t make you correct”

I agree.


OK, let’s lighten things up a bit…

24. Groupthink

“If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking.” – George S. Patton

What is Groupthink?

“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.” – Wikipedia

In other words: Groupthink is when people in a group seek consensus and unanimity, even if it results in an irrational decision being made.

What causes Groupthink?

Why would a group of people all agree on something, if individual members of the group had doubts, concerns, or worries about the decision?

  • When a dominant leader, manager, or personality of a group surrounds themselves with “yes men”
  • When the leader, manager, or members of the group, is quick to shut down any contrary opinions, dissent, or negative feedback
  • When peer pressure from either the leader of a group, or from within the group itself, forces people to come to a certain consensus, even if it’s a false consensus
  • When political correctness forces self-censorship and the suppression of ideas and opinions that are controversial and “un-PC” and outside of the status quo
  • The illusion of unanimity: Because everyone in the group is silent and no one in the group is speaking up and saying anything, everyone assumes that everyone else in the group agrees and feels the same way
  • When someone disagrees with the consensus, or the majority, or just isn’t sure, stays silent instead of asking a ‘silly’ question, or voicing what might be an unpopular opinion, in order to avoid conflict, or for fear of disapproval or judgement, or of being ostracized by the group
  • When people go along to get along, so as to avoid conflict, or to end the meeting because they don’t believe that their ideas will be taken seriously
  • When people are closed minded to other alternatives and think there is only one way
  • When differences are dismissed from outsiders and rationalized “you just think that because you’re a (insert ideology)”
  • When people in the group ignore their gut feelings that something might be wrong, and ignore any obvious dangers and warning signs
  • When a group of people who think alike, spend all of their time in echo chambers, only talk, listen, and spend time with people who agree with them and think like them
  • Let’s be honest: Most people are followers who are too lazy to think for themselves and will simply follow the crowd and believe whatever everyone else does

Groupthink is a major problem. You see it everywhere: In schools, social circles, the corporate world, the military, and especially in political parties and religions.

Groupthink applies to your political party or religion too: If you’re a feminist and you just believe what every other feminist believes, or if you’re a Muslim and you just believe what other Muslims believe – then you’re just a follower and a sheep – and you’re not thinking for yourself.

It’s amazing how common Groupthink and conformity is:

Soloman Asch’s Conformity Experiments in 1951 – people will deny their own eyes:

How to Avoid Groupthink

How do you avoid Groupthink?

  • Think for yourself – don’t just follow the crowd and think what everyone else does
  • Get out of your echo chamber and consciously seek out arguments from people who disagree with you, especially experts, and find out why they disagree with you
  • Ask people you admire and respect who are smarter and more experienced than you to attack/criticize/review your plans
  • Do your homework and research the history of people who’ve tried your idea and failed – and find out why they’ve failed, and become aware of the consequences if you’re wrong
  • If you are the leader of the group:
    • Hire and surround yourself with smart people who think differently than you
    • Let everyone know it’s OK to disagree, and to have other opinions, perspectives, and ideas. There are no bad ideas, stupid questions (the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask) or “wrong” perspectives
    • Don’t share what you think until everyone else has first shared their opinions so as not to influence the group
    • Don’t criticize the ideas of people you don’t agree with and don’t shoot them down for having a different opinion. You want as many ideas, opinions, and perspectives on the table as possible
    • Encourage debate and disagreement, and if no one is disagreeing, get one person to play devils advocate to provoke debate or to test the strength of the argument
    • Have a structured debate. Randomly assign different team members to argue opposing points of view.
    • If everyone is in agreement, find out why they agree, and what evidence they have for their opinions. How did they come to that conclusion? What reasons do they have for that belief?
    • Some people are shy and won’t speak up or participate – put them on the spot and ask them what they think
    • Encourage anonymous suggestions

Stop thinking what everyone thinks.

Stop believing what everyone believes.

Think for yourself. You have a brain so use it.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

“It’s better to walk alone, than with the crowd going in the wrong direction.” – Diane Grant

“The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.” – Erich Fromm, The Sane Society

“Think for yourself. Unplug yourself from follow-the-follower groupthink, and virtually ignore what everyone else in your industry is saying (except the ones everyone agrees is crazy). Do your own research, draw your own conclusions, set your own course, and stick to your guns. When you’re just starting out, people will tell you you’re wrong. After you’ve blown past them, they’ll tell you you’re crazy. A few years after that, they’ll (privately) ask you to mentor them.” – Steve Pavlina

23. Tribalism

“People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of ‘race’ or ‘gender’ alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason.” – Christopher Hitchens

Similar to Groupthink is tribalism, which is when people have loyalty to their country, culture, gender, group, political party, race, religion etc. above all else no matter what.

You see this all the time.

Catholic priests covering up the molestation and sexual abuse of children when it’s done by other priests.

Church (tribe) first – morals second.

Christians, Jews, Muslims etc. standing up for people in their religion – even when they know they’re in the wrong – simply because they belong to the same religion.

Women standing up for other women in an argument with a man – even when they know they’re in the wrong – simply because they’re women.

Their allegiance is to the tribe – not to the truth.

Tribalism is an “us vs them” we are the “good guys” and they are the “bad guys” mentality. It is primitive shit brained black and white thinking. It leads to conflict, fighting, racism, sexism, prejudice, and war.

I’ll be honest, personally I’ve never really understood tribalism.

I have no loyalty to my home country of New Zealand, and I never really have.

My loyalty is to the truth. To the facts. To what’s right. To what I consider “the best”.

I wouldn’t take the side of my family, friends, girlfriend, parents etc. if I thought they were in the wrong – and I’m an extremely loyal person. That doesn’t mean that I would take the side of the stranger and disagree with them in public if I thought they would lose face, but it does mean that I would definitely say to my friend/girlfriend/parent etc. in private that I thought the other person was right.

Tribalism seems to be far too common in American politics and race relations. There are far too many people sticking up for their own gender, race, religion, political party etc. even when they know they’re wrong – simply because that person, party, group etc. is part of their tribe.

Sam Harris perfectly sums up the problems with tribalism and identity politics:

The bottom line is:

You will either have an allegiance to the truth or to your tribe. You cannot have both.

You maybe part of a tribe (almost everyone is), but don’t let the tribe do your thinking for you, and don’t take the side of your tribe over the truth.

If you’re a Christian/Jew/Muslim: You don’t need to believe every single thing that is taught in your holy book or religion.

If you’re a conservative: You don’t need to believe and stand behind every single thing that the republican party is promoting.

If you’re a liberal: You don’t need to believe and stand behind every single thing that the democratic party is promoting.

Don’t just think what others in your tribe think.

Don’t just believe what others in your tribe believe.

Think for yourself.

“I think tribalism is a mental prison…and pride of identity coupled with arrogance is one of the leading factors that limit one’s ability to abandon it.” – Duop Chak Wuol

“I think the biggest threat to America is tribalism. I think that tribalism has broken out on the left and the right. People don’t seem to care about the truth anymore, they seem to care about whether it helps my side or it helps your side, and that is really, really, dangerous, because then we can no longer have a conversation. If we can’t agree on a common basis of facts, we can’t have a conversation in the first place, if you’re just going to assume that I’m evil on the basis of my political perspective, then we can’t have a conversation.” – Ben Shapiro

22. The Bandwagon effect

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” – Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 1841

Speaking of Groupthink, you should also be aware of the bandwagon effect.

The bandwagon effect is the reason for stock market bubbles, housing bubbles, trends, crazes etc.

It’s why we’ll stand in line for a crowded restaurant instead of going to an empty one.

It’s why if “everyone” is talking about a book, TV show, or movie, we’ll likely check it out too.

The bandwagon effect in a nutshell:

The more people do something – the more other people will do it too.

Why the bandwagon effect works

Most people aren’t leaders – they’re followers.

Most people are sheep – they love to conform and “fit in”.

Most people have a desire to “keep up with the Joneses”

FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.

Examples of the bandwagon effect

  • People that don’t support an athlete or sports team – until they make the playoffs
  • People that don’t support a political candidate – until everyone else starts supporting them e.g. Bernie Sanders
  • If there is a long line of people waiting in line for a restaurant, even more people will get in the line and start waiting
  • The more reviews a product or service has on Amazon,, TripAdvisor, Yelp! etc. the more people will buy it

Beware of the bandwagon effect

The bandwagon effect can (and is) used against you…

Advertisers and marketers will often try to convince you to buy their product by making you believe that “everyone else” has or wants their product, or that people are lining up to buy it, and you should too.

Click bait bloggers try to get us to read their articles by telling us that “Twitter” is angry (Translation: 5 people complained about something)

Why you shouldn’t follow the crowd

“Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.” Margaret Thatcher

Most people aren’t happy.

Most people aren’t smart.

Most people aren’t successful.

Most people are examples of what NOT to do.

Following the crowd kills your creativity, because you’re forced to dumb yourself down in order to fit in, in order to do what everyone else is doing.

Being a sheep and following the crowd can make us do silly things:

“It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.” – Gandhi

“The dumbest reason in the world to buy a stock is because it’s going up.” – Warren Buffett

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.“ – Albert Einstein

21. Doublespeak

“War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.” – George Orwell, 1984

Lastly, let’s talk about Doublespeak.

What is Doublespeak?

Doublespeak is ambiguous language which is used to deceive and mislead you.

It is the exact opposite of plain speaking.

“Doublespeak is language which pretends to communicate but doesn’t. It is language which makes the bad seem good, the negative seem positive, the unpleasant seem unattractive, or at least tolerable. It is language which avoids, shifts or denies responsibility; language which is at variance with its real or purported meaning. It is language which conceals or prevents thought.” – William Lutz, Doublespeak 

“Doublespeak is not a slip of the tongue or a mistaken use of language, it’s exactly the opposite. It is language used by people who are very intelligent, and very sophisticated in the use of language, and know that you can do an awful lot with language.” – William Lutz, Doublespeak

Doublespeak is commonly used throughout the corporate world especially in banking and finance, by lawyers (“legalese”), the military, and of course by politicians to avoid answering questions without directly stating that they’re ignoring the question.

Perhaps it would be easier to understand doublespeak if we heard some…

Former US President Bill Clinton giving lots of examples of Doublespeak:

A funny example of extreme political Doublespeak from Tampa governor Rick Scott:

Doublespeak is also used by politicians and the military to make war sound less gruesome:

“I reminded the soldiers and their families that the war in Iraq is really about peace.” – US President George W. Bush, April 2003

In 2014 Israeli military commanders described the massacre of 2,100 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians (including 500 children), in Gaza as “mowing the lawn”.

Similarly, Obama’s former counter-terrorism adviser Bruce Riedel said in 2012 “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.” This was in reference to Barack Obama’s drone war in Pakistan which has killed thousands of people.

There are four main categories of Doublespeak:

  • Deliberately ambiguous language (used to deceive and mislead you)
  • Euphemisms (words or expressions substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something offensive, unpleasant, or embarrassing)

Examples of doublespeak euphemisms:

  • Adult entertainment = porn/sex shows/stripping
  • Creative accounting = dishonest accounting methods used to cheat the tax department by exploiting loopholes and presenting figures in a misleadingly favorable light
  • Downsizing/rightsizing = workers being laid off
  • Revenue enhancement = tax increase
  • Capital punishment = death penalty
  • Collateral damage = unintended deaths and injuries of civilians during war
  • Enhanced interrogation methods = torture
  • Ethnic cleansing = genocide
  • Freedom fighter = mercenaries and soldiers who are US allies fighting for US causes (if the same fighters were fighting for the other side they would be labelled “terrorists”)
  • Friendly fire = when someone is accidentally shot, killed, or injured by someone from their own army
  • Human trafficking = modern day slave trade (mostly women and child sex slaves)
  • Peacekeeper = nuclear bomb
  • Jargon. When specialized language is used excessively by professionals (bankers, lawyers, politicians etc.) to confuse or obscure the subject matter to persons outside of the circle — such as clients, customers, voters etc. it becomes doublespeak
  • Gobbledygook/bureaucratese. When meanings are made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms in an attempt to overwhelm and confuse the intended audience

E.g. “It is a tricky problem to find the particular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem the acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated risk premiums.– Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Board Chairman

The problem with Doublespeak as author William Lutz quite rightly points out:

“All who use language should be concerned whether statements and facts agree, whether language is, in Orwell’s words, “largely the defense of the indefensible” and whether language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” 

“Clear language is essential so that both parties understand what they are agreeing to. In any contract that you enter into, you have to understand what your obligations and rights are under the terms of that contract.”

“If a company writes a contract in such a way that consumers think they understand what their obligations are, but in reality don’t, they may agree to something they don’t understood, and ultimately cannot fulfill.  When companies use anything other than straight-forward clear language to describe the terms of an offer, they’re not dealing honestly in the marketplace, they are setting up consumers to fail.”

Here is a good 7 minute video on Doublespeak with author William Lutz:

What can be done about doublespeak?

If you hear someone being intentionally ambiguous and vague in their language, and you feel that they’re using doublespeak in order to deceive and mislead you, or to cover up and obscure something, call them out on it.

Ask them to explain what they mean in clear and plain simple English.

Ask them to explain it to you as if you were a five year old.

Don’t let them hide behind $50 words and incomprehensible language.

PS: You should also be aware of weasel words…

Weasel words

“A weasel word, or anonymous authority, is an informal term for words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that a specific or meaningful statement has been made, when instead only a vague or ambiguous claim has actually been communicated. This can enable the speaker to later deny the specific meaning if the statement is challenged.” – Wikipedia  

Examples of weasel words: “experts say”, “people are saying”, “some say”, “it has been suggested”, “It is widely thought” etc.


This is part 6 of a 10 part series:

How to get smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies

Let’s do a quick recap of this weeks points:

25. Political correctness

24. Groupthink

23. Tribalism

22. The Bandwagon effect

21. Doublespeak

If you would like to read the other parts in this series here they are:

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 1

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 2

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 3 

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 4

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 5

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 7

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 8

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 9

How to get Smarter: A guide to critical thinking, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies – Part 10

You might also like to check out my article: How to Learn: 21 Smart Strategies

Or if you would like to read my other articles: Life Lessons All Articles


Maori image credit: Jose Gil /


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