Now he's messing with Orwell. I agree entirely with this post which argues that language can't be neutral. Rather the decision by the MSM or establishment or whoever that some phrasing is neutral is, and must be, a political act. It is not possible to balance without a fulcrum.
However, he quotes Rorty criticizing Orwell. In theory, I believe that all writers should be criticized, but I can't let this pass without counterargument.
Critiquing George Orwell, Richard Rorty notes that in practice, newspeak tactics fail. “Ethnic cleansing” was developed by thugs during the Bosnian Civil War as a newspeak term that was supposed to replace “genocide” with a phrase (“cleansing”) that has positive affect. The practical impact was to turn “ethnic cleansing” into a chilling term that connotes genocide.
Rorty's argument is nonsense. The world is not Oceania. Rorty proved that attempted brainwashing fails if the people whose brains you intend to watch have a free press and free debate. Newspeak was enforced through terror. It was not a tool to convince people. Rather it was a tool to humiliate them. In 1984, Orwell didn't suggest that it would work without the thought police. Minitrue without Minilove was not considered in that book.
The above paragraph may be unfair to Rorty. The error is referring to abuse of language as Newspeak. This invokes 1984, which did not consider abuse of language separate from terror. The word "Newspeak" is not in quotation marks, so it might be Yglesias's error not Rorty's. Notably, the ethnic cleansers did not have total power over the debate concerning Bosnia. They didn't even in Serbia proper which, soon after the coining of "ethnic cleansing" set a new record for consecutive days of protest. The issue was the Belgrade municipal election. Milosovic is a depraved criminal, but even in his wildest dreams, he wasn't Big Brother.
The relevant work by Orwell is "Politics and the English Language." To claim that the case of "ethnic cleansing" disproves Orwell, Rorty must argue that the abuse of language discussed in "Politics and the English Language" is effective so the side that abuses language wins debates it should lose. But this has nothing to do with the actual essay. Orwell asserted that all sides abuse language. There was no prediction.
More importantly, Orwell didn't write much about the effectiveness of abuse of language in "Politics and the English Language." He described the abuse of language at length. He described damaging consequences for the thought of the speaker. I think he argued that people can manage to avoid thinking clearly by abusing language. I don't recall (I am analysing from memory) any claim that the listener or reader can be infected even if the listener tries to resist.
I can't recite the essay from memory and I might have missed something, but I don't recall anything contradicted by the case of "ethnic cleansing."