Yesterday Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) renewed his attacks on Amazon by sharing a new video in which the company is accused of using "Orwellian language" in referring to its staff and facilities.
On Monday, Sanders tweeted out a video of British journalist James Bloodworth talking about his own experience working in an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom. Among the horrors Bloodworth discovered was that workers and managers were not referred to as such, but were instead given the title of "associate."
This according to Bloodworth was "Orwellian language to blur the distinction between you as a worker and what the management were doing." Also included in this authoritarian doublespeak was the company referring to the buildings where it fulfills customers' orders not as warehouses but as "fulfillment centers," describing fired employees as being "released," and referring to conversations between employees and bathroom breaks as "idling time."
Sanders by all accounts agrees with Bloodworth's assessment of Amazon's language as Orwellian, tweeting out the video of the author talking along with the caption "listen to how Amazon uses its own lingo to blur the distinction between billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos and the average Amazon employee making minimum wage."
It's a typical complaint from Sanders, who has launched a full-frontal attack on Amazon in recent weeks, accusing the company of poor working conditions and pay. It's also a bizarre complaint given some of the senators past statements, which one could very well consider Orwellian in their own right.
Take Sanders' defenses of the authoritarian Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, which he visited and enthusiastically supported while mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s. When asked about his support for the Sandinistas in light of the food shortages in the country that resulted in people standing in bread lines, Sanders retorted:
It's funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don't line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.
Then there is Sanders' support for the Castro regime in Cuba, which, according to his telling, had "deficiencies" but also instilled in the population a genuine love of the government.
"The people we met had an almost religious affection for [Fidel Castro]. The revolution there is far deep and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values," Sanders told the Burlington Free Press after returning from a trip to the country.
Obscuring the crimes of authoritarian regimes by praising signs of poverty as examples of enrichment, or employing meaningless adjectives to justify the oppression committed by those same regimes is basically the definition of Orwellian language, and a damn sight worse than Amazon referring to its worker bees as "associates."
To be sure, these are old examples of Sanders' rhetoric, but it's not like Sanders has given up on deploying Orwellian language in the present. In fact, the video the Vermont senator tweeted out of Bloodworth describing Amazon as authoritarian also included screen shots of an anonymous worker who claimed that working at the retail giant was "worse than being in jail some days."
A fuller quote from that worker can be found in a press release lauding Sanders' introduction of a bill that would tax Amazon and other large employers for hiring workers who're receiving certain welfare benefits. It reads in part: "I have emotional trauma from working there as well as physical. It felt worse than being in jail some days. Because you had chosen to be there."
Freedom is slavery anyone?
Rent Free is a weekly newsletter from Christian Britschgi on urbanism and the fight for less regulation, more housing, more property rights, and more freedom in America's cities.