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Our language is so abused, so politicized, so distorted, these days, that it is affecting the ability of many to think clearly. George Orwell understood this phenomenon. He understood how government could and would use the corruption of the lexicon in a grab for power. And it would do so with the most altruistic-sounding motives.

Take the issue of race, for example. When it comes to racial issues, America is in an advanced state of government-sponsored mass dyslexia. Black is white. War is peace. Diversity is exclusion. Fairness is discrimination. Equality is inequality. Rights are wrongs.

Am I exaggerating? I don’t think so. Last weekend, Judith Winston, the U.S. Education Department’s general counsel, said that applying the same set of academic standards to whites and blacks for admission to universities is discriminatory. I’m not kidding.

“Particular race-neutral criteria (meaning standardized test scores and grade comparisons) can have a discriminatory effect,” she said.

She made the comments in the context of discussing the University of California’s recent policy of discounting the race, ethnicity and gender of applicants — a change adopted by the university regents and overwhelmingly endorsed by the state’s voters

in their approval of Propsition 209, which sought to end quotas and preferences in government hiring, contract awards and other official business. Now, let’s think about this.

The definition of “racism,” according to my dictionary is: “the assumption that the characteristics and abilities of an individual are determined by race and that one race is superior to another.” Isn’t that precisely what Ms. Winston is saying? Unless we give special consideration to some groups, on the basis of race, they won’t be able to keep up, she suggests.

That is the most insulting, demeaning, patronizing — yes, I’ll say it, racist — attitude I have ever heard. It’s reminiscent of the old plantation mentality. Only, today, this is what passes for enlightened, liberal thinking.

When the University of California decided to end the official racism that was guiding its admissions policy, the race-preference cartel, in the form of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and other like-minded groups, filed a complaint with the federal government. These professional agitators, who wield power only through their ability to secure from government special privileges for their constituents, contend that the use of academic performance as the main standard for entry into the university “results in substantial exclusion of qualified minority applicants.”

Qualified? Who better to determine qualifications than the university itself? And what better means of determining who’s qualified than by evaluating test scores and grades?

By the way, the university still gives preferential consideration to individuals who overcome the disadvantages of a lower socio-economic background. Officials just don’t consider the skin color, the last name or the sex of the student as a factor in determining admission.

Sounds fair, doesn’t it? I mean, should the son or daughter of Oprah Winfrey or Michael Jordan get preference for admission to a university over the Asian son or daughter of a truck driver or sanitation worker? That was the reality of the old university admissions policy — immoral and racist to the core.

The race-preference advocates point to the fact that UCLA is admitting 80 percent fewer black students and 35 percent fewer Latinos this fall under the new guidelines as evidence of unfairness. It is most definitely evidence of unfairness — the grave injustice perpetrated by the previous admissions programs that emphasized racial and ethnic attributes over academic merit.

Ms. Winston and her boss, President Clinton, have now tipped their hand as to where the administration stands on this issue. Clinton previously urged his legal advisers “to use federal law to the maximum extent” to promote diversity. Now, keep in mind, federal civil rights laws don’t say anything about “diversity.” Rather, they very clearly forbid unequal treatment of people based on race — precisely what the university had been doing for years.

Today, there are those in America — the president of the United States included — who insist that treating black people and white people exactly the same is racist. They do this, by the way, not because it is right, but because it empowers government to bestow favors and special privileges — a thoroughly un-American idea.

But you have to admire their audacity — their ability to spin moral precepts 180 degrees. Even Orwell would be impressed with such linguistic sleight of hand.

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