George Orwell 1984 Relevance of Predictions Today Part 5

About George Orwell and his book 1984 a glimpse into a distopian future, relevance of the predictions today, look at the importance of language for control.


5. The key to Oceania's control of its population is the manipulation of language. Speech has been deliberately debased to the point where it is meaningless. And, to prevent unorthodox thoughts from entering the minds of party members, a completely new language--Newspeak--is being created to make political heresy impossible due to lack of words to convey non-sanctioned ideas. Inherent in the systematic debasement of language is the principle of "doublethink," the ability to believe two contradictory statements simultaneously, without perceiving the illogic inherent in such a position. The party is the sole arbiter of truth, in all spheres. Hence its slogans: War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. The reversibility of these slogans is pointed out to the hero as a graphic illustration of doublethink at work.

Where We Stand Today: The Vietnam War generated prime examples of governmental Newspeak and doublethink. Bombing missions were called "protective reaction strikes," a refugee camp became a "new life hamlet," a "condolence award" was money given to the family of a mistakenly killed civilian, and the American invasion of Cambodia was termed an "incursion." Throughout the conflict, language was used to obfuscate and cover up, and for every other purpose except to convey the true nature of what was really taking place. The Defense Dept. (formerly the War Dept.) told the American public that Vietnam was the key to world peace and security; as Vietnam goes, it said, so goes the Free World. The U.S. lost the war, and very little has changed internationally, except for the loss of over a million lives.

During the Nixon administration, governmental Newspeak and doublethink were rampant. When White House press secretary Ron Ziegler contradicted statements made previously, he termed his former statements "inoperative." Criminal acts were committed under the guise of "national security" and "executive privilege." Lies were told and situations confused at press conferences, often after being preceded by the infamous introduction "Now, let me make this perfectly clear...." Nixon aides abused their power from an "excess of zeal" and not from more ominous ambitions. As in the 1984 slogans, lies were the truth, the truth was a lie.

6. The world of 1984 is puritanical to the extreme, with organized Anti-Sex Leagues (sex is actively discouraged, and is allowed only for the procreation of children; it is anticipated that sex will be dispensed with altogether when test-tube babies are possible).

Where We Stand Today: Chinese society has much the same flavor as Victorian England, with rigid societal controls on sexual mores. Couples are encouraged to remain single until the age of 30, premarital sex is a crime, clothing is purposely unisexual (and generally unattractive), cosmetics are forbidden, and the emphasis of society remains on party loyalty over personal ties. Up until very recently, the Soviet Union was similarly Victorian.

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