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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Orwellian language prevents communication

I sat down to watch George Orwell's 1984 the other night. I hadn't seen it in years and some masochistic impulse made me actually want to suffer through it again.
I say suffer through it, it's quite well done. Excellent cinematography, well acted, overall a great movie from that standpoint. Just a bit on the disturbing side and not a lot of fun to watch. Rather like the book which I also haven't read in years. One of those, "I'm glad I read it but I didn't enjoy it," types of novels.
I was struck, however, by a line early in the movie where one of main character Winston Smith's lunch companions remarks "the destruction of words is a beautiful thing."
This companion of Smith's is tasked with helping in the creation of newspeak, a language of sorts created by the government in order to control thought.
For instance within the book the "Ministry of Peace" concerns itself with war.
This seems funny until you realize that until after World War II we didn't have a Department of Defense we had a War Department.
Like the "Ministry of Peace" the DoD fights wars.
As a writer, and one who has occasionally been accused of diarrhea of the keyboard, I'm not at all fond of the idea of destroying words — or changing their meaning.
But that's precisely what the disease known as political correctness does.
In the name of "tolerance" or "inclusiveness" we have created a system in which certain things cannot be said.
We cannot have an honest discussion of race in this country. Anyone who tries is immediately labeled a racist.
A white person, for instance, cannot even try to discuss issues related to the destruction of the black family, or why so many more black men than white men are in prison. And if we cannot discuss them we most certainly cannot address them.
Moreover we have created more and more classes of hyphenated Americans. We are no longer Americans first. We are African-Americans, or Asian-Americans, or Hispanic-Americans.
As we more and more divide ourselves into smaller and smaller segments we are more and more alienated from each other. Language is a big part of how these divisions are created.
Language and the manipulation of it is a major tool of those who wish to also manipulate the populace.
We started with "global warming," then when things stopped warming it was changed to "climate change," then when it became clear that was a hoax as well it was changed yet again to "global climate disruption."
Words have power. The press, of which I am obviously a member, knows this all too well. Behind a guise of impartiality, it is all too easy to manipulate a story with the words used. Especially when relying heavily on "anonymous sources."
There's a backlash beginning against political correctness in all its pernicious forms.
Unfortunately, this Orwellian doublespeak may very well be too deeply entrenched into our language to every completely eradicate.
Which, by the by, is what the far-left actually wants. Keep in mind the idea of "politically correct speech and thought" are Soviet ideas. They understand all too well that if you control the language you can control both the way people think and the debate.
We have to stop trying to avoid offending anyone and realize that the only way to put this nation back on track is to have a series of very difficult, very un-PC conversations.
We have to stop letting the progressives on the left continue to divide us into ever smaller groups while using the language to control debate and keep us from actually talking to each other.
It's time for frank conversations about race, religion, sexual orientation and a number of other subjects — before the thought police make it impossible to have them.
All IMHO, of course.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Patrick.

    Reminds me of a point Thomas Sowell's makes in his writings -- how we let non-arguments substitute for arguments and how that prevents us from discussing the true merits or demerits of an issue.

    I highly recommend that people educate themselves on logical fallacies so they can learn to recognize them when they come up. Ad hominems, red herrings, appeal to expert, name calling, two wrongs don't make a right are common logical fallacies that we let pass for credible arguments. Such logical fallacies are the cornerstone of newspeak. Not being able to recognize such fallacies has weakened our ability to think critically.

    Recently, in defending the constitutional overreach of Obamacare a friend made the case that the government already does many things beyond its Constitutional authority. I simply pointed out that multiple wrongs don't make a right. He didn't respond.