Tag Archives: doublespeak

Orwell, the language of empire, doublespeak, and the butchering of grammar

In June of 1949,  Eric Blair, writing under the pseudonym  George Orwell , published his groundbreaking novel ‘1984.’  As the novel became increasingly well known in the following decades, the slogan of the party ‘WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH’ became something of a catch phrase to describe political doublespeak.  Astute observers and social and political commentators noticed how many of Orwell’s ‘predictions’ were coming to fruition. Increasingly, the term ‘Orwellian’ came to describe aspects of modern societies  which resembled Orwell’s dystopian nightmare, such as the ever-increasing police state, never-ending war, torture cells, and the ruthless crushing of all dissent.

The novel’s protagonist, Winston Smith, works for the Ministry of Truth where he spends his days rewriting history for the sake of the party. Naturally, he utilizes all the tools of the government propagandist including the use of doublespeak. Current events must mesh precisely with historical events so that the government can always be seen as acting in accordance with logical principles and complete rationality, when of course just the opposite is true.

While the outlines of a  1984-type world could be seen taking shape during the latter half of the 20th century,  particularly during the worst stages of the Soviet Union, the post 9-11 United States has now taken the lead in implementing a completely totalitarian and tyrannical state, with an unprecedented surveillance apparatus watching and analyzing every word and act of its citizens.

However, the United States is hardly alone in this trend and the use of doublespeak and surveillance technology is widespread around the world. Last week, the city government here announced that they were installing thousands of closed-circuit video cameras on downtown streets for ‘public safety.’


So-called ‘Orwellian’ language has now become so integrated into the daily propaganda feeds from government mouthpieces and the media conglomerates which feed at the government trough that the vast majority of it seeps into the collective unconscious without comment.

For example, last week I was reading a summary of international headlines re-printed in my local newspaper. One brief headline from the Central African Republic stated that ‘United Nations Peacekeepers shot and killed a number of rebel fighters’ in that war-torn country. Yes, the role of a peacekeeper  is to kill. To keep peace is to kill… WAR IS PEACE. Just as Orwell told us it was going to be. Indeed, we have become so used to seeing these blue-helmetted UN peacekeepers with their machine guns and bullet-proof vests that we don’t question it.

The manipulation, degradation and inversion of language is one of the most important and vital tools of the power elite of this planet. They love to twist and reinvent the meaning of words, to so butcher them that people quickly forget what they used to mean. Few people understand that dictionaries themselves are regularly rewritten, as are encyclopedias. Find a dictionary from 50 or 100 years ago, and notice how much the meanings of certain worlds have morphed over time. This is all part of the plan.

Grammar too must be put into the grinder so that the ‘proles’ are unable to formulate and articulate  their thoughts and engage in the act of critical thinking. One of the preferred avenues for inserting memes into the collective unconscious is sporting events. The former jocks who act as commentators for events like football games were not intellectual giants to begin with, but it is no accident that increasingly we are seeing the use of the simple present tense only, even when discussing past or future events. For example, a commentator, when discussing a game from ten years ago, will say, “If he catches that ball, they win.” Additionally, when writing about the future, they will state, “If he works hard, he makes the team.” This is absolutely absurd. Are the writers and commentators so brain dead that they cannot formulate the sentence, “If he works hard, he WILL make the team.” ?

The United States is now a global empire and it’s interesting to listen and read the language of empire. The stated goal of the neo-cons in power is perpetual war, taken directly from the 1984 playbook. It follows that Orwellian propaganda and doublespeak must be used at all times to ‘justify’ this state of affairs. Last week, Barack Obama, the leader of the United States, announced that the U.S. military was bombing Iraq, a sovereign country. Whether or not the puppet government in Baghdad invited the U.S. to bomb the ISIS rebels , the totally blasé manner in which this action was undertaken  speaks volumes about the state of our world. The United States military bombs countries  all over the world , mostly with drones, and rarely even bothers  to justify anything. The occasional press conference to state that they are ‘combatting terrorism’ or ‘helping to keep the peace’ is sufficient, apparently. Killing to maintain peace. WAR IS PEACE.