Orwellian Newspeak has been thrust upon us by the new administration. For those of you who either don’t remember your summer reading from high school or chose not to read it at all, “Newspeak” was the means by which George Orwell, in his novel 1984, demonstrated the power of an oppressive regime’s control over dialogue and thus thoughts. The novel describes newspeak as “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.”
Language is the key to our very understanding. Studies have shown that most people think and contemplate by using a running dialogue in their head. Through the manipulation of the language that is used in the marketplace of ideas one can essentially control the parameters of any discussion. Essentially, the words used to describe the thought controls the thought. Here’s a quick refresher on Newspeak.
The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) which reinforce the total dominance of the State. Similarly, Newspeak root words served as both nouns and verbs, which allowed further reduction in the total number of words; for example, “think” served as both noun and verb, so the word thought was not required and could be abolished. A staccato rhythm of short syllables was also a goal, further reducing the need for deep thinking about language. (See duckspeak.) Successful Newspeak meant that there would be fewer and fewer words – dictionaries would get thinner and thinner.
In addition, words with opposite meanings were removed as redundant, so “bad” became “ungood”. Words with comparative and superlative meanings were also simplified, so “better” became “gooder”, and “best” likewise became “goodest”. Intensifiers could be added, so “great” became “plusgood”, and “excellent” and “splendid” likewise became “doubleplusgood”. Adjectives were formed by adding the suffix “-ful” to a root word (e.g., “goodthinkful”, orthodox in thought), and adverbs by adding “-wise” (“goodthinkwise”, in an orthodox manner). In this manner, as many words as possible were removed from the language. The ultimate aim of Newspeak was to reduce even the dichotomies to a single word that was a “yes” of some sort: an obedient word with which everyone answered affirmatively to what was asked of them
The new administration has instituted at least two instances of Newspeak principles in the first 60 days. First, the administration has decided that we will no longer refer to terrorist attacks as such. They now fall under the category of “man made disasters.” How reassuring. Under the Obama administration we can be certain will be free of terror attacks. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes man made disasters as follows: “Man-made disasters are events which, either intentionally or by accident cause severe threats to public health and well-being. Because their occurrence is unpredictable, man-made disasters pose an especially challenging threat that must be dealt with through vigilance, and proper preparedness and response.” In fact, Janet Napolitano, the Head of Homeland Security, now refuses to use the words terrorism or terrorist threats. She calls their use part of the old “politics of fear.” By eliminating the use of the word “terrorism” the administration seeks to transform attacks on U.S. sovereignty from acts of war to merely unpredictable events similar to those caused by nature in the form of hurricanes or floods. Man made disasters “feel” much more palatable than terror. I know I feel safer now.
Further, the Obama administration had decided to no longer use the term “enemy combatant” instead substituting it with the term “detainee.” The Obama administration is seeking to sanitize an unsavory ingredient in combat, that of the enemy. It appears that under the new administration there will be no acknowledgment that the US actually has enemies. Individuals seeking to seek and destroy this nation are merely regular old gents hoping to be the source of man made disasters. Perhaps we should give this a try with the economy as well. Referring to the current state of the economy as “doubleplusungood” is sure to boost consumer confidence.