In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the Ministry of Truth was hard at work on the creation of Newspeak, a new language to intended replace English by 2050. Orwell explained:“The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [English Socialism], but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”
Fortunately, Orwell’s novel was not itself written in Newspeak, because it would be hideously boring: “Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centers at all”.
Newspeak was carefully designed to make its speakers stupider:“A heretical thought … should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.”
And, of course, thought—at least thought of any complexity—is indeed highly dependent upon words, especially published words.
Words are central to political battles, not only because they are necessary for rational thought, but also because they can obliterate rational thought. They can take on emotional associations from past victories and defeats, developing magical, incantatory powers.
For example, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the term “un-American” was highly useful to politicians who wielded it.
Yet, today, it is seldom used by conservatives. Now, “un-American” is mostly a term used by liberals, who brandish it less as a logical contention than as a symbol of their triumph in the culture war over what is remembered about Communists in the U.S.
Here are some recent examples from Google News:“Not only would removing birthright citizenship be cruel, it would also be fundamentally un-American” -- Ezra Klein of the Washington Post
“Most Democrats hailed the decision, saying Arizona's SB 1070 was ‘un-American and unconstitutional…’” -- Politico
“New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it would be un-American to investigate a mosque that is planned for construction near where the World Trade Center once stood” -- AP
“Rangel: Resigning now would be un-American” -- The Hill
But in the Newspeak reigning in America today, no word has more totemic power to suppress rigorous thinking than “racism.”The intellectual sophistication of today’s conventional thinking about race is at the Newspeak level. To label your opponent a racist is to declare him, in Newspeak's useful term, a “doubleplusungoodthinker.” And what more needs to be said? As Orwell put it:
“But the special function of certain Newspeak words, of which oldthink was one, was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them. … In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception that it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were nonexistent.”
To accuse someone of “racism” is no longer to express any particular conception, but instead merely to declare your victim a loser and yourself a winner.
Contemporary uses of the word “racism” are explored in the crisply-written new book Racism, Schmacism: How Liberals Use the “R” Word to Push the Obama Agenda by James Edwards, the young host of the weekly radio talk show The Political Cesspool.
August 3, 2010
From my column in VDARE.com:
Read the whole thing there and comment upon it here.