Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Orwell, Newspeak, Double-Think, Clear Skies, and Bush

If you read newspapers, you'll notice that from time to time the phrase Orwellian appears in print. Dictionary.com states that Orwellian means:
Of, relating to, or evocative of the works of George Orwell, especially the
satirical novel 1984, which depicts a futuristic totalitarian state.

It was said novel - 1984 - that introduced us to the terms Newspeak and Double-Think.

Newspeak was a language introduced by the novel's ruling government designed to simplify the english language, to remove words, to compress vocabulary so that words and meanings are black or white, up or down, good or evil. Sound familiar? "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."

Double-Think was a concept where the government would use a phrase, but the actual meaning of the phrase was contrary to what the words indicated. For example, Bush's Clear Skies Act.

The Clear Skies Act is classic Double-Think. By looking at the title, you would think that Bush wants to reduce air pollution, to clean up the skies. However, the initiative has come under tremendous fire because - for certain pollutants, like heavy-metal mercury - the act actually lessens the restrictions for industrial polluters. Very Orwellian, wouldn't you say?

For a brief run down on the Clear Skies debate, read this article (by the Christian Science Monitor, no less!).

For opposing viewpoints on the act, read

1) the government's pet (non) environmental group, the Environmental Protection Agency
2) those hippes at the Sierra Club

Returning to the original topic, Orwell's works - while originally anti-communist - have tremendous relevance today. I think that an objective reader would find 1984 chilling and urgent when compared to the Republican party's current propaganda campaign. Orwell presents ideas that are scarily similar to the state of thought control tactics in the US at present.

And through the wonders of the internet (what would we do without the internet?), you can actually read Orwell's novel online:

http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/1984/

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