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American manipulation credited to monosyllabic thought

January 13th 2003

George Orwell

"íDonít you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meanings rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.í" Syme, from George Orwellís 1984, on the ultimate goal of the Ministry of Truth through refinements to Newspeak.

If you read that passage to someone today, they might be inspired to grunt, "Cool."

Or, "Kewl."

Or, "Kuhl."

Or, if they were unusually articulate, an adulatory, "sweet," might burst forth from their rhetorical repertoir.


In other words, what Orwell foresaw as a conspiracy of Big Brother to keep power by dumbing down the masses, we are doing to ourselves with a numbing ambivalence for vocabulary, dialogue, thought and debate. Since we have forfeited our ability to put meaningful words to our thoughts and beliefs, we have just suffered through a disgustingly nasty, if not agonizingly stupid, campaign for president--and worse, many of you are thinking it is the other guyís fault.

Consider for a moment that if a person is not able to define their thoughts with appropriate words, the most effective way to communicate with them is through their emotions--kind of like dealing with a two-year-old. Take for example if you want a two-year-old to eat his vegetables you might try to convince the child that doing so would be good for them, as in the tried and true phrase, "If you eat all your Brussels sprouts youíll grow big and strong."

Or if you want a child to clean his bedroom you might appeal to fear by warning, "If you donít clean that room Iím going to tan your hide."


It has become the same in election campaigns, except the primary motivation is fear. Television and radio commercials continually warned that doom awaited the republic if we did not happen to vote for the candidate that approved of the ad. Various authors and media celebrities have contributed to the anti-intellectual political scare-fest not by supporting one candidate over another, but by assaulting the character of individual candidates.

One might say this is the price we pay for democracy. To that someone with the intellect and ability to express his thoughts as did James Madison might reply, "From this view of the subject (of factionalism), it may be concluded, that a pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens who assemble and administer the Government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of Government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that such Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths."

The intellectual curiosity and verbal skills that marked Madisonís observations on the influence of human nature on government in The Federalist X have been cast upon Americaís cultural ash heap. Consequently we have become a nation unwilling to think beyond emotional impulses or sensual gratification and we have a political class that has capitalized upon our shallowness. Since we are largely unable to articulate political opinions beyond a guttural disdain for one of two parties, we are voluntarily subjecting our thoughts, opinions, and choices to those who gain from their manipulation.

Although it appears that the political class that controls access to the power of government does not seem interested in changing our ability to think, it is not their responsibility--it is to their benefit, after all. We are the ones who will lose liberty with the loss of our ability to analyze and articulate our thoughts. If we canít explain our thoughts and give support for our observations, our only hope will be that only benevolent dictators will come to power.

Cool, huh?

By Bob Strodtbeck

Bob Strodtbeck has been writing editorial commentaries since 1993.  He has professional experiences in pharmaceuticals, radio, and education.  He has also served as a church elder in an Orlando congregation where he has made his home since 1986.



Some common misspellings: gorge orwel newspeek doublespeek thought crime thoat



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