Do George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, and later his novel, 1984,which features “Newspeak”, inform present day concerns over the quality of political
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses isan important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of societyconstitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, ourminds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This isa logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beingsmust cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almostevery act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or ourethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mentalprocesses and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.(Bernays, New York, 1928)
In an attempt to answer the above question, this essay intends to explore conceptionsof propaganda, misinformation, manipulation and the deterioration and distortion of language,and the doctrine of fear as a means of control, as it seems that these ideas were of concern toOrwell when writing
Politics and the English Language
. It is these same conceptsthat characterize modern criticism of political communication or lack thereof. A brief look willbe made at the
of political communication.
In his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ Orwell
tells the reader of some of theproblems he sees with modern communication; laziness, staleness, ugliness, imprecision,indifference to meaning, vagueness, pretentiousness, obfuscation. What appears most important,
Not sure if Orwell would be pleased with this as a new word -
‘New Words’ (Orwell, 1940) –
or consider it aslovenly and lazy attempt to express an idea without going to the trouble of finding an appropriate English word.