Daily Archives: February 17, 2006

Orwell as warning or instruction manual? 4

I’m listening to a Radio Open Source program about George Orwell as I write this. Listening to the discussion of Orwell’s writing, particularly 1984, a thought struck me. One way of looking at 1984 is as a prophetic warning, a sort of literary Paul Revere. I think that was Orwell’s intent with the book. I believe that he may have seen the tale as what can happen to our world if we don’t pay attention. Another way that a reader could potentially view the book is as an instruction manual. I can imagine Karl Rove reading this book, and leaning back in his chair as a light bulb goes on over his head. “Aha! So this is my path to perpetual power!” thinks the turd blossom. The one distinct difference that Rove brought was in the nature of the newspeak. Traditionally doublespeak is thought of as euphemisms, fancy words with meanings contrary to what they really mean. In Rove’s world, the fancy language was replaced by “plain speaking” language. The true meaning is just as opposite however. Think of “clear skies” and “healthy forests”. One of the guests noted the danger of this. When language is used people see this as a red flag and check closer to see if they are being bamboozled. When someone like shrub “speaks plainly” listeners are lulled into complacency and don’t look past those plain words to the actions going on in the background. Just because someone uses plain language it doesn’t necessarily mean what it seems to say.