I clearly remember 1984.
Not just the book, but the actual year.
Yes I’m that old.
I was 14 and had already been led into a deep love of fantasy literature by the likes of Robert Jordan, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula K Le Guin, and Anne McCaffrey.
I loved science fiction in comic books and tv shows like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and both the bionic folks, but I hadn’t quite yet discovered science fiction in its novel form.
That actually happened when I was 15 and freshly discovered George Orwell, sitting there on a classroom bookshelf of Suggested Reads.
Curious to see if the authors predictions in 1949 were anywhere close to the year prior, I snatched the book up and took it home for a read.
I was a fairly voracious reader in my youth. I swallowed that 300+ page book in two big gulps over the weekend.
It was utterly life changing for me. My 15 year-old brain was bent in directions I had never really known about prior.
I started paying more attention to the news. This was around the time that the Cold War was beginning to thaw. When Russia was slowly shifting from Reagan’s “evil empire” to a hopeful new alliance with the onset of the Reagan-Gorbachev summits.
The new bogeymen came in the forms of Libya and Iran.
This lens-shifting was very similar to what 1984 illustrated. This was one of the most obvious comparisons.
Moving forward from that point, I, of course, discovered Animal Farm, then the masters of science-fiction: Heinlein, Asimov, and Bradbury.
And then Orwell’s teacher and mentor, Aldous Huxley, who I actually prefer to Orwell, in fact.
These are all people who wrote long, rich, often critical stories about the various systems around us: technology & industry, religion, government, social systems, etc. I could get lost forever in this writing and the comparative application of it to the real world that existed around me.
Which brings me back to Orwell again.
And today, December 10th, 2022.
And how Orwell was so incredibly correct about it. Frighteningly so.
Doublethink is a term coined by Orwell in 1984. It’s a state whereby a person can hold two completely contradictory beliefs simultaneously and believe them both to be true.
It’s a process of indoctrination that expects people to hold these conflicting beliefs even if those beliefs are at odds with their own memory, experience, or sense of reality.
To put it in today’s terms, it’s kind of super gaslighting.
What’s an example of doublethink?
One of my favorites is where people who receive inheritances are acceptable, stand up folks however people who need government assistance are lazy, morally bankrupt, Welfare Queens etc.
In both situations, someone’s getting a handout. What’s crazy about this is that the person getting the inheritance probably doesn’t need it to survive, whereas the person getting state assistance probably does.
Doublethink is achieved via a few different tactics. One of the big ones is the use of doublespeak.
When thinking about doublespeak, consider short, jingoistic, frequently used phrases which are often oxymorons. You know, like “tough love” or “friendly fire”?
This abbreviated, contradictory phrasing, when used as a Doublethink tactic, is used euphemistically to describe a difficult or awkward situation, one that is usually mishandled.
You know…like kicking your troubled teen out of the house or killing your fellow soldier accidentally when returning fire on the enemy.
Doublespeak attempts to obfuscate reality by tying complex, uncomfortable situations up in obscure little word pills that people just swallow without question.
Ohhh okay you had to show your kid some tough love. Okay.
Swallow. No water needed.
Historically speaking, here in the U.S., the phrase “Land of the free…”, which was initially written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 for the U.S. National Anthem, is another great example of doublespeak. The song was written half a century before the Civil War…and even after the Civil War Black folk still weren’t really “free”. Not like white folk were. We just kept swallowing that “Land of the free” pill, without question.
But damn do so many of us white folk all get flushed and itchy when someone who experiences a reality different from ours actually questions it.
You know, like when a Black athlete takes a knee during the National Anthem.
But I digress…this is another rabbit hole for another time.
Our focus here is actually on doublespeak.
And how Orwell was correct.
As someone who really enjoys writing lengthy essays and articles, Twitter was never really a medium that was good for me. I have a Twitter account. It’s linked here to my blog, of course. I visit there often enough just out of curiosity, especially since Elon Musk went in and stirred up the sewer, but I don’t really contribute.
Even today, with the oh-so-generous 280 character limit, I’m not interested in engaging.
More and more, when I look at limitations like this and the fact that people will take a 280 character statement and run with it as gospel, well, I can’t help but think about Orwell.
People are in a huge rush to spout half-baked thoughts and opinions, trying to drown out other people’s half-baked thoughts and opinions, and the readers usually don’t want to waste the time to truly fact-check anything.
That doesn’t work for me. I like exploring different angles. I like building a well-reasoned case or argument. I like anyone I’m communicating with to present their own thoughtful, well-articulated reasonings back to me.
In my opinion, tl;dr is an enormous problem with our society today. Almost as big as doublespeak.
While I typically pick on Twitter regarding their textual shortcomings, they’re not alone. Facebook allows for lengthy posts, but the meme game is just as strong (if not stronger) over in Metaland as it is on Twitter.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a funny meme. There’s a particular art form to being able to craft a good one. However, when we start seeing ones that are passing along incorrect information, things start getting unfunny fast.
We’ve seen a lot of these. Especially over the past six years.
I don’t know about you folks, but I can actually see the result very vividly. People who I have known and loved for decades have completely changed. I can actually give concrete examples of this via my Facebook timeline.
As an example, I have posts from 2012, when Trayvon Martin was murdered, where a particular relative of mine posted Black Lives Matter hashtags and words of support towards BLM.
Ten years later, while joking with this same loved one about his misspent youth, I quipped about the irony of the Thin Blue Line t-shirt he was wearing. Really, he was a kid who was in trouble with the law all the time…sometimes it was really serious trouble. Given the conversation we were having, I found it ironic that he was wearing the shirt while we were having the conversation.
I never mentioned anything about Black Lives Matter. I never mentioned anything about politics.
He literally stood up, shoved his finger in my face, his own face contorted in rage, and yelled “TELL ME BLUE LIVES DON’T MATTER!!”
His reaction was sudden, violent, and shocking. The vein in his forehead bulged. He kept repeating it, angrily, spittle flecking his lips, and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise. He then started pacing, furiously, around the living room.
It was bizarre. It was like a button had been hit that sent him from zero to sixty instantaneously. This is a person who is so well known for his easy going, joking personality. It’s one of the main reasons why I love him so much.
Quite frankly, it was like in the movies, when the code word is said to a sleeper agent to wake them up. What surfaced was someone I do not know.
He and I haven’t talked about the incident since.
I’m quite afraid that this is what indoctrination looks like.
And the way it happens is both ubiquitous and insidious.
Take time to write things out in detail. Take time to read things, analyze them, and ask questions. Think twice before speaking…you might try to walk it back, but some things simply can’t be unsaid.
Avoid lazy speech, buzz words, and jingoistic slogans.
If something is encouraging you to hate or exclude people, especially entire groups of people that you don’t even know…really question it. Ask why and keep asking why until you fully grok the reason.
Be better and remember: war is not peace, freedom is not slavery, and ignorance is not strength.