George Orwell pointed out that one of the first casualties of socialism is language. The damage is not collateral, it is deliberate — designed to numb minds and render critical thought difficult or impossible. The instrument of this dumbing down in Nineteen Eighty-Four was Newspeak, the official language of the English Socialist Party (Ingsoc). Newspeak was a sort of Totalitarian Esperanto that sought gradually to diminish the range of what was thinkable by eliminating, contracting and manufacturing words. New words had a “political implication” and “were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.” The meaning of words was often reversed, as was most starkly emphasized in the key slogans of Ingsoc:
War is peace.
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Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.
Nineteen Eighty-Four was written in 1949. Its nightmarish fictional world is now 37 years in the past, so one might reasonably conclude that Orwell was far too pessimistic, but his great book was less a prediction than a warning, and above all an analysis of the totalitarian mentality. Meanwhile, there is another significant date in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The book’s appendix on “The Principles of Newspeak” stressed that the corruption of language was a multi-generational project whose fruition would not come until well into the present century. Ingsoc’s objective was to render independent thought impossible by “about 2050.”