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Related: Orwell on Language

Posted on October 4, 2011 in Culture Language

As you know, allegations of “Newspeak” are so popular these days that the word has been effaced into a synonym for “NUH UH!” Here are some clarifying details from the man himself. As suggested by the title, reading it reminded me strongly of the previous post, especially in regards to conflating rights and using one’s position of privilege in society to inflict humiliations on others. There were a couple of other things that this essay made me think of, and I’m sure old George would have objected to both strenuously.

The first is “Myth Today,” which is basically a more detailed analysis of the same topic. When Orwell says “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible” he seems pretty convinced that people who distort language are acting in consciously bad faith. Barthes definitely thinks that the distortions of mythic speech can convince people that they are being truthful when they repeat it, which of course makes the problem more complex and more difficult to solve.

The other association, which is one I often reflect on when I hear about the antics of. . . whatever we should be calling right-wing sociopaths these days*, is Freud’s claim in The Interpretation of Dreams that the unconscious knows no negation. This is a little vague, but what the main thing to take away from it here is that it doesn’t recognize contradictory impulses. Mythic speech, especially the mythic speech of the present day, is packed with incompatible claims (e.g.: the bizarre right-wing allegiance of ultra-religious types and capitalist plutocrats). Today’s right wing movements are pure infantile id. They want and want and want, and will accept no explanation.

* I don’t like “Tea Partier” since that’s more of a symptomatic fad, and “conservative” while disagreeable, at least implies a consistent ideology rather than a Doctor-Doom like impulse to destroy everything just for the sake of destroying it.

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