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1984 is the definitive book of the 20th century


"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." -- George Orwell

George Orwell's dystopian classic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, has been voted as the book that best defines the 20th century. It is a fitting choice and, unfortunately, equally fitting for defining the 21st century to date. Doublethink is an essential concept in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is a critical part of Newspeak, the official language of the imperial state Oceania. Designed to diminish the range of thought, Newspeak renders independent thinking and dissent next to impossible. Euphemism, circumlocution, and, above all, Doublethink, characterize Newspeak. Doublethink is the complete inversion of customary meanings. "War is Peace", "Freedom is Slavery", "Ignorance is Strength", are the best known examples from novel.

To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary.

The last quotation is a description of Doublethink taken form the novel. Ask yourself: Is it possible to read it without thinking about a certain president and a certain administration? The parallels are uncanny. Think about WMD; think about support for democracy in the Middle East; think about the "link" between 911 and Saddam Hussein; think about a law encroaching on civil liberties called the "Patriot Act"; think about military alliances called "Partnerships for Peace" ; think about full confidence in Attorney General Gonzales; think about the pledge to "fire" any staff member who leaked information on Valerie Plame; think about "Mission Accomplished; think about "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job". These are just a few examples of many. No explanation is needed to identify the Doublethink. Subtlety is not a characteristic of our president's Doublethink.

1984 is well worth rereading. The parallels between the novel and our government go beyond Newspeak and Doublethink. Think about Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and the secret CIA prison cells (where torture is never "engaged in"), and think about room 101.

And while you are thinking, don't think that the current administration deserves all the credit for Doublethink in our government. Think about the Department of Defense, which used to be called the Department of War.

Nineteen Eighty-Four topped the poll of 50 era- defining books by an authoritative margin, capturing 22% of the vote from Guardian readers. This page (http://www.lovethebook.com/default.aspx?id=207) presents the top 10 books that were voted as best defining the 20th century. For the full list, see our page of the 50 top 20th century defining books at http://www.lovethebook.com/Lists.aspx?id=9&bn=17&pbn=1000.

Submitted by:

Mark Allan





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