Brave New Words

At the time I wrote about the transubstantiation model of the state I had forgotten Orwell’s very similar description of doublethink:

The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them …. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it … to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. … 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 as 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 process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt ….

I probably did remember the following passage from Rand:

He was doling his sentences out with cautious slowness, balancing himself between word and intonation to hit the right degree of semi clarity. He wanted her to understand, but he did not want her to understand fully, explicitly, down to the root – since the essence of that modern language, which he had learned to speak expertly, was never to let oneself or others understand anything down to the root.

Whether Rand’s description of “that modern language” was influenced by Orwell’s account of Newspeak I don’t know, just as I don’t know whether Orwell’s Newspeak was influenced in turn by the similar device in Rand’s Anthem.

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7 Responses to Brave New Words

  1. Lloyd Miller December 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    I’d say double think is mostly unconscious. The unconscious is very cunning and comes up with this crap for manipulation of the conscious thinking, emotions and actions of self and others.

  2. Chris Thomas December 19, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    Or are they both perhaps echoing Zamyatin’s We? I haven’t read it, but I gather that the parallels are hard to miss. Orwell admitted this frankly. I don’t know if Rand ever commented in the issue.

    • Roderick December 24, 2013 at 3:06 am #

      We has some similarities to (inter alia) Anthem, 1984, and Brave New World; but I wouldn’t say it’s very similar to any of them.

  3. Sergio Méndez December 20, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    I really doubt Orwell read or even knew Rand existed…

    • Roderick December 24, 2013 at 3:05 am #

      Hard to say; but Anthem was published in England before it was published in the u.s.

  4. Neil December 21, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    The men’s rights crowd could learn a lot from viewing state feminism as a distortion of libertarian feminism. They are the kind of group that can get really pissed off and get something done, but their fixations on the pictures and the constitutional republican rituals are too strong for the moment. Yet that will soon change. All their talk about MGTOW looks a lot like applied agorism.

    • Roderick December 24, 2013 at 3:07 am #

      The men’s rights crowd could learn a lot

      I’d love to believe that.

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