the intentional manipulation of language
Within the novel, "1984" by George Orwell, there are several examples which can be related to present society, despite the fact it was written sixty years ago. The intentional manipulation of language comes to mind when reading the Party's three contradictory slogans, "WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" (Part I, Chapter 2). Winston explains that these slogans have to do with "doublethink," a confusing way of altering concepts and ideas of peoples' minds. The novel suggests that doublethink has brainwashed society into believing whatever is told to them, whether or not it is actually true. "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..." (Part I, Chapter 3). The use of contradictory, abstract themes is also present in the world today. In the United States, we have "The War on Drugs," which is not a combination of contradictory themes, but is in itself an abstract concept which can be interpreted many ways. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, war is, "a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism or a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end" (merriam-webster.com). "The War on Drugs" does not have clear boundaries or clear opposing forces. All one knows is that on one side there is one form of authority or government and on the other a delinquent or drug dealer. The 'war' is not fought in a way that is comprehensible to citizens, but is understood as an important issue in society. "The War on Drugs" is a phrase that is abstract in meaning and can be connected with the abstract, confusing meanings of Big Brother's slogans in "1984." Another, very similar, concept in today's society is "The War on Terror." This concept is even more abstract than "The War on Drugs" because no concise definition is made of either word. Terror can be defined differently by a number of people, and can be felt differently by them as well. Terror is an emotion, and when the government takes it upon themselves to manipulate and call attention to those emotions, it is confusing and odd. The government is able to use the phrase "War on Terror" to encompass more than the typical citizen would allow, and with their power is able to do what they will with the abstract word. In "1984," Orwell points to the fact that the government, when given the chance and power, will/can manipulate the people into believing almost anything. It is a terrifying idea to wrap one's head around, but it is there nonetheless. The intentional manipulation of language is only one of the topics played out in the novel. There are countless alterations to communication technology that are extreme, but can be connected to present society as well. Orwell's novel is almost a warning shot for the masses to stay true to individuality and intellect.