Thoughtcrime

What I remember most about reading Eric Blair’s 1984 is what it doesn’t contain. A great deal of the book addresses the corruption of language as a means for expressing thought — and the terms Blair invented for the book have entered the language as iconic examples of such corruption.

But Blair doesn’t actually bring himself to showing actual cases of the degradation of communication. He writes about how the Party edits terminology so that concepts cannot be expressed, but he never shows it; he tells, but doesn’t actually demonstrate.

It’s clear that he knew how to do this. See What is Fascism? and Politics and the English Language; they reveal beyond all doubt that Blair understood the processes by which words are rendered meaningless. But in the text that serves as a warning of what those techniques can accomplish, they’re never actually identified and shown to the reader.

Curious, isn’t it? I cannot for the life of me understand why he wrote, and did not write, in the fashion that he did. I can only recognize that he did.

As he was a much better propagandist than I will ever be, I can only presume that this reveals a comprehension of some vital truth that he possessed and I lack.

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2 Responses to “Thoughtcrime”

  1. Um, the Appendix?

  2. But that’s precisely my point: the Appendix discusses Newspeak, but Newspeak isn’t actually how language is limited.

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