In his visionary 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the science fiction pioneer George Orwell lays out a vision of a terrifying dystopian future where everything, even thought, ispoliced and monitored by Big Brother, an oppressive and virtually omniscient government. The diegetic world of the novel is dominated by Newspeak, a new propaganda language in which everything has at least two meanings and which uses language to obscure rather that communicate meaning and truth. Living in a world increasingly dominated by meaningless Managmentspeak – ‘going forward’, ‘learning outcomes’, ‘consultation’, etc., etc. – and by an equally meaningless and equally damaging antinomian Therapyspeak – ‘bipolar disorder’, ‘happiness’, ‘ Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’, ‘life goals’, etc., etc. – it is very difficult to escape the impression that Orwell’s future is closer to the reality that we are facing than most people would like to believe.
A few examples of very real Newspeak from contemporary history: 1) An American president dedicated to continuing the aggressive, imperialistic campaigns against the Middle East launched by his much-hated predecessor is given the world’s highest honour for peace.
2) A new piece of technology that is simply a new way of doing the same old tasks is marketed and received as both a magical and a revolutionary device – the image below is from the official Apple website. The special irony (and equating pure functionality with enchantment is indeed a fine irony) here is that Apple made a famed advertisement that aired in 1984 which claimed that arrival of the personal computer would be the reason that ‘1984 won’t be like Nineteen eighty-Four‘ (the ad is available here). Anyone who says that the world is fully disenchanted world has obviously never really looked at contemporary advertising practices, which enchant the world for the mercenary aim of profit.
I’d be happy to have any other examples of Newspeak from out there if you know of any …