Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Orwellian Defection

This morning's Times carries two excellent op-ed pieces today which, on the face of it are about different things, but the second can neatly link into the first. The first is by Alice Miles about the Quentin Davies "defection that defies belief". She points out, quite rightly, the ridiculousness of the defection noting,
Here is the man who, in his only and brief frontbench position in 20 years as an MP, tried to break the Northern Ireland peace agreement, ending the bipartisan approach on the Province that had endured at Westminster for decades. Here is a man elected as an MP under Margaret Thatcher, who served in the Cabinet of Iain Duncan Smith, the most Eurosceptic Tory leader ever, who stood for re-election under William Hague and Michael Howard, and now claims a collapse of confidence in Conservatism under David Cameron and then moves to the left, not the right! It is simply ridiculous.
The second piece is by Mick Hume with an interesting observation of how the phrase "smokefree" is a great example of Orwellian NewSpeak (as per Orwell's own appendix explaining it,
"Orwells little-read appendix to 1984, The Principles of Newspeak, identifies a B vocabulary consisting of words deliberately constructed for political purposes that were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. These were compound words, welded together in an easily pronounceable form. He gives the example of goodthink (to think in orthodox manner). Today he might just have chosen smokefree.

Orwell also shows how free was used to mean something other than freedom. Newspeak restricted the use of language by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings. The word free still existed in Newspeak, he notes, but it could only be used in such statements as This dog is free from lice or This field is free from weeds. It could not be used in its old sense of politically free or intellectually free, since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts.

Ring any (last order) bells? Next week England joins Scotland, Ireland and Wales in becoming smokefree but people will no longer be free to smoke. Perhaps we will next see government promise to make Britain antisocialfree or even riskfree, as it imposes measures of control in the name of making us fearfree.
Perhaps we'll hear Quentin Davies described as principlefree soon?

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