Analysis Of An Argument 3

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Analysis Of An Argument
Analysis Of An Argument


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This is my writing analysis of an argument assignment. This assignment is 1000 words .

All you need to do is: A) Read carefully all the PDF files I attached starting with the Instruction and Scoring Rubric. B) Follow the APA style as instructed and read the Style Essay Template. Based on them analyze/write the argument  (See attachments).

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Analysis of an Argument Essay Scoring Rubric

Write a 1000+ word analytic/reflective essay (Essay 2). Read the set of articles about George Orwell’s writing approach focusing on his specific recommendations for improving writing of the English language AND the powerful, persuasive arguments of his political philosophy about individual privacy versus the state, totalitarianism, thought-control through social coercion, physical torture, and the ubiquitous malleability of history, human language, and everyday reality. Be sure to carefully and thoroughly describe the term Orwellian and its profound impact on our thinking today. Focus on the following essay-grading content and style rubrics:

Opening paragraph & thesis sentence(s)

Purpose and consideration of audience (clear, compelling prose that is also enjoyable to read)

Technical compliance to aspects of submitted file: o APA style conventions o Course file naming & formatting conventions

Clear description of the main points/recommendations derived from the content essays’ arguments. Again—include (a) Orwell’s main ways to improve written English communication and meaning, and (b) Orwell’s political philosophy and its impact on our culture today. If you can—try to connect Orwell’s insights about our English language usage, his notions of Newspeak and Thoughtcrime, and implications to an individual’s sacrosanct, personal/private intellect, self-dignity and self-respect, and individual human mind.

Examination/analysis and explication of pertinent facets (intrinsic and extrinsic) of the critical issues as you interpret them (i.e., the specific implications to communication, culture, media, and our present 21st century society generally: Use concrete, tangible, real examples from current life events and actual news)

Analysis Of An Argument

Descriptive Summary (of your essay’s main points)—followed by a reflective conclusion about where you think we are headed as a culture, a society, and a world—and what can be done to change the future and preserve humanity, privacy, and human dignity as a whole. Essay 2 Total: ____ (20 points max.)

Analysis of an Argument Essay Scoring Rubric

Write a 1000+ word analytic/reflective essay (Essay 2). Read the set of

articles about George Orwell’s writing approach focusing on his specific

recommendations for improving writing of the English language AND the powerful, persuasive arguments of his political philosophy about individual

privacy versus the state, totalitarianism, thought-control through social coercion, physical torture, and the ubiquitous malleability of history, human

language, and everyday reality. Be sure to carefully and thoroughly describe the term Orwellian and its profound impact on our thinking today. Focus on

the following essay-grading content and style rubrics:

 Opening paragraph & thesis sentence(s)

 Purpose and consideration of audience (clear, compelling prose that is

also enjoyable to read)

 Technical compliance to aspects of submitted file:

o APA style conventions o Course file naming & formatting conventions

 Clear description of the main points/recommendations derived from

the content essays’ arguments. Again—include (a) Orwell’s main ways to improve written English communication and meaning, and (b)

Orwell’s political philosophy and its impact on our culture today. If you can—try to connect Orwell’s insights about our English language

usage, his notions of Newspeak and Thoughtcrime, and implications to an individual’s sacrosanct, personal/private intellect, self-dignity and

self-respect, and individual human mind.

 Examination/analysis and explication of pertinent facets (intrinsic and extrinsic) of the critical issues as you interpret them (i.e., the specific

implications to communication, culture, media, and our present 21st

century society generally: Use concrete, tangible, real examples from current life events and actual news)

 Descriptive Summary (of your essay’s main points)—followed by a

reflective conclusion about where you think we are headed as a culture, a society, and a world—and what can be done to change the

future and preserve humanity, privacy, and human dignity as a whole.

Essay 2 Total: ____ (20 points max.)




The Title of Your Essay in Title Case and Centered

Firstname Lastname

Rogue Community College

WR 121 English Composition I

Instructor: Dr. V. E. Lasnik

DD Month 2015

Words: ????

The Title of Your Essay in Title Case and Centered

Your introduction begins immediately. Begin with an engaging “hook” to interest your reader; within the first paragraph, fully address the reader’s rationale “Why should I care?” With the exception of any block quotes and the end references, all text should be flush left and ragged right, in the same font throughout the document (with the exception of italics when needed), and double-spaced. Indent each paragraph’s first line at a standard depth using the Tab key set to one-half inch or five to seven spaces as shown in this paragraph. Tabs ensure consistency.

Your second of many paragraphs to come logically follows the first. You are permitted to use a simple/open narrative style such as the one show here, or you may choose to use a more formally-structured format in which you identify major sections and subsections of the essay manuscript. However, in such a relatively brief paper as required by the minimum (1000+) word count requirements for this course, section and subsection headings are not required. The exception is the end bibliographic section: in APA style, this final section is simply titled “References,” and the word is centered, begins on a separate page (following your conclusion) and does not contain quotations. Please consult additional APA materials if using headings/subheadings is something you plan on doing, but again—these secondary demarcations are not necessary.

By this point, but certainly no later than this third paragraph, you should have thoroughly engaged your reader as to the interesting, fascinating, intriguing, and salient, compelling nature of the particular problem or issue you will explore in this essay. You should have clearly, unambiguously, and explicitly stated the gist (and arguable through logic and evidence) of the essay or concise set of questions that you will investigate/explore in your paper. If you haven’t completed your in-depth introduction by the end of the first page—do so now!

You should beginning the body of your essay here. You will now understand why we suggest the thoughtful construction of an outline with which to proceed writing your analysis of an argument. You high-level outline can provide the basic organizational strategy of your essay and should begin with the most critical element(s) of the question you are investigating. You should routinely use your most powerful, convincing, and authentic evidence and persuasive logic early in your argument. There is not an absolute rule on this approach, and some writers reverse the pattern of the strongest logic/data first and the weakest—last. However, this is not an easy task to pull off successfully, and although many dramatic courtroom stories have the hero/heroine lawyer do precisely that (saving the best for last in a slam-dunk, final scene evisceration of his/her opponent)—such a theatrically-appealing approach is not recommended for this assignment.

It is a good idea to have multiple sources to support your most important point(s). Two heads may be better than one—and two references are often better than one in convincing the astute, discernable (i.e., critical) reader that an argument corroborated by multiple sources (from different researchers and sources) has more strength, validity, and generalizability. Musing back to the courtroom metaphor, a fair assessment is that your readers are on the jury as you prosecute (or defend) the positions at issue: your research analyses. It is the jury or readers that will render the final verdict after all the evidence (on both sides of the equation) has been presented.

If there are flaws in your thinking or weaknesses in your evidence—your readers will find them! Any fuzziness, uncertainty, vagueness, obscurity or lack of clarity between the evidence you present and the arguments you weave should become apparent by this point in your essay. To summarize your task: you are to (attempt to) write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood and the “verdict” falls clearly in your favor.

After you have completed the body of your essay and convincingly argued (and richly supported with sound, solid, scholarly empirical (i.e., observable, verifiable, demonstrated) evidence—you should briefly summarize the major findings of your essay. This penultimate essay section is thus known as the summary , and you only need to restate the principal points you already made in your essay. One way of doing this summarizing efficiently is to take the “thesis sentence” (or data) from each of your critical paragraphs, rephrase them to flow together in a convincing and logical narrative form within one or two short paragraphs.

Finally {Note: You may only use this word once and only once in your entire essay), you have an open opportunity to expand and elaborate on your own perspectives in the paper’s conclusion (which follows the summary). Still using only third-person, impersonal, objective voice [i.e., Do not use I, my, me, mine, etc.]—The conclusion is where you can present you own ideas, models, approaches, and potential solutions to your research problem and ask: “Where do we go from here? What future research needs to be conducted to fill in the gaps to our critical knowledge and understanding of the problem/question? How do we get a consensus about how to move forward while reconciling all of the participants, stakeholders, policy-makers, corporate, government, community, and individual interests?” Try to end your essay on a positive, fair-minded (if not optimistic) note—but maintain and emphasize that something needs to be done or some definite action taken if the problems/phenomena you analyzed are to be resolved and remedied. Address the jury’s hearts and minds (this is your last chance to persuade them that their cause is your cause, and that your view(s) should prevail) and then “rest your case.” The judge (your instructor) will act as “jury” in this case—and grade the outcome of your writing performance all things (and stated scoring rubrics) considered! Do not forget the references section that follows.


Each of your end references must follow the APA style correctly and fully. Study all of the APA style (format) content/materials included within this course. There is ample information in the course to learn the APA style for in-text and end references, but feel free to explore other outside APA sources as appropriate and helpful, as well as giving/receiving peer reviews. This is flush left, ragged right text but with a hanging indent of one-half inch.

We Are Living 1984 Today

Analysis Of An Argument

By Lewis Beale, Special to CNN updated 9:22 AM EDT, Sat August 3, 2013

Police monitor license plates STORY HIGHLIGHTS

 Lewis Beale: We live in age where authorities, companies collect information about us

 He says after Snowden spying revelations, sales of George Orwell’s “1984” spiked

 He says elements like “doublethink” and “endless war” have parallels today  Beale: In a modern surveillance state, we’re all suspects

Editor’s note: Lewis Beale writes about culture and film for the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and other publications.

(CNN) — It appears that the police now have a device that can read license plates and check if a car is unregistered, uninsured or stolen. We already know that the National Security Agency can dip into your Facebook page and Google searches. And it seems that almost every store we go into these days wants your home phone number and ZIP code as part of any transaction.

So when Edward Snowden — now cooling his heels in Russia — revealed the extent to which the NSA is spying on Americans, collecting data on phone calls we make, it’s not”>

as if we should have been surprised. We live in a world that George Orwell predicted in “1984.” And that realization has caused sales of the 1949, dystopian novel to spike dramatically upward recently — a 9,000% increase at one point on

Comparisons between Orwell’s novel about a tightly controlled totalitarian future ruled by the ubiquitous Big Brother and today are, in fact, quite apt. Here are a few of the most obvious ones.

Lewis Beale

Telescreens — in the novel, nearly all public and private places have large TV screens that broadcast government propaganda, news and approved entertainment. But they are also two-way monitors that spy on citizens’ private lives. Today websites like Facebook track our likes and dislikes, and governments and private individuals hack into our computers and find out what they want to know. Then there are the ever- present surveillance cameras that spy on the average person as they go about their daily routine.

The endless war — In Orwell’s book, there’s a global war that has been going on seemingly forever, and as the book’s hero, Winston Smith, realizes, the enemy keeps changing. One week we’re at war with Eastasia and buddies with Eurasia. The next week, it’s just the opposite. There seems little to distinguish the two adversaries, and they are used primarily to keep the populace of Oceania, where Smith lives, in a constant state of fear, thereby making dissent unthinkable — or punishable. Today we have the so-called war on terror, with no end in sight, a generalized societal fear, suspension of certain civil liberties, and an ill-defined enemy who could be anywhere, and anything.

Doublethink — Orwell’s novel defines this as the act of accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct. It was exemplified by some of the key slogans used by the repressive government in the book: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength. It has also been particularly useful to the activists who have been hard at work introducing legislation regulating abortion clinics. The claim is that these laws are only to protect women’s health, but by forcing clinics to close because of stringent regulations, they are effectively shutting women off not only from abortion, but other health services.

Snowden documents: U.S. spied on EU

Bush vs. Obama on surveillance

Police are tracking where you drive

Brok: NSA’s spying on EU ‘out of control’

Newspeak — the fictional, stripped down English language, used to limit free thought. OMG, RU serious? That’s so FUBAR. LMAO.

Memory hole — this is the machine used in the book to alter or disappear incriminating or embarrassing documents. Paper shredders had been invented, but were hardly used when Orwell wrote his book, and the concept of wiping out a hard drive was years in the future. But the memory hole foretold both technologies.

Anti-Sex League — this was an organization set up to take the pleasure out of sex, and to make sure that it was a mechanical function used for procreation only. Organizations that promote abstinence-only sex education, or want to ban artificial birth control, are the modern versions of this.

So what’s it all mean? In 1984, Winston Smith, after an intense round of “behavior modification” — read: torture — learns to love Big Brother, and the harsh world he was born into. Jump forward to today, and it seems we’ve willingly given up all sorts of freedoms, and much of our right to privacy. Fears of terrorism have a lot to do with this, but dizzying advances in technology, and the ubiquity of social media, play a big part.

There are those who say that if you don’t have anything to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of. But the fact is, when a government agency can monitor everyone’s phone calls, we have all become suspects. This is one of the most frightening aspects of our modern society. And even more frightening is the fact that we have gone so far down the road, there is probably no turning back. Unless you spend your life in a wilderness cabin, totally off the grid, there is simply no way the government won’t have information about you stored away somewhere.

What this means, unfortunately, is that we are all Winston Smith. And Big Brother is the modern surveillance state.



Why I Write (1946)From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books. I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious — i.e. seriously intended — writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation. I cannot remember anything about it except that it was about a tiger and the tiger had ‘chair-like teeth’— a good enough phrase, but I fancy the poem was a plagiarism of Blake’s ‘Tiger, Tiger’. At eleven, when the war or 1914-18 broke out, I wrote a patriotic poem which was printed in the local newspaper, as was another, two years later, on the death of Kitchener. From time to time, when I was a bit older, I wrote bad and usually unfinished ‘nature poems’ in the Georgian style. I also attempted a short story which was a ghastly failure. That was the total of the would-be serious work that I actually set down on paper during all those years. However, throughout this time I did in a sense engage in literary activities. To begin with there was the made-to-order stuff which I produced quickly, easily and without much pleasure to myself. Apart from school work, I wrote VERS D’OCCASION, semicomic poems which I could turn out at what now seems to me astonishing speed — at fourteen I wrote a whole rhyming play, in imitation of Aristophanes, in about a week — and helped to edit a school magazines, both printed and in manuscript. These magazines were the most pitiful burlesque stuff that you could imagine, and I took far less trouble with them than I now would with the cheapest journalism. But side by side with all this, for fifteen years or more, I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous ‘story’ about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood, and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my ‘story’ ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: ‘He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a match-box, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf’, etc. etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my nonliterary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside. The ‘story’ must, I suppose, have reflected the styles of the various writers I admired at different ages, but so far as I remember it always had the same meticulous descriptive quality. When I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words, i.e. the sounds and associations of words. The lines from PARADISE LOST, So hee with difficulty and labour hard Moved on: with difficulty and labour hee. which do not now seem to me so very wonderful, sent shivers down my backbone; and the spelling ‘hee’ for ‘he’ was an added pleasure. As for the need to describe things, I knew all about it already. So it is clear what kind of books I wanted to write, in so far as I could be said to want to write books at that time. I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their own sound. And in fact my first completed novel, BURMESE DAYS, which I wrote when I was thirty but projected much earlier, is rather that kind of book. I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are: (i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money. (ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations. (iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity. (iv) Political purpose.— Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude. It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time. By nature — taking your ‘nature’ to be the state you have attained when you are first adult — I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer. First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism: but these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate political orientation. Then came Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, etc. By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision. I remember a little poem that I wrote at that date, expressing my dilemma: A happy vicar I might have been Two hundred years ago To preach upon eternal doom And watch my walnuts grow; But born, alas, in an evil time, I missed that pleasant haven, For the hair has grown on my upper lip And the clergy are all clean-shaven. And later still the times were good, We were so easy to please, We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep On the bosoms of the trees. All ignorant we dared to own The joys we now dissemble; The greenfinch on the apple bough Could make my enemies tremble. But girl’s bellies and apricots, Roach in a shaded stream, Horses, ducks in flight at dawn, All these are a dream. It is forbidden to dream again; We maim our joys or hide them: Horses are made of chromium steel And little fat men shall ride them. I am the worm who never turned, The eunuch without a harem; Between the priest and the commissar I walk like Eugene Aram; And the commissar is telling my fortune While the radio plays, But the priest has promised an Austin Seven, For Duggie always pays. I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls, And woke to find it true; I wasn’t born for an age like this; Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you? The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, AGAINST totalitarianism and FOR democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows. And the more one is conscious of one’s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s aesthetic and intellectual integrity. What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us. It is not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness. Let me give just one example of the cruder kind of difficulty that arises. My book about the Spanish civil war, HOMAGE TO CATALONIA, is of course a frankly political book, but in the main it is written with a certain detachment and regard for form. I did try very hard in it to tell the whole truth without violating my literary instincts. But among other things it contains a long chapter, full of newspaper quotations and the like, defending the Trotskyists who were accused of plotting with Franco. Clearly such a chapter, which after a year or two would lose its interest for any ordinary reader, must ruin the book. A critic whom I respect read me a lecture about it. ‘Why did you put in all that stuff?’ he said. ‘You’ve turned what might have been a good book into journalism.’ What he said was true, but I could not have done otherwise. I happened to know, what very few people in England had been allowed to know, that innocent men were being falsely accused. If I had not been angry about that I should never have written the book. In one form or another this problem comes up again. The problem of language is subtler and would take too long to discuss. I will only say that of late years I have tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it. ANIMAL FARM was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write. Looking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a POLITICAL purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.Politics and the English Language by George Orwell Horizon, April 1946.Recorded as completed in Orwell‘s Payments Book on 11 December 1945. Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent, and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written. These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative samples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary: (1) I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien (sic) to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate. Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression) (2) Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes such egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic PUT UP WITH for TOLERATE or PUT AT A LOSS for BEWILDER. Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa) (3) On the one side we have the free personality; by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But ON THE OTHER SIDE, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity? Essay on psychology in Politics (New York) (4) All the “best people” from the gentlemen’s clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror of the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoisie to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis. Communist pamphlet (5) If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may lee sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion’s roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare’s MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM— as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes, or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as “standard English.” When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o’clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma’amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens. Letter in Tribune Each of these passages has faults of its own, but quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of WORDS chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of PHRASES tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of proseconstruction is habitually dodged: DYING METAPHORS. A newly-invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” (e.g., IRON RESOLUTION) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: RING THE CHANGES ON, TAKE UP THE CUDGELS FOR, TOE THE LINE, RIDE ROUGHSHOD OVER, STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH, PLAY INTO THE HANDS OF, AN AXE TO GRIND, GRIST TO THE MILL, FISHING IN TROUBLED WATERS, ON THE ORDER OF THE DAY, ACHILLES’ HEEL, SWAN SONG, HOTBED. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a “rift,” for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, TOE THE LINE is sometimes written TOW THE LINE. Another example is THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would be aware of this, and would avoid perverting the original phrase. OPERATORS, or VERBAL FALSE LIMBS. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are: RENDER INOPERATIVE, MILITATE AGAINST, PROVE UNACCEPTABLE, MAKE CONTACT WITH, BE SUBJECTED TO, GIVE RISE TO, GIVE GROUNDS FOR, HAVING THE EFFECT OF, PLAY A LEADING PART (role) IN, MAKE ITSELF FELT, TAKE EFFECT, EXHIBIT A TENDENCY TO, SERVE THE PURPOSE OF, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as BREAK, STOP, SPOIL, MEND, KILL, a verb becomes a PHRASE, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purposes verb as PROVE, SERVE, FORM, PLAY, RENDER. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (BY EXAMINATION OF instead of BY EXAMINING). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the ‘-IZE’ AND ‘DE-‘ formations, and banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the NOT ‘UN-‘ formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as WITH RESPECT TO, HAVING REGARD TO, THE FACT THAT, BY DINT OF, IN VIEW OF, IN THE INTERESTS OF, ON THE HYPOTHESIS THAT; and the ends of sentences are saved from anti-climax by such resounding commonplaces as GREATLY TO BE DESIRED, CANNOT BE LEFT OUT OF ACCOUNT, A DEVELOPMENT TO BE EXPECTED IN THE NEAR FUTURE, DESERVING OF SERIOUS CONSIDERATION, BROUGHT TO A SATISFACTORY CONCLUSION, and so on and so forth. PRETENTIOUS DICTION. Words like PHENOMENON, ELEMENT, INDIVIDUAL (as noun), OBJECTIVE, CATEGORICAL, EFFECTIVE, VIRTUAL, BASIS, PRIMARY, PROMOTE, CONSTITUTE, EXHIBIT, EXPLOIT, UTILIZE, ELIMINATE, LIQUIDATE, are used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgments. Adjectives like EPOCH-MAKING, EPIC, HISTORIC, UNFORGETTABLE, TRIUMPHANT, AGE-OLD, INEVITABLE, INEXORABLE, VERITABLE, are used to dignify the sordid processes of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: REALM, THRONE, CHARIOT, MAILED FIST, TRIDENT, SWORD, SHIELD, BUCKLER, BANNER, JACKBOOT, CLARION. Foreign words and expressions such as CUL DE SAC, ANCIEN RÉGIME, DEUS EX MACHINA, MUTATIS MUTANDIS, STATUS QUO, GLEICHSCHALTUNG, WELTANSCHAUUNG, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in English. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like EXPEDITE, AMELIORATE, PREDICT, EXTRANEOUS, DERACINATED, CLANDESTINE, SUB-AQUEOUS and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon opposite numbers. * The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (HYENA, HANGMAN, CANNIBAL, PETTY BOURGEOIS, THESE GENTRY, LACKEY, FLUNKEY, MAD DOG, WHITE GUARD, etc.) consists largely of words and phrases translated from Russian, German or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use a Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the ‘-ize’ formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (DE-REGIONALIZE, IMPERMISSIBLE, EXTRAMARITAL, NON-FRAGMENTARY and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness. * An interesting illustration of this is the way in which the English flower names which were in use till very recently are being ousted by Greek ones, SNAPDRAGON becoming ANTIRRHINUM, FORGET-ME-NOT becoming myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning-away from the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific. (Orwell’s footnote.) MEANINGLESS WORDS. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. * Words like ROMANTIC, PLASTIC, VALUES, HUMAN, DEAD, SENTIMENTAL, NATURAL, VITALITY, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, “The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality,” while another writes, “The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness,” the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion If words like BLACK and WHITE were involved, instead of the jargon words DEAD and LIVING, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word FASCISM has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable.” The words DEMOCRACY, SOCIALISM, FREEDOM, PATRIOTIC, REALISTIC, JUSTICE, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like DEMOCRACY, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like MARSHAL PÉTAIN WAS A TRUE PATRIOT, THE SOVIET PRESS IS THE FREEST IN THE WORLD, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS OPPOSED TO PERSECUTION, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: CLASS, TOTALITARIAN, SCIENCE, PROGRESSIVE, REACTIONARY BOURGEOIS, EQUALITY. * Example: “Comfort’s catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . . Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bullseyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet of resignation.” (Poetry Quarterly.) (Orwell’s footnote.) Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from ECCLESIASTES: I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Here it is in modern English: Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account. This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3), above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations — race, battle, bread — dissolve into the vague phrase “success or failure in competitive activities.” This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing — no one capable of using phrases like “objective consideration of contemporary phenomena”— would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains 49 words but only 60 syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains 38 words of 90 syllables: 18 of its words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase (“time and chance”) that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its 90 syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from ECCLESIASTES. As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing, is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say IN MY OPINION IT IS A NOT UNJUSTIFIABLE ASSUMPTION THAT than to say I THINK. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry — when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech — it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like A CONSIDERATION WHICH WE SHOULD DO WELL TO BEAR IN MIND OR A CONCLUSION TO WHICH ALL OF US WOULD READILY ASSENT will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash — as in THE FASCIST OCTOPUS HAS SUNG ITS SWAN SONG, THE JACKBOOT IS THROWN INTO THE MELTING POT— it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in 53 words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip ALIEN for akin, making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase PUT UP WITH, is unwilling to look EGREGIOUS up in the dictionary and see what it means. (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning — they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another — but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent-and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear. In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestos, White Papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — BESTIAL ATROCITIES, IRON HEEL, BLOODSTAINED TYRANNY, FREE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULDER— one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity. In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called PACIFICATION. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called TRANSFER OF POPULATION or RECTIFICATION OF FRONTIERS. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called ELIMINATION OF UNRELIABLE ELEMENTS. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this: While freely conceding that the Soviet régime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement. The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years as a result of dictatorship. But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like A NOT UNJUSTIFIABLE ASSUMPTION, LEAVES MUCH TO BE DESIRED, WOULD SERVE NO GOOD PURPOSE, A CONSIDERATION WHICH WE SHOULD DO WELL TO BEAR IN MIND, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one’s elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning’s post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he “felt impelled” to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence that I see: “[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany’s social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a cooperative and unified Europe.” You see, he “feels impelled” to write — feels, presumably, that he has something new to say — and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (LAY THE FOUNDATIONS, ACHIEVE A RADICAL TRANSFORMATION) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain. I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were EXPLORE EVERY AVENUE and LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of fly-blown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the NOT ‘UN-‘ formation out of existence, * to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does NOT imply. * One can cure oneself of the NOT ‘UN-‘ formation by memorizing this sentence: A NOT UNBLACK DOG WAS CHASING A NOT UNSMALL RABBIT ACROSS A NOT UNGREEN FIELD. (Orwell’s footnote.) To begin with, it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting-up of a “standard-English” which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one’s meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a “good prose style.” On the other hand it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is to surrender them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing, you probably hunt about till you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures or sensations. Afterwards one can choose — not simply ACCEPT— the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases: (i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. (ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do. (iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active. (v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. (vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in these five specimens at the beginning of this article. I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs. Orwell‘s Notes: Propaganda tricks. 1. ―I do not claim that everything (in the USSR etc.) is perfect, but —‖ Technique. The intention to eulogise is disclaimed in advance, but in no specific instance is it ever admitted that anything is wrong. Thus the writer in effect does what he has declared he will not do—(i.e., claims that everything is perfect). 2. The balancing technique. When it is intended to eulogise A & denigrate B, anything detrimental which has to be admitted about A is balanced by a dragged-in reference to some scandal about B, while on the other hand unfavourable references to B are not so balanced. Especially common in pacifist literature, in which unavoidable references to Belsen, Buchenwald etc, are always carefully balanced by a mention of the Isle of Man, etc., whereas hostile references to Britain/USA are left unbalanced. 3. ―I should be the last to deny that there are faults on both sides‖ Technique. Where the aim is to whitewash A. & discredit B., admissions are made about both, but the admission made about A. is a damaging one, while the one made about B. is trivial & may even redound to B.‘s credit. Example: the writer will start by saying that the conduct of all of the Big Three leaves much to be desired, & proceed to accuse Britain of imperialist greed, the USA of being dominated by Big Business, & the USSR of ―suspicion.‖He will then probably add that Russian suspicions are justified. But in any case, after a preliminary declaration of impartiality, one of the three is accused of a pecadillo, the other two of serious misdeeds. 4. ―Playing into the hands of.‖ Technique. If A is opposed to B, & B. is held in general opprobrium, then all who oppose A. are declared to be on the side of B. This is applied only to the actions of one‘s opponents, never to one‘s own actions. 5. Verbal colorations. (Innumerable—write down instances as they occur.) 6. The unwilling witness. (Cf. the Daily Worker‘s statement that the New Statesman is an ―antiSoviet organ.‖ In practice the N.S. ‗s reference0 to the USSR are almost always favourable, hence the N.S. can be quoted as an unwilling & therefore trustworthy witness.) 7. Tu quoque, or two blacks make a white. 8. Swear words. (Fascist, antisemitic, reactionary, imperialist, etc.) 9. Transition from the moral to the practical phase, & back again.Newspeak and George Orwell’s 1984 Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell’s famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an Appendix after the end of the novel, in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suited the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim was to make subversive thought (“thoughtcrime”) and speech impossible. The Newspeak term for the existing English language was Oldspeak. Oldspeak was supposed to have been completely eclipsed by Newspeak by 2050. The genesis of Orwell’s Newspeak can be seen in his earlier essay, Politics and the English Language, where he laments the quality of the English of his day, citing examples of dying metaphors, pretentious diction or rhetoric, and meaningless words – all of which contribute to fuzzy ideas and a lack of logical thinking. Towards the end of this essay, having argued his case, Orwell muses: I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words or constructions. Thus Newspeak is possibly an attempt by Orwell to describe a deliberate intent to exploit this decadence with the aim of oppressing its speakers. Basic Principles of Newspeak The basic idea behind Newspeak was to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, good thoughts and thoughtcrimes) which reinforce the total dominance of the State. A staccato rhythm of short syllables was also a goal, further reducing the need for deep thinking about language. In addition, words with opposite meanings were removed as redundant, so “bad” became “ungood.” Words with similar meanings were also removed, so “best” became “doubleplusgood.” In this manner, as many words as possible were removed from the language. The ultimate aim of Newspeak was to reduce even the dichotomies to a single word that was a “yes” of some sort: an obedient word with which everyone answered affirmatively to what was asked of them. Orwell reveals a certain ethnocentrism in his ideas, in that the characteristics of Newspeak that he derides as controlling changes in English are common in perfectly functional agglutinative languages. His distaste for the replacement of “bad” with “ungood” seems to be largely due to the fact that the practice is foreign to his native language of English. It serves speakers of agglutinative languages quite well for everyday communication, poetry, etc. It is clear that Orwell was an English speaker addressing other English speakers. The underlying theory of Newspeak is that if something can’t be said, then it can’t be thought. One question raised by this is whether we are defined by our language, or whether we actively define it. For instance, can we communicate the need for freedom, or organize an uprising, if we don’t have the words for either? This is related to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s proposition, “The limits of my language mean the limits to my world.” Examples of Newspeak, from the novel, include: “crimethink”; “doubleplusungood”; and “Ingsoc.” They mean, respectively: “thought-crime”; “extremely bad”; and “English Socialism,” the political philosophy of the Party. The word “Newspeak” itself also comes from the language. Generically, newspeak has come to mean any attempt to restrict disapproved language by a government or other powerful entity. Real-life examples of Newspeak A comparison to Newspeak may arguably be seen in political rhetoric, where two opposing sides string together phrases so empty of meaning that they may be compared to the taunts young children toss back and forth. The arguments of either side ultimately reduce to “I’m good; he’s bad.” Charges of Newspeak are sometimes advanced when a group tries to replace a word/phrase that is politically unsuitable (e.g. “civilian casualties”) or offensive (e.g. “murder”) with a politically correct or inoffensive one (e.g. “collateral damage”). Some maintain that to make certain words or phrases ‘unspeakable’ (thoughtcrime), restricts what ideas may be held (Newspeak) and is therefore tantamount to censorship. Others believe that expunging terms that have fallen out of favour or become insulting will make people less likely to hold outdated or offensive views. The intent to alter the minds of the public through changes made to language illustrates Newspeak perfectly. Either way, there is a resemblance between political correctness and Newspeak, although some may feel that they differ in their intentions: in Nineteen EightyFour, Newspeak is instituted to enhance the power of the state over the individual; politically correct language, on the other hand, is said by supporters to free individuals from stereotypical preconceptions caused by the use of prejudicial terminology. It is this attempt to change thought through changing (or eliminating) words that earns political correctness the connection to Newspeak. The main distinction is that politically correct language is often inspired only by politeness, while Newspeak has a more explicit limiting political motivation. However, there exist striking instances where Orwell’s speculation have matched with reality. Orwell suggested that all philosophies prior to Ingsoc (English Socialism) would be covered under the term ‘oldthink,’ bearing with it none of the nuances of these ideologies, but simply a connotation of badness. Since the Cold War, a similar effect has been wrought on the word ‘communism,’ where it no longer bears with it, to most people, the doctrines of Marx, Engels, or Lenin, but rather a general bad connotation. (Much the same could be said about ‘fascism,’ perhaps with even more accuracy.) Two examples unrelated to political correctness are Basic English, a language which prides itself on reducing the number of English words, and E-Prime another simplifed version of English. Political groups often avail themselves of the principles behind Newspeak to frame their views in a positive way. Thus the term “estate tax” was replaced by the “death tax.” A similar effect may be observed in the abortion debates where those advocating restrictions on abortion label themselves “pro-life,” leaving their opponents presumably “anti-life.” Conversely, those advocating greater availability of abortion call themselves “pro-choice,” and the opposition “antichoice,” to engender similarly positive emotions. Abbreviations and Acronyms Another common use of Newspeak today is the overuse of abbreviations. To quote from the 1984 Appendix “It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it.” Attention is also drawn to the use of such abbreviations by totalitarian regimes prior to World War II. Even more powerful are acronyms like “Ofcom,” “AIDS,” “OPEC” and “NAFTA,” which can be pronounced as if they were proper words. This is most vividly seen in an acronym like “laser,” which today is nearly always written in lowercase. Acronyms contain less information than the full term and tend not to trigger spontaneous associations; this also makes them ambiguous and therefore vulnerable to misuse. Newspeak words * Crimestop * Doublethink * Doubleplusgood * Doubleplusungood * Duckspeak * Blackwhite * Ingsoc * Oldspeak * Thoughtcrime (The actual Newspeak word is Crimethink). * Miniluv, Minipax: “Ministry of Love” (secret police) and “Ministry of Peace” (Ministry of War). Compare to abbreviations in real life such as “Nazi” and “Gestapo.” * Bellyfeel * Oldthink * Goodthink * Goodsex (chastity) In Oceania the only purpose of sex is the creation of new party members. * Sexcrime (sex that does not lead to the creation of new party members) * Free (only in statements like “This dog is free from lice.”) The concepts of “political freedom” and “intellectual freedom” do not exist in Newspeak. * Equal (a statement such as “All men are equal.” would only mean “All men are of equal size.”) “Political Equality” doesn’t even exist as a concept in Newspeak. * Unperson A person who had been vaporized, and all records of him/her had been wiped out. All other party members must forget that the unperson ever existed, and mentioning his/her name is thoughtcrime. (The concept that the person may have existed at one time, and has disappeared, cannot be expressed in Newspeak.) Compare to the Stalinist use of erasing people from photographs after their death. * Facecrime (an indication that a person is guilty of thoughtcrime based on their facial expression) * Vaporize (the same as liquidate) When people disappear, they are vaporized. The word doublespeak was coined in the early 1950s and it is often incorrectly attributed to George Orwell and his novel. However the word never actually appears in that novel. INSTRUCTOR’S NOTE: All modern politicians are masters of both doublethink (i.e., maintaining two mutually exclusive, equivocal, antithetic (diametrically opposed) thoughts at the same time, and being able to selectively forget that one ever held either thought in the first place) and doublespeak. NOTES:October 30, 2001 hoover digest » 2001 no. 4 » archives URL: Why Orwell Matters by Timothy Garton Ash Why should we still read George Orwell on politics? Until 1989, the answer was plain.He was the writer who captured the essence of totalitarianism. All over communist-ruled Europe, people would show me their dog-eared, samizdat copies of Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four and ask, “How did he know?” The world of Nineteen Eighty-Four may have ended in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came down, but George Orwell’s writing remains as relevant today as ever. Hoover Fellow Timothy Garton Ash explains why. Yet the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four ended in 1989. Orwellian regimes persisted in a few remote countries, such as North Korea, and communism survived in an attenuated form in China. But the three dragons against which Orwell fought his good fight—European and especially British imperialism; fascism, whether Italian, German, or Spanish; and communism, not to be confused with the democratic socialism in which Orwell himself believed—were all either dead or mortally weakened. Forty years after his own painful and early death, Orwell had won. What need, then, of Orwell? One answer is that we should read him because of his historical impact. For Orwell was the most influential political writer of the twentieth century. This is a bold claim, but who else would compete? Among novelists, perhaps Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Albert Camus; among playwrights, Bertolt Brecht. Or would it be a philosopher, such as Karl Popper, Friedrich von Hayek, or Hannah Arendt? Or the novelist, playwright, and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, whom Orwell privately called “a bag of wind”? Take them one by one, and you will find that each made an impact more limited in duration or geographic scope than did this short-lived, old-fashioned English man of letters. “All over communist-ruled Europe, people would show me their dog-eared, samizdat copies of Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four and ask, ‘How did he know?’” Worldwide familiarity with the word Orwellian is proof of that influence. Orwellian is used as a pejorative adjective, to evoke totalitarian terror, the falsification of history by state-organized lying, and, more loosely, any unpleasant example of repression or manipulation. It is used as a noun to describe an admirer and conscious follower of his work. Occasionally, it is deployed as a complimentary adjective, to mean something like “displaying outspoken intellectual honesty, like Orwell.” Very few other writers have garnered this double tribute of becoming both adjective and noun. Everywhere that people lived under totalitarian dictatorships, they felt he was one of them. The Russian poet Natalya Gorbanyevskaya once told me that Orwell was an East European. In fact, he was a very English writer who never went anywhere near Eastern Europe. His knowledge of the communist world was largely derived from reading. Three personal experiences had transformed his understanding. First, as a British imperial policeman for five years in Burma he was himself the servant of an oppressive, though not a totalitarian, regime. By the time he resigned, he had acquired a lifelong hatred of imperialism and also a deep insight into the psychology of the oppressor. Then he went to live among the down-and-outs in England and in Paris. So he knew at firsthand the humiliating unfreedom that comes from poverty. Finally, there was the Spanish Civil War. Spain, for Orwell, meant fighting fascism and getting a bullet through his throat. But still more important was the revelation of Russian-led communist terror and duplicity, as he and his comrades in the heterodox Marxist POUM militia were hunted through the streets of Barcelona by the Communists who were supposed to be their allies. Of the Russian agent in Barcelona charged with defaming the POUM as Trotskyist Francoist traitors, he writes, in Homage to Catalonia, “It was the first time that I had seen a person whose profession was telling lies—unless one counts journalists.” The barb’s black humor also reflects his disgust at the way the whole left-wing press in Britain was falsifying events that he had seen with his own eyes. (For more on Orwell’s experience in Spain, see “The Man Who Saved Orwell” on page 180.) “After his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell knew where he stood. From that point on, every line of Orwell’s writing had a political purpose.” As he says in his 1946 essay “Why I Write,” after Spain he knew where he stood. He had earlier adopted the pen name George Orwell in preference to his own, Eric Blair, but it was after Spain that he really became Orwell. Every line of his writing now had a political purpose. Imperialism and fascism would remain major targets of his generous anger. But the first enemy would be the blindness or intellectual dishonesty of those in the West who supported or condoned Stalinist communism—even more so after the Soviet Union became the West’s ally in the war against Hitler. And so he sat down to write a Swiftian satire on Stalinist Russia, with the Communists as the pigs in a farm run by the animals. “Willingness to criticize Russia and Stalin,” he wrote in August 1944, “is the test of intellectual honesty.” The rejection of Animal Farm by several British publishers, because they did not want to criticize Britain’s heroic wartime ally, showed what he was up against. When it was finally published in Britain in 1945 (and the United States in 1946), the book was a political event, which helped to open the eyes of the Englishspeaking West to the true nature of the Soviet regime. (One might call this the Orwell effect.) Nineteen Eighty-Four, with its more generalized dystopia, became another defining Cold War text. Not accidentally, the first use of the phrase Cold War recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from an article by Orwell. “Imperialism and fascism were the major targets of Orwell’s generous anger. But his first enemy would be the blindness or intellectual dishonesty of those in the West who supported or condoned Stalinist communism.” In short, he was more memorably and influentially right, and sooner than anyone, about the single greatest political menace of the second half of the twentieth century, as well as seeing off the two largest horrors of the first half. But those monsters are dead or on their last legs. To say “read him because he mattered a lot in the past” will hardly attract new readers to Orwell. Fortunately, there is a more compelling reason we should read Orwell in the twenty-first century: he remains an exemplar of political writing. Both meanings of exemplar are required. He is a model of how to do it well, but he is also an example—a deliberate, self-conscious, and self-critical instance—of how difficult it is. In “Why I Write,” he says that his purpose, after Spain, was to “make political writing into an art.” Animal Farm is the work in which he most completely succeeded. In his “little fairy story,” artistic form and political content are perfectly matched—partly because they are so grotesquely mismatched. What could be further apart than Stalinist Moscow and an English country farmyard? He cared passionately for the English countryside and lived there in the late 1930s, keeping a village shop, a goat, and a notebook. Animal Farm overflows with lovingly observed physical detail of country life. But then, from the mouth of the pig Major, there erupts a perfect parody of a communist speech: the fruit of many hours Orwell had spent poring over the political pamphlets he collected. Only he would have this peculiar combination of expertise. Only Orwell would know both how to milk a goat and how to skewer a revisionist. “In short, Orwell was more memorably and influentially right (and sooner than anyone) about the single greatest political menace of the second half of the twentieth century.” The twists and turns of his animal regime closely follow the decay of the Russian revolution into tyranny. There is no ambiguity here: the pig Napoleon is Stalin, the pig Snowball is Trotsky. And there is his humor, an underrated part of Orwell’s sandpapery charm. (Soon after he was shot through the neck in Spain, his commanding officer perceptively reported: “Breathing absolutely regular. Sense of humor untouched.”) Unforgettable is that perfect one-liner, at once comic and deeply serious: “All Animals Are Equal, but Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.” Animal Farm is a timeless satire on the central tragi-comedy of all politics—that is, the tragi-comedy of corruption by power. This ability to move from the particular to the universal also characterizes his essays: the other genre in which he wrote best about politics. What he abhors, perhaps even more than violence or tyranny, is dishonesty. Marching up and down the frontier between literature and politics, like a sentry for morality, he can spot a double standard at 500 yards in bad light. Does a Tory MP demand freedom for Poland while remaining silent about India? Sentry Orwell fires off a quick round. Orwell the moralist is fascinated by the pursuit not merely of truth but of the most complicated and difficult truths. It starts already with the early essay “Shooting an Elephant,” where he confidently asserts that the British empire is dying but immediately adds that it is “a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it.” At times, he seems to take an almost masochistic delight in confronting uncomfortable truths. Not that his own political judgment was always good. His vivacious and perceptive wife, Eileen, wrote that he retained “an extraordinary political simplicity.” There are striking misjudgments in his work. It’s startling to find him, early on, repeating the communist line that “fascism and capitalism are at bottom the same thing.” He opposed fighting Hitler until well into 1939, only to reverse his position. In his wartime tract The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius, he proposes the nationalization of “land, mines, railways, banks and major industries.” Orwell was a very English writer, and we think of understatement as a very English quality. But his specialty is outrageous overstatement: “No real revolutionary has ever been an internationalist,” “All leftwing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham,” “A humanitarian is always a hypocrite.” “Unforgettable is that perfect one-liner, at once comic and deeply serious: ‘All Animals Are Equal, but Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.’” As V. S. Pritchett observed, in reviewing The Lion and the Unicorn, he “is capable of exaggerating with the simplicity and innocence of a savage.” But that is what satirists do. Evelyn Waugh, from the other end of the political spectrum, did the same. So this weakness of his nonfiction is one of the great strengths of his fiction. Both his life and his work are case studies in the demands of political engagement. In Writers and Leviathan he describes the political writer’s dilemma: “seeing the need of engaging in politics while also seeing what a dirty, degrading business it is.” After briefly being a member of the Independent Labour Party, he concludes that “a writer can only remain honest if he keeps free of party labels.” (That key word honest again.) But he plans and becomes vicechairman of a nonparty organization called the Freedom Defense Committee, defending freedom against imperialism and fascism, of course, but now, above all, against communism. A word is due about the already notorious list of crypto-Communists and fellow travelers, which he is popularly thought to have handed over to the British secret service. (“Socialist Icon Who Became an Informer,” trumpeted the Daily Telegraph when “breaking” the story in 1998.) The facts are these. Orwell kept a pale blue notebook in which he noted names and details of suspected communist agents or sympathizers. The content of this notebook is disquieting, with its sharp judgments—”almost certainly agent of some kind,” “decayed liberal,” “appeaser only”—and especially its national/racial annotations: “Jewish?” (Charlie Chaplin) or “English Jew” (Tom Driberg) as well as “Polish,” “Jugo-Slav,” “AngloAmerican,” and so on. There is something unsettling—a touch of the old imperial policeman—about a writer who could have lunch with a friend like the poet Stephen Spender and then go home to note “Sentimental sympathizer and very unreliable. Easily influenced. Tendency to homosexuality.” “Orwell taught us that the corruption of language is an essential part of oppressive or exploitative politics.” However, two very important things need to be said in explanation. First, there was a Cold War on. There were Soviet agents and sympathizers about, and they were influential. The most telling example is the man Orwell had down as “almost certainly agent of some kind.” His name was Peter Smollett. During World War II he was the head of the Russian section in the Ministry of Information, and it was on his advice that T. S. Eliot, no less, rejected Animal Farm for Jonathan Cape. We now know that Smollett was indeed a Soviet spy. Second, Orwell did not give this notebook to the British secret service. He gave a list of 35 names drawn from it to the Information Research Department, a semisecret branch of the Foreign Office that specialized in getting writers on the democratic left to counter the then highly organized Soviet communist propaganda offensive. Absurdly, the British government has not declassified this list or any letter that accompanied it. So we still don’t know exactly what Orwell did. But from the available evidence it is quite clear that Orwell was not putting some British thought police onto these people’s tails. All he was doing, in effect, was to say: “Don’t use these people for anticommunist propaganda because they are probably communists or communist sympathizers!” A dying man, but still in complete command of his faculties, Orwell judged this to be a morally defensible act for a writer in a period of intense political struggle, just as he had earlier judged that it was proper for a politically engaged writer to take up arms against Franco. I think he was right. You may think he was wrong. Either way, he exemplifies for us—he is that exemplar—of the dilemmas of the political writer. “The extreme, totalitarian version of political doublespeak that Orwell satirized as Newspeak is less often encountered these days, except in countries such as Burma and North Korea. But the obsession of democratically elected governments, especially in Britain and America, with media management and ‘spin’ is today one of the main obstacles to understanding what is being done in our name.” Finally, of course, Orwell’s list and Orwell’s life are much less important than the work. It matters, to be sure, that there is no flagrant contradiction between the work and the life—as there often is with political intellectuals. The Orwellian voice, placing honesty and single standards above everything, would be diminished. But what endures is the work. If I had to name a single quality that makes Orwell still essential reading in the twenty-first century, it would be his insight into the use and abuse of language. If you have time to read only one essay, read “Politics and the English Language,” which brilliantly sums up the central Orwellian argument that the corruption of language is an essential part of oppressive or exploitative politics. “The defense of the indefensible” is sustained by a battery of euphemisms, verbal false limbs, prefabricated phrases, and all the other paraphernalia of deceit that he pinpoints and parodies. The extreme, totalitarian version that he satirized as Newspeak is less often encountered these days, except in countries such as Burma and North Korea. But the obsession of democratically elected governments, especially in Britain and America, with media management and “spin” is today one of the main obstacles to understanding what is being done in our name. There are also distortions that come from within the press, radio, and television themselves, partly because of hidden ideological bias but increasingly because of fierce commercial competition and the relentless need to “entertain.” Read Orwell, and you will know that something nasty must be hidden behind the euphemistic, Latinate phrase used by NATO spokespeople during the Kosovo war: “collateral damage.” (It means innocent civilians killed.) Read Orwell, and you will smell a rat whenever you find a British newspaper or politician once again churning out a prefabricated phrase such as “Brussels’ inexorable march to a European superstate.” He does not just equip us to detect this semantic abuse. He also suggests how writers can fight back. For the abusers of power are, after all, using our weapons: words. In “Politics and the English Language” he even gives some simple stylistic rules for honest and effective political writing. He compares good English prose to a clean windowpane. Through these windows, citizens can see what their rulers are really up to. So political writers should be the window cleaners of freedom. Orwell both tells and shows us how to do it. That is why we need him still, because Orwell’s work is never done. Timothy Garton Ash, an internationally acclaimed contemporary historian whose work has focused on Europe since 1945, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Garton Ash is in residence at Hoover on a part-year basis; at the same time he continues to hold his appointments as professor of European studies and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. Among the topics his work has covered are the emancipation and eventual liberation of Central Europe from communism, the eastern policy of Germany and its reunification, how countries deal with a difficult past, the role of intellectuals in politics, and the European Union in its relationships with partners such as the United States and rising non-Western powers such as China. His most recent book is Facts are Subversive: Political Writing From a Decade Without a Name (2009). This essay appears in longer form as the introduction to Orwell & Politics, edited by Peter Davison, published by Penguin Books (UK). This excerpt originally appeared in the (London) Guardian, May 5, 2001. Available from the Hoover Press is The Collapse of Communism, edited by Lee Edwards. Also available is The Fall of the Berlin Wall: Reassessing the Causes and Consequences of the End of the Cold War, edited by Peter Schweizer.Jeffrey Meyers GEORGE ORWELL AND THE ART OE WRITING While our country is bitterly divided by radically opposing views on domestic and foreign policy and we are engaged in an increasingly costly and risky far-off war, we had to vote in a presidential election in which neither candidate inspired hope or confidence. In London during the Second World War, when the propaganda war at home raged in concert with the war against Hitler, Orwell felt as many of us feel now. In his “War Diary” of April 27, 1942, he recorded: “We are all drowning in filth. When I talk to anyone or read the writings of anyone who has any axe to grind, I feel that intellectual honesty and balanced judgement have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. . . . Is there no one who has both firm opinions and a balanced outlook? Actually there are plenty, but they are powerless. All power is in the hands of paranoiacs.” Repeatedly struck by the viciousness and dishonesty of political controversy, Orwell used his journalism to attack politicians’ lies and blatant fear-mongering tactics, the supine press and passive public. Orwell perfected his rhetorical arsenal and lucid but flexible prose style during the political battles of the 1930s and 1940s, when the threat to western civilization came from totalitarian and fascist regimes in Europe. Today we wage a “war on terror,” for which the “Patriot Act” 92 Jeffrey Meyers has been passed (both classic Orwellian locutions) against a shadowy and multinational army of radical Islamists. In Orwell’s time people suffered large-scale bombing and destruction, and after 1945 learned to live with the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war. In our time we feel nostalgic for the good old days, when the major powers, at least, had enriched plutonium under lock and key. Terrorist attacks signify an additional loss of security that affects every aspect of our Uves, and we are now led ever deeper into confrontation and danger. Though he died in 1950, Orwell’s ideas about the language and style of politics, expressed in vwtty how-to-do-it essays as well as in his weekly political commentary and literary journalism, are not merely relevant to this moment, but more desperately needed than ever. As Wyndham Levsis vwote in One-Way Song (1933): “These times require a tongue that naked goes, / Without more fuss than Dryden’s or Defoe’s.” “A happy vicar I might have been,” wrote Orwell in a reflective poem about that pre-1914 world he had briefly glimpsed in his childhood. His ambition was to create long “social” novels, and he also tried almost every other kind of writing. But history and politics claimed him, and his genius was to write more acutely about politics than anyone had done before. Orwell, whose books have sold a phenomenal forty million copies in more than sixty languages, was the most influential prose stylist of the twentieth century. Homage to Catahma (1938), which showed that good reporting not only describes the urgent political and military issues but also captures the spirit of the place, influenced both the concepts and methods of participatory journalism from Mary McCarthy, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote to Joan Didion, George Plimpton, and Tom Wolfe. Kingsley Amis observed that “no modem writer has his air of passionately believing what he has to say and of being passionately determined to say it as forcefully and simply as possible.” Norman Mailer, agreeing with Amis, maintained: “I don’t think there’s a man vwiting English today who can’t leam how to write a litde better by reading his essays. Even his maxims and instructions on how to write well are superb.” Like Hobbes and Swift, Orwell saw political writing not only as a powerful tool for conveying ideas, but also as a demanding and enthralling art with a moral imperative to search for truth. Orwell was obsessed by writing, felt compelled to write and composed with great fluency in an age that gready admired authors 93 The Kenyon Review like Gustave Flaubert, James Joyce, and Franz Kafka, who’d tortured themselves with creative agony. Flaubert, the antithesis of Orwell in his complete lack of political commitment, thought the artist “should have neither religion, country, nor even any social conviction. . . . No cause is worth dying for, any govemment can be lived with, nothing but art may be believed in, and literature is the only confession.” The smoldering indignation of Orwell was also the opposite of the cool objectivity of Joyce, who said he wrote Dubliners in a style of scrupulous meanness. And his personal reticence is quite different from Kafka’s self-exposure and belief that a book must “be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.” Who, then, was Orwell’s model? In an autobiographical note of April 1940, he said “the modem writer who has infiuenced me most is Somerset Maugham, whom I admire immensely for his power of telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.” Both vmters advocated direct language and unambiguous expression, distrusting attempts to “dress up” facts and ideas to make them more palatable. They believed that the writer ought to communicate in the clearest possible way and employed a plain style that appealed to their readers’ common sense. Maugham wrote that “good prose should be like the clothes of a well-dressed man, appropriate but unobtmsive”; Orwell echoed him in his famous simile: “Good prose is like a window pane.” Despite their preference for simplicity, both were also deeply moved when young by the rich sounds and exotic associations of John Milton’s high style. Maugham noted: “The exultation, the sense of freedom which came to me when first I read in my youth the first few books oi Paradise Lost.” Orwell also recalled that “when I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words. . . . The lines from Paradise Lost. . . sent shivers dovm my backbone.” Like Maugham, Orwell trusted his audience to share his values and understanding of the world, but had a far more didactic bent, a crusading spirit that sought to cut through cant and intensify political consciousness. He developed a clear, racy, supple style, fluent and readable, forceful and direct, with a colloquial ease of expression. The critic Edmund Wilson, defining his essential qualities, praised his “readiness to think for himself, courage to speak his mind, the tendency to deal with concrete realities rather than theoretical positions, and a prose style that is both downright and disciplined.” The English historian Veronica Wedgwood elegantly 94 Jeffrey Meyers described Orwell’s combination of passion and restraint: “The strength of his feelings and his detennination that they should not intrude make his style spare and economical, while his acute observation and sensibility make its very bleakness the more powerful.” Orwell’s style is spare but never drab. His vigorous prose, engaging honesty, and sly wit immediately engage his readers. And his literary personality—^his integrity, idealism, and commitment—shine through his writing like pebbles in a clear stream. The striking openings of his major essays are uncannily effective and immediately hook the reader: —In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people. —As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kiU me. —Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. —Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent. The first two sentences portray Orwell as a victim of hate and war; the last two are paradoxical statements about the complexity of human nature. All four are as vivid and concentrated as a line of poetry. Fascinated by every aspect of an author’s life, in the course of his all-too-brief career Orwell discussed the teaching of creative writing, revising one’s work, being edited, editing others, author’s notes, and the limitations of reviewers. In his “As I Please” newspaper column in the London Tribune, he satirized ads for writing courses (which were just beginning in England and have since become entrenched college courses, even majors, in America). He effectively punctured their pretensions with a eommonsensical question: “If these [anonymous] people really knew how to make money out of writing, why aren’t they just doing it instead of peddling their seeret at 5/- a time? .. . If Bernard Shaw or J. B. Priestley offered to teach you how to make money out of writing, you might feel that there was something in it. But who would buy a bottle of hair restorer from a bald man?” In these days when everybody wants to be a writer (but nobody wants to read, preferring to get information and interpretation from 95 The Kenyon Review television “news” and radio talk shows), it is worth emphasizing that writing even competendy demands diligent effort that few students are prepared to give. In June 1940, chronically poor and still under pressure to earn money after more than a decade as a vmter, Orwell reflected that his apparent ease of composition had been achieved by years of practice and repetition: “Nowadays, when I write a review, I sit down at the typewriter and type it straight out. Till recently, indeed till six months ago, I never did this and would have said that I could not do it. Virtually all that I wrote was written at least twice, and my books as a whole three times—individual passages as many as five or ten times.” Reviews and articles kept Orwell’s body and soul together as he labored to complete his novels, and he wrote interestingly on the practical problems of writing for newspapers. As a highly contentious and polemical writer, hostile to any form of censorship, he loathed cuts that weakened his argument and changed his meaning, yet had to accept the reality of being edited. “The question of ‘editing’ might be more difficult,” he told his agent. “In my experience one can never be sure that one’s stuff will get to press unaltered in any daily or weekly periodical. The Observer, for instance, habitually cuts my articles without consulting me if there is a last-minute shortage of space. In writing for papers like the Evening Standard, I have had things not merely cut but actually altered, and of course even a cut always modifies the sense of an article to some extent. What really matters here is whether or not one is dealing with a civilized and intelligent paper.” When Orwell took over as literary editor of the socialist Tribune in November 1943, he found his desk drawer “stuffed with letters and manuscripts which ought to have been dealt with weeks earlier, and hurriedly shut it up again.” As an editor himself, he had a fatal tendency to accept manuscripts which he knew very well could never be printed, but didn’t have the heart to send back. When he considered manuscripts submitted to the newspaper, he must have remembered Gordon Comstock’s bitter rage (in Orwell’s novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, 1936) when his verse was politely rejected: “Why be so bloody mealy-mouthed about it? Why not say outright, ‘We don’t want your bloody poems. We only take poems from chaps we were at Cambridge with.'” In June 1947 Orwell, an ex-policeman, recalled his generous weakness as editor and concluded 96 Jeffrey Meyers the discussion with a characteristically witty simile: “It is questionable whether anyone who has had long experience as a freelance journalist ought to become an editor. It is too like taking a convict out of his cell and making him governor of the prison.” Reserved about his private life and wary of improper publicity, Orwell was reluctant to provide biographical details for his dust jackets and, with a prematurely lined face and idiosyncratic mustache, didn’t think his photograph would be a good advertisement for his books. He jusdy complained about the low standards of book critics and told a fellow novelist Anthony Powell: “The reviewers are awful, so much so that in a general way I prefer the ones who lose their temper & call one names to the silly asses who mean so well & never bother to discover what you are writing about.” Though Animal Farm was enthusiastically received in 1945, Orwell felt reviewers had missed an essential aspect, compared them to the villains of his book and called them “gmdging swine . . . not one of them said it’s a beautiful book.” Orwell’s primary ambition was to be a writer of fiction, and he carefully studied writers he admired—like Edgar Poe, D. H. Lawrence, and James Joyce—to leam how they’d achieved their artistic effects. His account of Poe’s realistic fantasy suggests how he created his own convincing futuristic world in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949): “Poe’s outlook is at best a wild romanticism and at worst is not far from being insane in the literal clinical sense. Why is it, then, that [his] stories . . . which might very nearly have been written by a lunatic, do not convey a feeling of falsity? Because they are tme within a certain framework, they keep the rules of their own peculiar world, like a Japanese picture. But it appears that to write successfully about such a world you have got to believe in it.” Writing in July 1933 to one of his girlfriends about Lawrence (who’d died, neglected and reviled, in 1930), Orwell tried to account for his powerful, heroically primitive vision: “There is a quality about L. that I can’t define, but everywhere in his work one comes on passages of an extraordinary freshness, vividness, so that tho’ I would never, even given the power, have done it quite like that myself, I feel that he has seized on an aspect of things that no one else would have noticed. .. . He reminds me of someone from the Bronze Age.” 97 The Kenyon Review Orwell was passionate about Joyce’s Ulysses, which he’d bought when working in Paris and smuggled into England. In a letter to another girlfriend a year later, he confessed that “Joyce interests me so much that I can’t stop talking about him once I start.” He was writing his weakest novel, A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), very much under the influence of Joyce. But he went on to make fun of his work in comparison to the Master’s: “My novel, instead of going forwards, goes backwards with the most alarming speed. There are whole wads of it that are so awful that I really don’t know what to do with them. . . . When I read [Ulysses] and then come back to my ovwi work, I feel like a eunuch who has taken a course in voice production and can pass himself off fairly well as a bass or baritone, but if you listen closely you can hear the good old squeak just the same as ever.” He knew that he could not be a Joyce or a D. H. Lawrence, but realized that he had to keep trying to find his own narrative style. Lawrence was a great travel writer and—^like Joyce in Ulysses— had broken through traditional restraints with his vivid sexual descriptions in Lady Chatterl^’s Lover. (Both novels, suppressed on grounds of obscenity, were only published in England after contentious trials.) But Orwell disliked both travel books and detailed descriptions of sexual acts. Henry Miller’s narcissistic account of his life in Greece in The Colossus ofMaroussi, for example, “has all the normal stigmata of the travel book, the fake intensities, the tendency to discover the ‘soul’ of a town after spending two hours in it, the boring descriptions of conversations v^ith taxi-drivers.” And Orwell felt that in a novel by his friend Humphrey Slater, “the sex stuff was out of place and in poor taste,” disapproved of “this modem habit of describing lovemaking in detail,” and thought it would one day seem as meaningless as the sentimental gush of Victorian novels. He was surely right about this modem obsession. Depictions of sex in contemporary novels and films have become ever more graphic, ugly, and depressing. Orwell’s illuminating comments on his own work show how desperately he wanted to be a writer and how long he had to struggle to become one. He destroyed his early stories and first novel, and after retuming from police duties in Burma, worked as a dishwasher, hoppicker, tutor, teacher, and tramp before publishing his first book, the autobiographical Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), at the age 98 Jeffrey Meyers of twenty-nine. In his introduction to the French translation the following year, he defended the truthfulness and explained the artistic rearrangement of the incidents in that book: “As for the truth of my story, I think I can say that I have exaggerated nothing except in so far as all writers exaggerate by selecting. I did not feel I had to describe events in the exact order in which they happened, but everything I have described did take place at one time or another.” Orwell found it difficult to invent fictional incidents and wanted to use the events of his early life in Coming Up for Air (1939), but also saw the technical weakness in telling the story from the hero’s point of view. “You are perfectly right,” he told a friend, “about my own character constantly intruding on that of the narrator. I am not a real novelist anyway, and that particular vice is inherent in writing a novel in the first person, which one [i.e., Orwell] should never do. One difficulty I have never solved is that one has masses of experience which one passionately wants to write about, e.g. the part about fishing in that book, and no way of using them up except by disguising them as a novel.” Orwell felt that he should use every scrap of his experience in his work. If it couldn’t be placed in an essay or review, it ought to be “used up” in his fiction. Most writers, after struggling for seventeen years to achieve literary success, would have remained in London to be lionized and enjoy their celebrity. But Orwell, immune to the effects of wealth and fame, couldn’t endure the success of Animal Farm in 1945. It didn’t match his guilt-ridden idea of himself. Success also led to the conflict between accepting endless lucrative offers to write for periodicals and dedicating himself to his more serious books. Nineteen Eighty-Four was beginning to take shape in his mind, and he wanted to rest for two months and allow the idea to gemiinate. “I am anxious to get out of London,” he wrote a friend, “because I am constandy smothered under journalism—at present I am doing 4 articles every week—and I want to write another book which is impossible unless I can get 6 months quiet.” Quite unexpectedly, the man who’d always hated Scotland took off for the remote island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides. When he finished Mrieteen Eighty-Four, under harsh living conditions and with a terminal illness, Orwell, with his usual honesty, saw the flaws in his work and conceded: “the vulgarity of the [torture in] ‘Room 99 The Kenyon Review 101′ business. I was aware of this while writing it, but I didn’t know another way of getting somewhere near the effect I wanted. .. . I am not pleased with the book but I am not absolutely dissatisfied. I first thought of it in 1943.1 think it is a good idea but the execution would have been better if I had not written it under the influence of TB.” Orwell’s description of his ghasdy treatment in the tuberculosis sanatorium is very close to his portrayal of Winston Smith after his torture in the novel and reveals Orwell’s horrific condition when completing the book: “The truly frightening thing was the emaciation of his body. The barrel of the ribs was as narrow as that of a skeleton. . . . The curvature of the spine was astonishing. The thin shoulders were hunched forward so as to make a cavity of the chest, the scraggy neck seemed to be bending double under the weight of the skull. .. . He was aware of his ugliness.” When Orwell was in the sanatorium, the doctors had to take extreme measures to prevent him from writing. The medical staff, insisting on complete physical and mental rest, confiscated his typewriter. When he kept on writing with a ballpoint pen, they put his right arm in plaster. OrweU, usually able to write four serious articles a week (or about 200 articles a year!), was a desperately driven and manically compulsive writer. In one of his most revealing passages (in a notebook of 1949), he confessed, despite his extraordinary output, that he always felt guilty about his work and fearful that his creative energy would dry up: [Since I started publishing in 1928] there has literally been not one day in which I did not feel that I was idling, that I was behind with the eurrent job, & that my total output was miserably small. Even at the periods when I was working 10 hours a day on a book, or tuming out 4 or 5 articles a week, I have never been able to get away from this neurotic feeling that I was wasting time. I can never get any sense of achievement out of the work that is actually in progress, because it always goes slower than I intend, & in any case I feel that a book or even an article does not exist until it is finished. But as soon as a book is finished, I begin, actually from the next day, worrying because the next one is not begun, & am haunted with the fear that there never will be a next one—that my impulse is exhausted for good & all. Though guilt made Orwell miserable, it also energized him and drove him to produce his impressive body of work. Orwell completed the final draft of Nineteen Eighty-Four in 100 Jeffrey Meyers November 1948, but found it too indecipherable to send to a typist. His friends desperately tried to find a London secretary to go to Jura. Despite intensive efforts, no one was willing to help the distinguished author type his extraordinary manuscript—even at two or three times the going rate of pay. He had to sit up in bed typing the final copy of the 150,000-word novel, finally collapsed and went into hospital. Mortally ill when Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in June 1949, he died seven months later, before he could enjoy his newfound wealth. The creation of the novel virtually killed Orwell, and its vision of the future (by a man who himself had no future) is correspondingly grim. It’s not surprising that in “Why I Write” he exclaimed that “writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.” Orwell had limited success in creating a credible first-person narrator in his fiction, but the lively persona he created in his nonfiction made essays his most suecessful genre. His essays on writing fall into three main categories: the writer’s life, popular literature, and the search for truth. These essays—and three passages from his novels—cover many aspects of writing and reading, or how to deconstruct the meaning and purpose of pieces of writing: the deceptions of advertising, techniques of book reviewing, writers’ income, and authors’ motives; the brutality of crime novels, definition of humor, mediocre but enduringly popular books, and children’s literature; the creation of new words, effects of propaganda, genesis of satire, suppression of literature, purity of language, relation between content and pleasure, political pamphlets, keeping a diary, and rewriting history. With a keen nose for the bogus, Orwell saw early on the falsity and fraudulence of the newly spawned advertising agencies that serve the corporate economy and would eventually contaminate the media. Orwell, who’d been to school with the advertising innovator David Ogilvy, had amused himself in childhood by answering a fake ad for a weightreducing course and, by pretending to be an obese lady, had deliberately 101 The Kenyon Review prolonged the cheeky correspondence. “Do come before ordering your summer frocks,” the weight-reducer insisted, “as after taking my course your figure will have altered out of recognition.” This went on for some time, he recalled, “during which the fee gradually sank from two guineas to half a crown, and then I brought the matter to an end by writing to say that I had been cured of my obesity by a rival agency.” In Keep the Aspidistra Flying Orwell’s embittered hero and wouldbe poet Gordon Gomstock is forced by poverty to take a humiliating job as a hack writer in a cynical, hard-boiled, Americanized advertising agency. He calls it the dirtiest swindle of capitalism, and (in a homely farm metaphor) “the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket.” When the boss discovers that Gomstock has published poetry, he promotes him to copy editor and launches him on a successful career. Fearful that he’ll be trapped by “blind worship of the money-god,” Gordon manages to escape. But when his girlfriend Rosemary becomes pregnant during their plein air frolics, he feels obliged to marry her and is trapped once again in his old job. Orwell’s family in Southwold and Leeds, and visitors to his London flat and house on the Scottish island of Jura, emphasized how hard he worked and how he constantly pounded away at the typewriter. The endless clacking sound became part of his legend. But no one ever mentioned his sitting quietly (if not comfortably, for he thrived on hardship) in a chair and actually reading the books he was reviewing. The chief bore (he felt) was having to read at least fifty pages of each book to avoid making a howler, but he eventually learned to skip expertly through these useless volumes. He begins the autobiographical “Gonfcssions of a Book Reviewer” like a short story—^with himself as the satiric victim. Looking (like OnvcU) much older than his age and plagued by unpaid bills, predatory creditors, and tax demands, the literary hack tries in vain to write his way out of poverty as a book reviewer. Since most books arc worthless, yet somehow have to be praised, Orwell calls book reviewing “a quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job.” To alleviate this tedium, he advocates fewer but longer reviews; and claims that the book reviewer is, at least, better off than the film critic (who has to praise a greater proportion of trash). Since there’s an endless supply of amateurs 102 Jeffrey Meyers eager to break into print, there will always be desperate men willing to have a shot at the disparate books that, the editor falsely claims, “ought to go well together.” Most of Orwell’s fictional heroes are impoverished and (like Gharles Dickens and George Gissing) he puts a great deal of emphasis on money, or the lack of it. In August 1941, when he took a job at the BBG and earned a salary of £640 a year, he made, for the first time since 1925, more money than he had as a policeman in Burma. A writer hke Gordon Gomstock usually has to have another job. In “The Gost of Letters” Orwell, always the Socialist, states that a writer should ideally have £1,000 a year, which would enable him to live in reasonable comfort without joining the privileged class. He concedes that it’s almost impossible to earn this income solely by writing books; and that a second occupation, useful for putting the author in touch with the real world, should be nonliterary. He’d been strongly discouraged by his conventional family, who were horrified by his resignation from his secure job in the Burmese police, and recalls that “I had to struggle desperately at the beginning, and if I had listened to what people said to me I would never have been a writer.” Orwell’s instinctive approach to literary topics was moral. He analyzed crime novels in “Raffies and Miss Blandish” to reveal the social and political dimensions of popular art. In a classic contrast he argues that there was an “immense difference in moral atmosphere” between the two novels (Raffles, by E.W. Hornung, published in 1900, and No Orehidsfor Miss Blandish by James Hadley Ghase, in 1939) and discusses the “change in the popular attitude that this probably implies.” The first had an almost schoolboy atmosphere; the second, full of cruelty and corruption, was “a header into the cesspool.” There are, however, perverse elements in Orwell’s condemnation. He loathed Ghase’s fictional character, “whose sole pleasure in life consists in driving knives into other people’s bellies” but, as he himself sadistically wrote in “Shooting an Elephant,” as a young policeman in Burma he thought the “greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts.” He blames the horrors of James Hadley Ghase on the American obsession with violence—though the author was in fact English. Gonnecting his thesis to wartime politics, Orwell argues that Ghase’s obsession with the struggle for power and the 103 The Kenyon Review triumph of the strong over the weak reveals “the interconnection between sadism, masochism, success worship, power worship, nationalism and totalitarianism.” Just as “Raffles and Miss Blandish” explains the moral and stylistic decline of crime novels, “Fxmny, But Not Vulgar” defines comedy and describes the decline of English humorous writing from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. Humor, Orwell observes with many lively examples, must “show a willingness to attack the beliefs and the virtues on which society necessarily rests” and dare to upset the established order. AU comedy attacks social evils, and in order to be funny you have to be serious and include an element of vulgarity. “Good Bad Books” reveals Orwell’s nostalgia for the idyllic prewar era of his youth as well as his keen interest in popular “escape” literature. Like his previous essays, it also attempts to explain the decline of the contemporary novel. Good bad books (a term he borrowed from G. K. Ghesterton) show that “one can be amused or excited or even moved by a book that one’s intellect simply refuses to take seriously,” and that “art is not the same thing as cerebration.” Despite Orwell’s valiant attempt to revive interest in out-of-date popular fiction, only Gonan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rider Haggard’s She and perhaps Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin—all of which have been made into films—are stiU in print and read today. “Riding Down from Bangor,” closely related to “Good Bad Books,” describes Orwell’s strong attraction to works like Helen’s Babies and Little Women that formed his childhood vision of America. The characters in these books, though slightly ridiculous, have “integrity, or good morale, founded partly on an unthinking piety .. . a native gaiety, a buoyant, carefree feeling, which was the product, presumably, of the unheard-of freedom and security” of nineteenth-century America. He’s nostalgic about the lost world of these books that have no hint “of the twin nightmares that beset nearly every modem man”: unemployment and state interference. When Orwell, a new boy at his preparatory school, had to stand on a table in the dormitory and sing a song, he sang “Riding Down from Bangor,” the American folksong he quotes in the essay. In 1942 Orwell wrote that “Kipling is the only English writer of our time who has added phrases to the language.” But in Nineteen Eighty-Four 104 Jeffrey Meyers Orwell also invented many vivid phrases: “Big Brother Is Watching You,” “two minutes hate,” “thought police,” “thoughterime,” “facecrime,” “doublethink,” “memory hole,” “vaporized,” and “unperson.” These words, which uncannily expressed the ideas and emotions of people living under totalitarian oppression, read like advertising catchwords. They became political shorthand during the Gold War, and remain so today. In “New Words” Orwell ventures into the realm of dreams and psychology, argues for the expansion of language and boldly but impractically suggests that “it would be quite feasible to invent a vocabulary, perhaps amounting to several thousands of words, which would deal with parts of our experience now practically unamenable to language.” Just as the French Academy was created in the seventeenth century to preserve the purity of language, so, OrweU argues, “several thousands of people with the necessary time, talents and money” could, by dedicating themselves to this noble task, create new words “for the now unnamed things [intuitions, fantasies, dreams] that exist in the mind.” Through this unrealistic project OrweU hoped to increase understanding through language and reduce “the star-like isolation in which human beings live.” “The Frontiers of Art and Propaganda” considers the infiuenee of history on Uterature and explains why English writers have shifted from an interest in form over content in the 1920s to the reverse in the 1930s. Minimizing the military, political, and social effects of the Great War, which shattered a century of relative peace in Europe and kiUed ten milhon men, OrweU argues that it was the Depression and the Second World War that forced writers into “a world in which not only one’s life but one’s whole scheme of values is constandy menaced.” Detachment is no longer possible and “literature had to become political because anything else would have entailed mental dishonesty.” Propaganda has crept into art and aesthetic judgments are now infiuenced by the author’s prejudices and beliefs. OrweU’s preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm describes the genesis of his most humorous and wickedly satiric book. As in “Why I Write,” he describes his background—including his five years with the poUce in Burma, association with the criminal class in Paris, and warfare in Spain—to explain his poUtical beliefs. His experience in Spain taught him about the great dangers to clear style and free thought: “how 105 The Kenyon Review easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries” and “the negative influence of the Soviet myth upon the western Socialist movement.” His duty, he felt, was to expose the iUusions created by such propaganda, make people “see the Soviet regime for what it really was,” and destroy the Soviet myth in order to revive the real Socialist movement. Inspired by seeing a little boy whip a huge farm horse, OrweU imagined a revolution of oppressed beasts and analyzed “Marx’s theory from the animals’ point of view.” OrweU’s lucid, witty, and ironic style is perfectly suited to his political allegory of the Russian Revolution. In Animal Farm the actual writing of political slogans takes place after the revolution. The pigs. Napoleon (Stalin) and SnowbaU (Trotsky), become Uterate, reduce the principles of Animalism to seven commandments, and use writing to manipulate the animals and consolidate their political power. As the revolution is gradually betrayed and the pigs replace the oppressive farmer they have overthrown, each of these sacred rules is broken. Finally, the horse Glover realizes that the last and most important commandment—”All animals are equal”—has also been changed to “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.” The most famous phrase in his fable, rewritten by the shrewd, self-serving pigs, combines Thomas Jefferson’s fundamental concept in the Declaration of Independence, “aU men are created equal,” with Eve’s command to the serpent in Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Render me more equal, and perhaps, / A thing not undesirable, sometime / Superior.” The defeat of the Loyalists in the Spanish War taught him that “history is written by the winners.” His own minimal achievement, while working as a talks producer at the wartime BBG, was to keep “our propaganda slighdy less disgusting than it might otherwise have been.” Several of OrweU’s essays explore the conditions that aUow or prevent the freedom of expression (and freedom from self-censorship) that’s essential for good writing to exist. The polemical “Prevention of Literature” considers the more insidious factors, apart from totalitarianism, that mitigate against the creation of great, or even honest literature. It also anticipates OrweU’s portrayal of Winston Smith’s job in Nineteen Eighty-Four: rewriting and perverting history in order to adhere to the ever-changing party line. In England, he argues, “the immediate enemies 106 Jeffrey Meyers of truthfulness, and hence freedom of thought, are the Press lords, the film magnates, and the bureaucrats, but on a long view the weakening of the desire for liberty among the inteUectuals themselves is the most serious symptom of all.” AU Uterature is political in an age like his own, when fears, hatreds, and loyalties affect everyone’s beliefs. In one of his most striking sentences, he insists that a writer must have freedom of thought and oppose the prevaiUng doctrines in order to create serious work: “To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politicaUy orthodox. . . . Literature is doomed if liberty of thought perishes.” The assumption that the act of writing is in itself a political act runs through aU OrweU’s work. In a 1946 review of a book by the noveUst Georges Bemanos, OrweU, always ready to expose poor style, noted: “A tendency towards rhetoric—that is, a tendency to say everything at enormous length and at once forcibly and vaguely—seems to be a common faiUng with presentday French writers.” His classic essay “PoUtics and the English Language” opposes this trend and forcefuUy advocates clear language. OrweU’s ideas were foreshadowed by Leviathan (1651), the major work of the English poUtical phUosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes, who had also attacked the abuse of words, argued that a sane, stable society must have a clear, stable language and believed that pure style was not only good in itself but also a civU duty. Writing during the English civil war, in an elegant and balanced style, Hobbes insisted that clear words benefited society while confused and confusing style could lead to seditious disruption: The light of human minds is perspicuous words, but by exact definitions first snuffed, and purged from ambiguity; reason is the pace; increase of science, the way; and the benefit of mankind, the end. And, on the contrary, metaphors, and senseless and ambiguous words, are like ignesfatui [delusions]; and reasoning upon them is wandering amongst innumerable absurdities; and their ends, contention and sedition, or contempt. Hobbes also observed that the misuse of words and creation of meaningless speech—also the subject of OrweU’s essay—^were intended to deceive rather than enlighten readers: There is yet another fault in the discourses of some men; which may also be numbered amongst the sorts of madness; namely, that abuse 107 The Kenyon Review of words, whereof I have spoken before .. . by the name of absurdity. And that is, when men speak such words, as put together, have in them no signification at all; but are fallen upon by some, through misunderstanding of the words they have received, and repeat by rote; by others from intention to deceive by obscurity. E. M. Forster, himself a notable styUst and, in y\ Passage to India, a major infiuenee on Burmese Days (1934), wrote that in “PoUtics and the EngUsh Language” OrweU “was passionate over the purity of prose, and . . . tears to bits some passages of contemporary vmting. It is a dangerous game . . . but it ought to be played, for if prose decays, thought decays and aU the finer roads of communication are broken. Liberty, he argues, is connected with prose.” OrweU begins his practical advice to writers by giving five examples of bad contemporary prose, characterized by stale imagery and lack of precise meaning. He then Usts (with convincing examples) four common faults, “a catalogue of swindles and perversions” that conceal and prevent rather than express clear thought: dying metaphors, verbal false limbs (including the use of passive rather than active voice and awkward noun constructions rather than gerunds), pretentious diction and meaningless words. He insists that a careful, thoughtful writer wiU always ask six essential questions about everything he writes: “What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is unavoidably ugly?” It’s worth noting, as OrweU would say, that he enlivens his essay on the evils of bad writing with a number of striking satirical simUes. He compares dead language to tea-leaves blocking a sink, to soft snow blurring sharp outlines, to cuttlefish spurting out ink, and to cavalry horses mechanicaUy answering the caU of a bugle. OrweU’s six stylistic rules (he seems fond of the number six) are worth repeating and should be carved in stone above every writer’s desk: i. Never use a metaphor, simUe or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do. iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active. 108 Jeffrey Meyers V. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. As we aU know from the speeches we hear every day, it is possible to obey aU these rules and write persuasively, with aU the appearance of clarity and strength, yet stiU be an outrageous liar. In his rules for writing, OrweU assumes that the author wants to teU the truth. He believed that the consistent and courageous attempt to find the simplest and most direct way of communicating an idea would keep a person honest. In an observation that also describes govemment propaganda today, he concludes that in his time “poUtical speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.” Perhaps the most appealing quality of this essay is OrweU’s daring to suggest that politics doesn’t have to be dirty, and that the language we use can be a powerful force for order and understanding, for choosing the right thing to do. In his “Imaginary Interview” with Jonathan Sv^aft, pubUshed in the Listener November 1942, OrweU said that “Gulliver’s Travels has meant more to me than any other book ever written. I can’t remember when I first read it, I must have been eight years old at the most, and it’s lived with me ever since so that I suppose a year has never passed without my re-reading at least part of it.” Swift, a major infiuenee on OrweU’s ideas about writing, also wrote three important essays about the need to preserve clear style and eliminate corrupt language. In “On Corruptions of Style” (1710)—essential reading for anyone who wants to write good prose—Swift, like Hobbes, foUowed the tradition of English plain style. He attacked senseless, convoluted “wit” and condemned “aU Words and Phrases that are offensive to good Sense.” Swift’s “Proposal for Correcting the English Tongue” (1712) unrealisticaUy hoped to arrest the decline of language and preserve (his editor wrote) “a sanctioned standard language, in order to give permanent life to aU vmtten records.” Anticipating OrweU’s plan in “New Words” to create an informal academy to study language. Swift proposed a strict English Academy (modeled on the weU estabUshed Academy in France) dedicated to eliminating useless words. They “will observe many gross 109 The Kenyon Review Improprieties, which however authorized by Practice, and grown famUiar, ought to be discarded. They wiU find many Words that deserve to be utterly throviTi out of our Language; many more to be corrected.” In his “Letter to a Young Gendeman, lately entered into Holy Orders” (1721), Swift, an old gentleman, long in holy orders, expressed his clearest ideas about style, which he classicaUy defined as “Proper Words in proper Places.” (In “New Words” OrweU, echoing Swift, defines good style as “taking the right words and putting them in place.”) Swift emphasized clarity, particularly disliked the “Use of obscure Terms” and urged the young clergyman to address his congregation “in a manner to be understood by the meanest among them.” OrweU’s “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels” considers “the inter-connection between Swift’s political loyalties and his ultimate despair” and “the relationship between agreement vwth a vmter’s opinions, and enjoyment of his work.” He discusses the changes in GuUiver’s character in the four parts of this rancorous, reactionary, and pessimistic book, as weU as Swift’s hatred of the human body, his paradoxical denunciation of oppression but dislike of democracy, his reverence for the past, lack of beUef in religion or progress, and his scorn for humanity. For OrwcU the most significant aspect of Gulliver’s Travels and “Swift’s greatest contribution to poUtical thought” is his attack on totalitarianism: “He has an extraordinarily clear prevision of the spyhaunted ‘police State,’ with its endless heresy-hunts and treason trials.” Swift had a profound impact on OrweU’s poHtical fiction. Taking a hint from Swift’s rational horses, he idealized the horses in Animal Farm, and transformed Swift’s Floating Island of Laputa into the Floating Fortress in Nineteen Eighty-Four. He mentions that books were written by machinery in Gulliver’s Travels and in “The Prevention of Literature” says it would “not be beyond human ingenuity to write books by machinery.” OrweU, Uke Swift, was a “Tory anarchist,” a revolutionary in love with the past, but he was not a complete pessimist. In “Why I Write” OrweU states: “So long as I remain alive and weU I shaU continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects.” In “PoUtics vs. Literature,” by contrast, he emphasizes Swift’s inability “to believe that life—ordinary life on the solid earth . . .—could be made worth living.” 110 Jeffrey Meyers OrweU owned hundreds of poUtical pamphlets, and in his essay on pamphlet literature, published in 1943, he exelaimed: “The pamphlet ought to be the Uterary form of an age like our own. We live in a time when poUtical passions run high, channels of free expression are dwindling, and organised lying exists on a scale never before known. For plugging the holes in history the pamphlet is the ideal form.” His introduction to a co-authored anthology British Pamphleteers (1948) advocates (Uke “Good Bad Books”) another minor but valuable kind of writing. Closely connected—in comparative method and argument—to “PoUtics and the English Language,” it forcefuUy laments the current decay of English and the corresponding decline of the pamphlet. After defining the topical and polemical pamphlet, rarely concerned with evidence or truth and essentially a protest expressed through exuberant argument and scurrilous attacks, he sums up the horrors of capitaUsm in a single, rhetoricaUy effective sentence. “Wherever one looks,” he exclaims, “one sees fiercer struggles than the Crusades, worse tyrannies than the Inquisition, and bigger lies than the Popish Plot.” His age (like ours) cries out for poUtical pamphlets but the form, to OrweU’s deep regret, has virtuaUy died out. OrweU’s political point of view informed aU his criticism and fiction. “Why I Write,” his retrospective artistic credo, begins with a brief account of his early life, including a description of his first novel, Burmese Days, in order to explain his four great motives for writing: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. In a letter of 1938 he added, in amusingly cynical American diction, “puUing in the dough.” He might also have mentioned, as he did in a review of John Galsworthy, “some inner trouble, sharpening his sensitiveness,” that gave him the urge to write. He caUed the Spanish CivU War, in which he fought on the Loyalist side and was shot through the throat, the great tuming point in his life. After that, he said, every line of his serious work—and in his view no work could be serious without a poUtical purpose—^was written “against totalitarianism and/or democratic Socialism.” His conscious aim was to transform “political writing into an art.” Most of OrweU’s essays on writing—^particularly “New Words,” “The Frontiers of Art and Propaganda,” and “Politics and the English Language”—^prefigure the ideas that he dramatized in Nineteen EightyFour. Fond of making poUtical prophecies and honesdy wiUing to admit 111 The Kenyon Review his mistakes, OrweU urged readers to keep a diary—as Winston Smith does in the novel—^not only to recover and preserve the past, but also to maintain an accurate perspective on the truth: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. One thing that helps towards it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one’s opinions about important events. Otherwise, when some particularly absurd belief is exploded by events, one may simply forget that one ever held it.” Like Gordon Comstock in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Winston Smith is absorbed into the hateful system he’d once opposed, and expresses his anxiety in two kinds of composition. He professionally destroys the work of others while secretly writing his own work. In his job Winston alters the records of the past to fit Party policy. In private, he writes on the creamy paper of an old diary with an old-fashioned pen and ink. The first kind of writing (like OrweU’s at the BBC) is mechanical and exhausting, the second (Hke OrweU’s own creative writing) is psychologically liberating, but also sets off disturbing memories and dreams. The first is systematic lying in Newspeak, the second a passionate search for truth in Oldspeak. OrweU contrasts the mindless, bureaucratic attitude Winston needs to do this work with his panic at the blank sheet of paper, his poor handwriting, his mental and emotional confusion when he starts writing for himself. Winston’s work forces him to practice “doublethink,” the ability to hold simultaneously two contradictory opinions which cancel each other out. Winston has to beUeve that he’s rectifying errors, yet also knows that he’s falsifying information. Each kind of vmting forces him to find a plausible formula to disguise the truth. Winston is manipulated by the system and, in his role of Outer Party inteUectual, is also part of the system that manipulates others. The word “OrweUian” constantly appeared in 2003, OrweU’s centenary year, and has become essential to our political discourse. But the term is ambiguous. In the negative sense, it stands for the kind of oppressive totalitarian regime that he created in Nineteen Eighty-Four, especiaUy political manipulation of the media to deceive the public. In the positive sense, it suggests the personal honesty, bravery, and idealism in both his life and his writing. For OrweU, writing has two essential aspects. The first concerns an individual writer (Uke Winston Smith) who sits down alone to communicate his most secret thoughts, even to an 112 Jeffrey Meyers unknown future reader. He must have courage and dedication, and an optimistic belief in his ov^n ideas. The second concerns the writer’s desire and power to ameliorate society. For OrweU clear language and independent thought were an aesthetic as weU as a moral responsibUity. IronicaUy, OrweU’s subde and moraUy acute lessons on how to read and write have been misunderstood and misappUed after his death. Neoconservatives have singled out his warnings about the totalitarian aspects of the Socialist state and claimed him as one of their own. Recent accounts of the Cold War described Nineteen Eighty-Four as “the canonical text” of conservative anticommunism, as “the key imaginative manifesto of the Cold War” and gave OrweU credit for having “invented . . . a complete poetics of poUtical invective.” WiUfuUy obscuring the complexity of its vision, they reduce the novel to a clever piece of propaganda. More grotesquely, the John Birch Society used to seU his novel in its Washington office and even used 1984 as the last digits of its telephone number. Since OrweU himself was so scrupulous about his ovra limitations as a poUtical observer and criticized the Left as sharply as the Right, it is easy to cite his ideas out of context and simply ignore his professed belief in democratic Socialism. Like devout Mormons baptizing their helpless ancestors, the Neocons, by trying to co-opt him, have missed the whole point of his life and work. In an anxious, atheistic age Uke our own, he resisted the temptation to submit to religious or poUtical dogma, and believed that ordinary people had to participate in the conduct of poUtical life. Despite his vast infiuenee, OrweU was never part of a movement, and remained a solitary, individualistic writer with a stubborn message: think for yourself and write the truth. In a famous statement the eighteenth-century French naturaUst Count Buffon said: “The style is the man himself.” Like his hero Jonathan Swift and other writers of the Enlightenment, OrweU derived his clear style from moral integrity. There was in OrweU an unusual consistency between the gritty, combative persona that emanates from his lucid writing and his courageous, civiUzed, and inteUectuaUy truthful character. His description of Charles Dickens, another of his Uterary heroes, appUes equaUy to himself: “In every page of his work one can see a consciousness that society is wrong somewhere at the root. . . . The strongest single 113 The Kenyon Review impression one carries away from his books is that of a hatred of tyranny. . . . As a matter of course he is on the side of the underdog, always and everywhere.” Dickens, OrweU observes, has “the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry—. . . a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by aU the smeUy little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.” Irving Howe summed up OrweU as “craggy, fiercely polemical, sometimes mistaken, but an utterly free man. In his readiness to stand alone and take on aU comers, he was a model for every writer of our age.” OrweU belongs with Johnson, Blake, and Lawrence in the great English tradition of prophetic moralists. Works Cited Amis, Kingsley. Socialism and the Intellectuals. London: Fabian Society, 1957. Flaubert, Gustave. Selected Letters. Ed. and trans. Franeus SteegmuUer. New York: Vintage, 1953. Gleason, Abbot. Thtcditarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War. New York: Oxford UP, 1955. Gross, Miriam, ed. The World of George Orwell. London: Weidenfeld & Nieolson, 1971. Henderson, Peter, “W. Somerset Maugham,” Cantuarian (King’s School, Canterbury), August 1989. Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Ed. Michael Oakshott. 1651; New York: Collier, 1962. Inglis, Fred. The Cruel Peace. New York: Basic Books, 1991. Katka, Franz. Letters to Friends, Family and Editors. Trans. Richard and Clara Winston. New York: Schocken, 1977. Lewis, Wyndham. One-Way Song. London: Faber and Faber, 1933. Mailer, Norman, “Orwell in 1984.” Arena Television. Typescript in Orwell Archive, University College London, n.d. Maugham, W. Somerset. The Summing Up. 1938; London: Pan, 1977. Meyers, Jeffrey, ed. George Orwell: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Orwell, George. Complete Works. Ed. Peter Davison. 20 volumes. London: Seeker & Warburg, 1998. Swift, Jonathan. A Proposal for Correcting the English Tbngue, Polite Conversation, Etc. Ed. Herbert Davis and Louis Landa. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1957. Swift, Jonathan. Satires and Personal Writings. Ed. William Alfred Eddy. London: Oxford UP, 1958. 114 Copyright of Kenyon Review is the property of Kenyon Review and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.Orwell Revisited: Privacy in the Age of Surveillance By John W. Whitehead June 17, 2013“You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”—George Orwell, 1984 There’s a reason George Orwell’s 1984 is a predominant theme in my new book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State (available now on and in stores on June 25). It’s the same reason Orwell’s dystopian thriller about a futuristic surveillance society has skyrocketed to the top of book charts in the wake of recent revelations by former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden that the nefarious spy agency is collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers, with the complete blessing of the Obama administration. “To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone— to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink — greetings! ” ― George Orwell Orwell understood what many Americans, caught up in their partisan flagwaving, are still struggling to come to terms with: that there is no such thing as a government organized for the good of the people—even the best intentions among those in government inevitably give way to the desire to maintain power and control at all costs. As Orwell explains: The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me. The fact that the U.S. government now has at its disposal a technological arsenal so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void, and these technologies are being used by the government to invade the privacy of the American people should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention over the past decade. Spearheaded by the NSA, which has shown itself to care little for constitutional limits or privacy, the “security/industrial complex”—a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance—has come to dominate our government and our lives. At three times the size of the CIA, constituting one third of the intelligence budget and with its own global spy network to boot, the NSA has a long history of spying on Americans, whether or not it has always had the authorization to do so. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”―George Orwell, Animal Farm What many fail to realize, however, is that the government is not operating alone. It cannot. It requires an accomplice. Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of our massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental bureaucracy. For example, USA Today reports that five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the homeland security business was booming to such an extent that it eclipsed mature enterprises like movie-making and the music industry in annual revenue. This security spending by the government to private corporations is forecast to exceed $1 trillion in the near future. Money, power, control. There is no shortage of motives fueling the convergence of mega-corporations and government. But who is paying the price? The American people, of course, and you can be sure that it will take a toll on more than our pocketbooks. “You have government on a holy mission to ramp up information gathering and you have an information technology industry desperate for new markets,” says Peter Swire, the nation’s first privacy counselor in the Clinton Administration. “Once this is done, you will have unprecedented snooping abilities. What will happen to our private lives if we’re under constant surveillance?” We’re at that point now. “Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”—George Orwell Americans have been conditioned to accept routine incursions on their privacy rights. However, at one time, the idea of a total surveillance state tracking one’s every move would have been abhorrent to most Americans. That all changed with the 9/11 attacks. As professor Jeffrey Rosen observes, “Before Sept. 11, the idea that Americans would voluntarily agree to live their lives under the gaze of a network of biometric surveillance cameras, peering at them in government buildings, shopping malls, subways and stadiums, would have seemed unthinkable, a dystopian fantasy of a society that had surrendered privacy and anonymity.” We have, so to speak, gone from being a nation where privacy is king to one where nothing is safe from the prying eyes of government. In search of terrorists hiding amongst us–the proverbial “needle in a haystack,” as one official termed it–the government has taken to monitoring all aspects of our lives, from cell phone calls and emails to Internet activity and credit card transactions. Much of this data is being fed through fusion centers across the country. These are state and regional intelligence centers that collect data on you. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”―George Orwell Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are now being watched– especially if you leave behind an electronic footprint. When you use your cell phone, you leave a record of when the call was placed, who you called, how long it lasted and even where you were at the time. When you use your ATM card, you leave a record of where and when you used the card. There is even a video camera at most locations. When you drive a car enabled with GPS, you can be tracked by satellite. And all of this once-private information about your consumer habits, your whereabouts and your activities is now being fed to the U.S. government. As I document in A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the government has nearly inexhaustible resources when it comes to tracking our movements, from electronic wiretapping devices, traffic cameras and biometrics to radio-frequency identification cards, satellites and Internet surveillance. “Big Brother is Watching You.”―George Orwell Speech recognition technology now makes it possible for the government to carry out massive eavesdropping by way of sophisticated computer systems. Phone calls can be monitored, the audio converted to text files and stored in computer databases indefinitely. And if any “threatening” words are detected–no matter how inane or silly–the record can be flagged and assigned to a government agent for further investigation. And in recent years, federal and state governments, as well as private corporations, have been amassing tools aimed at allowing them to monitor Internet content. Users are profiled and tracked in order to identify, target and even prosecute them. In such a climate, everyone is a suspect. And you’re guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. To underscore this shift in how the government now views its citizens, just before leaving office, President Bush granted the FBI wide-ranging authority to investigate individuals or groups, regardless of whether they are suspected of criminal activity. “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull. ” ― George Orwell Here’s what a lot of people fail to understand, however: it’s not just what you say or do that is being monitored, but how you think that is being tracked and targeted. We’ve already seen this play out on the state and federal level with hate crime legislation that cracks down on so-called “hateful” thoughts and expression, encourages self-censoring and reduces free debate on various subject matter. Total Internet surveillance is merely the next logical step in the government’s attempts to predict and, more importantly, control the populace–and it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. For example, the NSA is now designing an artificial intelligence system that is designed to anticipate your every move. In a nutshell, the NSA will feed vast amounts of the information it collects to a computer system known as Aquaint (the acronym stands for Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence), which the computer can then use to detect patterns and predict behavior. No information is sacred or spared. Everything from cell phone recordings and logs, to emails, to text messages, to personal information posted on social networking sites, to credit card statements, to library circulation records, to credit card histories, etc., is collected by the NSA. One NSA researcher actually quit the Aquaint program, “citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.” Thus, what we are witnessing, in the so-called name of security and efficiency, is the creation of a new class system comprised of the watched (average Americans such as you and me) and the watchers (government bureaucrats, technicians and private corporations). Clearly, the age of privacy in America is coming to a close. If Orwell’s predictions prove true, what follows will be even worse. “If you want a picture of the future,” he forewarned, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” URL: orwell_revisited_privacy_in_the_age_of_surveillanceScholarly Orwell Article 2003 HONEST, DECENT, WRONG Author(s): Louis Menand Source: The New Yorker. 78.44 (Jan. 27, 2003): p084. From Academic OneFile. Document Type: Article Full Text: All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of The Conde Nast Publications Inc. Full Text: Louis Menand discusses George Orwell and his legacy “Animal Farm,” George Orwell’s satire, which became the Cold War “Candide,” was finished in 1944, the high point of the Soviet-Western alliance against fascism. It was a warning against dealing with Stalin and, in the circumstances, a prescient book. Orwell had trouble finding a publisher, though, and by the time the book finally appeared, in August, 1945, the month of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, the Cold War was already on the horizon. “Animal Farm” was an instant success in England and the United States. It was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; it was quickly translated into many languages and distributed, in some countries, by the United States government; and it made Orwell, who had spent most of his life scraping by, famous and rich. “1984,” published four years later, had even greater success. Orwell was fatally ill with pulmonary tuberculosis when he wrote it, and he died in January, 1950. He was forty-six. The revision began almost immediately. Frances Stonor Saunders, in her fascinating study “The Cultural Cold War,” reports that right after Orwell’s death the C.I.A. (Howard Hunt was the agent on the case) secretly bought the film rights to “Animal Farm” from his widow, Sonia, and had an animated-film version produced in England, which it distributed throughout the world. The book’s final scene, in which the pigs (the Bolsheviks, in Orwell’s allegory) can no longer be distinguished from the animals’ previous exploiters, the humans (the capitalists), was omitted. A new ending was provided, in which the animals storm the farmhouse where the pigs have moved and liberate themselves all over again. The great enemy of propaganda was subjected, after his death, to the deceptions and evasions of propaganda–and by the very people, American Cold Warriors, who would canonize him as the great enemy of propaganda. Howard Hunt at least kept the story pegged to the history of the Soviet Union, which is what Orwell intended. Virtually every detail in “Animal Farm” allegorizes some incident in that history: the Kronstadt rebellion, the five-year plan, the Moscow trials, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Tehran conference. But although Orwell didn’t want Communism, he didn’t want capitalism, either. This part of his thought was carefully elided, and “Animal Farm” became a warning against political change per se. It remains so today. The cover of the current Harcourt paperback glosses the contents as follows: As ferociously fresh as it was more than half a century ago, “Animal Farm” is a parable about would-be liberators everywhere. As we witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals through the lens of our own history, we see the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organizations; and in our most charismatic leaders, the souls of our cruelest oppressors. This is the opposite of what Orwell intended. But almost everything in the popular understanding of Orwell is a distortion of what he really thought and the kind of writer he was. Writers are not entirely responsible for their admirers. It is unlikely that Jane Austen, if she were here today, would wish to become a member of the Jane Austen Society. In his lifetime, George Orwell was regarded, even by his friends, as a contrary man. It was said that the closer you got to him the colder and more critical he became. As a writer, he was often hardest on his allies. He was a middle-class intellectual who despised the middle class and was contemptuous of intellectuals, a Socialist whose abuse of Socialists–“all that dreary tribe of highminded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking toward the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat”–was as vicious as any Tory’s. He preached solidarity, but he had the habits of a dropout, and the works for which he is most celebrated, “Animal Farm,” “1984,” and the essay “Politics and the English Language,” were attacks on people who purported to share his political views. He was not looking to make friends. But after his death he suddenly acquired an army of fans–all middle-class intellectuals eager to suggest that a writer who approved of little would have approved of them. Orwell’s army is one of the most ideologically mixed up ever to assemble. John Rodden, whose “George Orwell: The Politics of Literary Reputation” was published in 1989 and recently reprinted, with a new introduction (Transaction; $30), has catalogued it exhaustively. It has included, over the years, ex-Communists, Socialists, left-wing anarchists, right-wing libertarians, liberals, conservatives, doves, hawks, the Partisan Review editorial board, and the John Birch Society: every group in a different uniform, but with the same button pinned to the lapel– Orwell Was Right. Irving Howe claimed Orwell, and so did Norman Podhoretz. Almost the only thing Orwell’s posthumous admirers have in common, besides the button, is anti-Communism. But they all somehow found support for their particular bouquet of moral and political values in Orwell’s writings, which have been universally praised as “honest,” “decent,” and “clear.” In what sense, though, can writings that have been taken to mean so many incompatible things be called “clear”? And what, exactly, was Orwell right about? Indifferent to his own person as Orwell genuinely was, his writing is essentially personal. He put himself at the center of all his nonfiction books and many of his essays, and he often used personal anecdotes in his political journalism to make, or reinforce, his points. He never figured himself as the hero of these stories, in part because his tendency to self-abnegation was fairly remorseless. But selfabnegation was perhaps the most seductive aspect of the persona he devised. Orwell had the rare talent for making readers feel that they were dealing not with a reporter or a columnist or a literary man–not with a writer–but with an ordinary person. His method for making people believe what he wrote was to make them believe, first of all, in him. He was a writer, of course–he was a graphomaniac, in fact: writing was what he lived for–and there was not much that was ordinary about him. He was born, a hundred years ago, in Bengal, where his father was a sub-agent in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service, and he came to England when he was one, and was brought up there by his mother. (The family name was Blair, and Orwell’s given name was Eric.) Orwell’s father visited the family for three months in 1907, engaging in domestic life with sufficient industry to leave his wife pregnant, and did not come back until 1912. By then, Orwell was boarding as a scholarship student at St. Cyprian’s, the school he wrote about, many years later, in the essay “Such, Such Were the Joys.” He studied hard and won a scholarship to Eton, and it was there that he began his career in self-denial. He deliberately slacked off, finishing a hundred and thirty-eighth in a class of a hundred and sixty-seven, and then, instead of taking the exams for university, joined the Imperial Police and went to Burma, the scene of the essays “A Hanging” and “Shooting an Elephant.” In 1927, after five years in Burma, while on leave in England and with no employment prospects, he resigned. He spent the next four years as a tramp and an itinerant worker, experiences that became the basis for “Down and Out in Paris and London,” the first work to appear under the pen name George Orwell, in 1933. He taught school briefly, worked in a bookstore (the subject of the essay “Bookshop Memories”), and spent two months travelling around the industrial districts in the North of England gathering material for “The Road to Wigan Pier,” which came out in 1937. Orwell spent the first half of 1937 fighting with the Loyalists in Spain, where he was shot in the throat by a fascist sniper, and where he witnessed the brutal Communist suppression of the revolutionary parties in the Republican alliance. His account of these events, “Homage to Catalonia,” which appeared in 1938, was, indeed, brave and iconoclastic (though not the only work of its kind), and it established Orwell in the position that he would maintain for the rest of his life, as the leading anti-Stalinist writer of the British left. During the war, Orwell took a job with the Indian section of the BBC’s Eastern Service, where he produced and, with T. S. Eliot, William Empson, Louis MacNeice, and other distinguished writers, delivered radio talks, mostly on literary subjects, intended to rally the support of Indians for the British war effort. For the first time since 1927, he received the salary he had once enjoyed as a policeman in Burma, but he regarded the work as propaganda–he felt, he said, like “an orange that’s been trodden on by a very dirty boot”–and, in 1943, he quit. He worked for a while as literary editor and as a columnist at the Tribune, a Socialist paper edited by Aneurin Bevan, the leader of the left wing of the Labour Party in Britain and a man Orwell admired. In 1946, after the success of “Animal Farm,” and knowing that he was desperately ill with lung disease, he removed himself to one of the dankest places in the British Isles: the island of Jura, off the coast of Scotland. When he was not too sick to type, he sat in a room all day smoking black shag tobacco, and writing “1984.” His biographers have noted that the life of Winston Smith at the Ministry of Truth in that novel is based in part on Orwell’s own career (as he experienced it) at the BBC. Room 101, the torture chamber in the climactic scene, was the name of the room where the Eastern Service held compulsory committee meetings. Orwell (is it necessary to say?) hated committees. His first wife, Eileen, with whom he adopted a son, died in 1945. He proposed to several women thereafter, sometimes suggesting, as an inducement, that he would probably die soon and leave his widow with a valuable estate; but he struck out. Then, in 1949, when he really was on his deathbed, he married Sonia Brownell, a woman whose sex appeal was widely appreciated. Brownell had slept with Orwell once, in 1945, apparently from the mixed motives of pity and the desire to sleep with famous writers, one of her hobbies. The marriage was performed in a hospital room; Orwell died three months later. He ended up selling more books than any other serious writer of the twentieth century– “Animal Farm” and “1984” were together translated into more than sixty languages; in 1973, English-language editions of “1984” were still selling at a rate of 1,340 copies a day–and he left all his royalties to Sonia. She squandered them and died more or less in poverty, in 1980. Today, Orwell’s gravesite, in a churchyard in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, is tended by volunteers. Orwell has been posthumously psychoanalyzed, but there is no great mystery behind the choices he made in his life. He explained his motive plainly and repeatedly in his writing: he wanted to de-class himself. From his days at St. Cyprian’s, and possibly even earlier, he saw the class system as a system of oppression–and nothing but a system of oppression. The guilt (his term) that he felt about his position as a member of the white imperialist bourgeoisie preceded his interest in politics as such. He spent much of his time criticizing professional Socialists, particularly the leaders of the British Labour Party, because, apart from the commitment to equality, there was not much about Socialism that was important to him. His economics were rudimentary, and he had little patience for the temporizing that ordinary politics requires. In 1945, after Germany surrendered, Churchill and the Conservatives were voted out and a Labour government came in (with Bevan as Minister of Health). In less than a year, Orwell was complaining that no steps had been taken to abolish the House of Lords. He didn’t merely go on adventures in class-crossing. He turned his life into an experiment in classlessness, and the intensity of his commitment to that experiment was the main reason that his friends and colleagues found him a perverse and sometimes exasperating man. His insistence on living in uncomfortable conditions, his refusal (despite his bad lungs) to wear a hat or coat in winter, his habit of pouring his tea into the saucer and slurping it noisily (in the working-class manner) struck his friends not as colorful eccentricities but as reproaches directed at their own bourgeois addiction to comfort and decorum. Which they were. Orwell was a brilliant and cultured man, with an Eton accent and an anomalous, vaguely French mustache, who wore the same beat-up tweed jacket nearly every day, made (very badly) his own furniture, and lived, most of the time, one step up from squalor. He read Joyce and kept a goat in the back yard. He was completely authentic and completely inauthentic at the same time– a man who believed that to write honestly he needed to publish under a false name. Orwell’s writing is effortlessly compelling. He was in the tradition of writers who– as Leslie Stephen said of Defoe–understand that there is a literary fascination in a clear recitation of the facts. There is much more to Orwell than this, though. As Christopher Hitchens points out in “Why Orwell Matters” (Basic; $24), a book more critical of Orwell than the title might suggest, “Homage to Catalonia” survives as a model of political journalism, and “Animal Farm” and “1984” belong permanently to the literature of resistance. Whatever uses they were made to serve in the West, they gave courage to people in the East. The territory that Orwell covered in “Down and Out in Paris and London” and “The Road to Wigan Pier”–the lower-class extremes–was by no means new to nonfiction prose. Engels wrote about it feelingly in “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844”; Jacob Riis studied it in “How the Other Half Lives.” But Orwell discovered a tone–“generous anger” is the phrase he once used to describe Dickens, and it has been applied to him, but “cool indignation” seems a little more accurate–that has retained its freshness after seventy years. Orwell’s essays have recently been collected, with exceptional thoroughness, by John Carey (Everyman; $35). The essay on Dickens, published in 1940, is weaker criticism than Edmund Wilson’s “Dickens: The Two Scrooges,” which came out the same year. But Orwell’s essay on Henry Miller, “Inside the Whale,” which also appeared in 1940, was original and unexpected. His personal essays, especially “Shooting an Elephant” and “Such, Such Were the Joys,” are models of the form. Still, his qualities as a writer are obscured by the need of his admirers to claim for his work impossible virtues. Honesty was important to Orwell. He was certainly quick enough to accuse people he disagreed with of dishonesty. But there is sometimes a confusion, when people talk about Orwell’s writing, between honesty and objectivity. “He said what he believed” and “He told it like it was” refer to different virtues. One of the effects of the tone Orwell achieved–the tone of a reasonable, modest, supremely undogmatic man, hoping for the best but resigned to the worst–was the impression of transparency, something that Orwell himself, in an essay called “Why I Write,” identified as the ideal of good prose. It was therefore a shock when Bernard Crick, in the first major biography of Orwell, authorized by Sonia Orwell and published the year of her death, confessed that he had found it difficult to corroborate some of the incidents in Orwell’s autobiographical writings. Jeffrey Meyers, whose biography “Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation” came out in 2000, concluded that Orwell sometimes “heightened reality to achieve dramatic effects.” Crick has doubts that the event Orwell recounted in remarkably fine detail in “A Hanging”–he describes the condemned man stepping aside to avoid a puddle of water on his way to the scaffold–ever happened, and Meyers notes that, during his years as a tramp, Orwell would take time off to rest and write in the homes of family and friends, something he does not mention in “Down and Out in Paris and London,” where the narrator is sometimes on the verge of death by starvation. Both Crick and Meyers suspect that “Shooting an Elephant” has fabricated elements. And everything that Orwell wrote was inflected by his predilection for the worm’s-eye view. When biographers asked Orwell’s contemporaries what it was really like at St. Cyprian’s, or in Burma, or working at the bookshop, the usual answer was “It was bad, but it wasn’t that bad.” The point is not that Orwell made things up. The point is that he used writing in a literary, not a documentary, way: he wrote in order to make you see what he wanted you to see, to persuade. During the war, Orwell began contributing a “London Letter” to Partisan Review. In one letter, he wrote that park railings in London were being torn down for scrap metal, but that only working-class neighborhoods were being plundered; parks and squares in upper-class neighborhoods, he reported, were untouched. The story, Crick says, was widely circulated. When a friend pointed out that it was untrue, Orwell is supposed to have replied that it didn’t matter, “it was essentially true.” You need to grasp Orwell’s premises, in other words, before you can start talking about the “truth” of what he writes. He is not saying, This is the way it objectively was from any possible point of view. He is saying, This is the way it looked to someone with my beliefs. Otherwise, his work can be puzzling. “Down and Out in Paris and London” is a powerful book, but you are always wondering what this obviously decent, well-read, talented person is doing washing dishes in the kitchen of a Paris hotel. In “The Road to Wigan Pier,” Orwell gave the reader some help with this problem by explaining, at length, where he came from, what his views were, and why he went to live with the miners. Orwell was not a reporter or a sociologist. He was an advocate. He had very definite political opinions, and promoting them was his reason for writing. “No book is genuinely free of political bias,” he asserted in “Why I Write.” “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.” Here we arrive at the challenge presented by the “Orwell Was Right” button. Hitchens says that there were three great issues in the twentieth century, and that Orwell was right on all three: imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. What does this mean, though? Orwell was against imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. Excellent. Many people were against them in Orwell’s time, and a great many more people have been against them since. The important question, after condemning those things, was what to do about them, and how to understand the implications for the future. On this level, Orwell was almost always wrong. Orwell thought that any Englishman who boasted of liberty and prosperity while India was still a colony was a hypocrite. “In order that England may live in comparative comfort, a hundred million Indians must live on the verge of starvation–an evil state of affairs, but you acquiesce in it every time you step into a taxi or eat a plate of strawberries and cream,” he wrote in “The Road to Wigan Pier.” Still, he did not believe that India was capable of complete independence, and was still saying so as late as 1943. At first, he had the idea that the British Empire should be turned into “a federation of Socialist states, like a looser and freer version of the Union of Soviet Republics,” but eventually he arrived at another solution. In 1943, entering a controversy in the pages of the Tribune over the future of Burma, which had been invaded by Japan, he laid out his position. The notion of an independent Burma, he explained, was as ludicrous as the notion of an independent Lithuania or Luxembourg. To grant those countries independence would be to create a bunch of “comic opera states,” he wrote. “The plain fact is that small nationalities cannot be independent, because they cannot defend themselves.” The answer was to place “the whole main-land of south-east Asia, together with Formosa, under the guidance of China, while leaving the islands under an Anglo-American-Dutch condominium.” Orwell was against colonial exploitation, in other words, but not in favor of national selfdetermination. If this is anti-imperialism, make the most of it. Orwell took a particular dislike to Gandhi. He referred to him, in private correspondence, as a “bit of a charlatan”; in 1943, he wrote that “there is indeed a sort of apocalyptic truth in the statement of the German radio that the teachings of Hitler and Gandhi are the same.” One of his last essays was on Gandhi, written two years after India, and one year after Burma, became independent, and a year after Gandhi’s assassination. It is a grudging piece of writing. The method of Satyagraha, Orwell said, might have been effective against the British, but he was doubtful about its future as a tactic for political struggle. (A few years later, Martin Luther King, Jr., would find a use for it.) He confessed to “a sort of aesthetic distaste” for Gandhi himself–Gandhi was, after all, just the sort of sandal-wearing, vegetarian mystic Orwell had always abhorred–and he attributed the success of the Indian independence movement as much to the election of a Labour government in Britain as to Gandhi’s efforts. “I have never been able to feel much liking for Gandhi, but I do not feel sure that as a political thinker he was wrong in the main, nor do I believe that his life was a failure” was the most that he could bring himself to say. Hitler, on the other hand, Orwell did find personally appealing. “I have never been able to dislike Hitler,” he admitted, in 1940. Hitler, it seems, “grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life,” which Orwell called the attitude of “nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought.” This response–the idea that fascism, whatever might be wrong with it, is at least about the necessity of struggle and self-sacrifice–is not that far from the response of the relatively few people in England (there were more in France) who actively endorsed fascism. Orwell was opposed to Nazi Germany. But he thought that Britain, as an imperial power, had no moral right to go to war against Hitler, and he was sure that a war would make Britain fascist. This is a theme in his novel “Coming Up for Air,” which was published in 1939, and that winter he was urging friends to begin planning “illegal anti-war activities.” He thought that it would be a good idea to set up an underground antiwar organization, in anticipation of what he called the “pre-war fascising processes,” and predicted that he would end up in a British concentration camp because of his views. He kept up his antiwar agitation until August, 1939. Then, with the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, he flipped completely. In “The Lion and the Unicorn,” in 1941, he accused British antiwar intellectuals of “sabotage.” They had become “Europeanized”; they sneered at patriotism. (This from a man who, two years earlier, had been proposing an illegal campaign against government policy.) They had weakened the morale of the English people, “so that the Fascist nations judged that they were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war. . . . Ten years of systematic Blimpbaiting affected even the Blimps themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces.” The prediction of a fascist Britain had evidently been forgotten. What were Orwell’s political opinions? Orwell was a revolutionary Socialist. That is, he hoped that there would be a Socialist revolution in England, and, as he said more than once, if violence was necessary, violence there should be. “I dare say the London gutters will have to run with blood,” he wrote in “My Country Right or Left,” in 1940. And a year later, in “The Lion and the Unicorn,” “It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. . . . Whether it happens with or without bloodshed is largely an accident of time and place.” Orwell had concluded long before that capitalism had failed unambiguously, and he never changed his opinion. He thought that Hitler’s military success on the Continent proved once and for all the superiority of a planned economy. “It is not certain that Socialism is in all ways superior to capitalism, but it is certain that, unlike capitalism, it can solve the problems of production and consumption,” he wrote. “The State simply calculates what goods will be needed and does its best to produce them.” A Socialist England, as Orwell described it, would be a classless society with virtually no private property. The State would own everything, and would require “that nobody shall live without working.” Orwell thought that perhaps fifteen acres of land, “at the very most,” might be permitted, presumably to allow subsistence farming, but that there would be no ownership of land in town areas. Incomes would be equalized, so that the highest income would never be greater than ten times the lowest. Above that, the tax rate should be a hundred per cent. The House of Lords would be abolished, though Orwell thought that the monarchy might be preserved. (Everybody would drink at the same pub, presumably, but one of the blokes would get to wear a crown.) As for its foreign policy: a Socialist state “will not have the smallest scruple about attacking hostile neutrals or stirring up native rebellions in enemy colonies.” Orwell was not a cultural radical. Democracy and moral decency (once the blood was cleaned off the pavement, anyway) were central to his vision of Socialism. His admirers remembered the democracy and the decency, and managed to forget most of the rest. When “Homage to Catalonia” was finally published in the United States, in 1952, Lionel Trilling wrote an introduction, which Jeffrey Meyers has called “probably the most influential essay on Orwell.” It is a work of short fiction. “Orwell clung with a kind of wry, grim pride to the old ways of the last class that had ruled the old order,” Trilling wrote; he exemplified the meaning of the phrase “my station and its duties,” and respected “the old bourgeois virtues.” He even “came to love things, material possessions.” A fully housebroken antiCommunist. It is amusing to imagine Orwell slurping his tea at the Columbia Faculty House. Understanding Orwell’s politics helps to explain that largely inaccurate prediction about postwar life “1984.” There was, Hitchens points out, an enormous blind spot in Orwell’s view of the world: the United States. Orwell never visited the United States and, as Hitchens says, showed little curiosity about what went on there. To the extent that he gave it any attention, he tended to regard the United States as vulgar, materialistic, and a threat to the English language. (“Many Americans pronounce . . . water as though it had not in it, or even as though it had no consonant in it at all, except the w,” he claimed. “On the whole we are justified in regarding the American language with suspicion.”) He thought that, all things considered, Britain was better off as a client-state of Washington than as a client-state of Moscow, but he did not look on an increased American role in the world with hope. Since Orwell was certain that capitalism was doomed, the only future he could imagine for the United States was as some sort of totalitarian regime. He laid out his view in 1947, in the pages of Partisan Review. There were, he explained, three possible futures in a nuclear world: a preemptive nuclear strike by the United States against the Soviet Union; a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, wiping out most of the race and returning life to the Bronze Age; and a stalemate created by the fear of actually using atomic bombs and other weapons of mass destruction–what would be known as the policy of mutually assured destruction. This third possibility, Orwell argued, was the worst of all: It would mean the division of the world among two or three vast superstates, unable to conquer one another and unable to be overthrown by any internal rebellion. In all probability their structure would be hierarchic, with a semi-divine caste at the top and outright slavery at the bottom, and the crushing out of liberty would exceed anything that the world has yet seen. Within each state the necessary psychological atmosphere would be kept up by complete severance from the outer world, and by a continuous phony war against rival states. Civilizations of this type might remain static for thousands of years. Orwell’s third possibility was, of course, the path that history took. Mutually assured destruction was the guiding policy of the arms race and the Cold War. Orwell himself coined the term “Cold War,” and after his death he became a hero to Cold Warriors, liberal and conservative alike. But he hated the idea of a Cold War–he preferred being bombed back to the Bronze Age–because it seems never to have entered his mind that the United States would be a force for liberty and democracy. “1984” is, precisely, Orwell’s vision of what the Cold War might be like: a mindless and interminable struggle among totalitarian monsters. Was he right? Some people in 1949 received “1984” as an attack on the Labour Party (in the book, the regime of Big Brother is said to have derived from the principles of “Ingsoc”; that is, English Socialism), and Orwell was compelled to issue, through his publisher, a statement clarifying his intentions. He was a supporter of the Labour Party, he said. “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive,” he continued, “but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is satire) that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences.” The attitude behind this last sentence seems to me the regrettable part of Orwell’s legacy. If ideas were to stand or fall on the basis of their logically possible consequences, we would have no ideas, because the ultimate conceivable consequence of every idea is an absurdity–is, in some way, “against life.” We don’t live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their “tendency” is to some dire condition–to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all. Orwell did not invent this kind of argument, but he provided, in “1984,” a vocabulary for its deployment. “Big Brother” and “doublethink” and “thought police” are frequently cited as contributions to the language. They are, but they belong to the same category as “liar” and “pervert” and “madman.” They are conversation-stoppers. When a court allows videotape from a hidden camera to be used in a trial, people shout “Big Brother.” When a politician refers to his proposal to permit logging on national land as “environmentally friendly,” he is charged with “doublethink.” When a critic finds sexism in a poem, she is accused of being a member of the “thought police.” The terms can be used to discredit virtually any position, which is one of the reasons that Orwell became everyone’s favorite political thinker. People learned to make any deviation from their own platform seem the first step on the slippery slope to “1984.” There are Big Brothers and thought police in the world, just as there are liars and madmen. “1984” may have been intended to expose the true character of Soviet Communism, but, because it describes a world in which there are no moral distinctions among the three fictional regimes that dominate the globe, it ended up encouraging people to see totalitarian “tendencies” everywhere. There was visible totalitarianism, in Russia and in Eastern Europe; but there was also the invisible totalitarianism of the so-called “free world.” When people talk about Big Brother, they generally mean a system of covert surveillance and manipulation, oppression in democratic disguise (unlike the system in Orwell’s book, which is so overt that it is advertised). “1984” taught people to imagine government as a conspiracy against liberty. This is why the John Birch Society used 1984 as the last four digits in the phone number of its Washington office. Orwell himself was a sniffer of tendencies. He, too, could blur moral distinctions among the things he disliked, between the BBC and the Ministry of Love, for instance; he apparently thought of the Ministry of Love as the logical consequence of the mass media’s “tendency” to thought control. His most celebrated conflation of dislikes is the essay, for many years a staple of the freshman-composition syllabus, “Politics and the English Language.” Orwell wrote many strong essays, but “Politics and the English Language,” published in 1946, is not one of them. Half of the essay is an attack on bad prose. Orwell is against abstractions, mixed metaphors, Latinate roots, polysyllabic words, cliches, and most of the other stylistic vices identified in Fowler’s “Modern English Usage” (in its fourth printing in 1946). The other half is an attack on political dishonesty. Certain political terms, Orwell argues, are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet Press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Fowler would have found nothing to complain about, though, in the sentences Orwell objects to. They are as clear as can be. Somehow, Orwell has run together his distaste for flowery, stale prose with his distaste for fascism, Stalinism, and Roman Catholicism. He makes it seem that the problem with fascism (and the rest) is, at bottom, a problem of style. They’re bad, we are encouraged to feel, because their language is bad, because they’re ugly. This is not an isolated instance of this way of thinking in Orwell. From his earliest work, he was obsessed with body odor, and olfactory metaphors are probably the most consistent figure in his prose, right to the end of his life, when he congratulated Gandhi for leaving a clean smell when he died. But Orwell didn’t think of the relation between smell and virtue as only metaphorical. He took quite seriously the question of whether it was ever possible to feel true solidarity with a man who smelled. Many pages in “The Road to Wigan Pier” are devoted to the problem. In his fiction, a bad character is, often, an ugly, sweaty, smelly character. Smell has no relation to virtue, however. Ugliness has no relation to insincerity or evil, and short words with Anglo-Saxon roots have no relation to truth or goodness. Political speech, like etiquette, has its codes and its euphemisms, and Orwell is right to insist that it is important to be able to decipher them. He says that if what he calls political speech–by which he appears to mean political cliches–were translated into plain, everyday speech, confusion and insincerity would begin to evaporate. It is a worthy, if unrealistic, hope. But he does not stop there. All politics, he writes, “is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” And by the end of the essay he has damned the whole discourse: “Political language–and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists–is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.” All political parties? Orwell had sniffed out a tendency. Orwell’s prose was so effective that it seduced many readers into imagining, mistakenly, that he was saying what they wanted him to say, and what they themselves thought. Orwell was not clairvoyant; he was not infallible; he was not even consistent. He changed his mind about things, as most writers do. He dramatized out of a desire to make the world more the way he wished it to be, as most writers do. He also said what he thought without hedging or trimming, as few writers do all the time. It is strange how selectively he was heard. It is no tribute to him to turn his books into anthems to a status quo he hated. Orwell is admired for being a paragon when he was, self-consciously, a naysayer and a misfit. If he is going to be welcomed into the pantheon of right-thinking liberals, he should at least be allowed to bring along his goat.Roney 13 13 ARTICLES Postmodernist Prose and George Orwell Stephen K. RoneyT he essential notion of English style since the 1920s has been that clarity and simplicity are the essence of good writing. Orwell in England, Strunk & White in America,1 have been the main proponents. We might call this, for the sake of argument, the modern style. There is a new challenge to this in contemporary academics. Judith Butler is the spokesperson. She has been charged with bad writing, along with such scholars as Gayatri Spivak.2 Indeed, she won the annual “Bad Writing Award” from the journal Philosophy and Literature. Butler responded, in a letter to the London Review of Books and in an op-ed piece in the New York Times, that clarity and simplicity are impossible if one is discussing a topic deeply. She claims for her side such writers as Adorno and Marcuse. This might be called, for the sake of argument, the postmodern claim. Are Butler and the postmodernists right? Have editors been holding back academic and social progress? Have we been dumbing the culture down? First, let’s note Orwell’s argument for simplicity and clarity, presented in his essay “Politics and the English Language.” 3 a) Pretentious diction and technical sounding words “give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements.” Hence, it is a rhetorical trick; a way for bad ideas to hide. As such, it retards the discourse, on whatever subject. b) “Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. . . . This reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity. . . . Every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.” I.e., clear thinking is only made possible by clear writing and the avoidance of stock phrases. c) “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. . . . Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” That is, it promotes plays for power over the search for truth and the effort to express truth. Now, let’s summarize Butler’s implied counter-argument for the style fa- vored by postmodernists such as herself, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha,4 as given in the London Review of Books and New York Times: Stephen K. Roney is past president of the Editors’ Association of Canada. He is coauthor of Meeting Editorial Standards (Toronto: Captus Press, 1995). 14 Academic Questions / Spring 2002 a) Difficult ideas, she implies, must necessarily be expressed in difficult language. “Surely. . . theorists should [not] confine themselves to writing introductory primers.” 5 “Language plays an important role in shaping and attuning our common or ‘natural’ understanding of social and political realities.” 6 “[T]he difficulty of. . . [Spivak’s] work is fresh air when read against the truisms which, now fully commodified as ‘radi- cal theory,’ pass as critical thinking.” 7 This first claim seems directly to contradict Orwell’s second: he argues, or asserts, that difficult ideas require the plainest language possible, while simple or foolish ideas are more likely to be expressed in complex terms. b) Language conditions thought. Therefore, fitting discourse into any one prescribed style proscribes what can be thought or said. “Only what they [the critics of postmodern style] do not need first to understand, they consider understandable; only the word coined by commerce,” she argues, suggesting that the current style has something to do with capitalism and the rule of the bourgeoisie, “and really alienated, touches them as familiar.”8 Butler quotes Marcuse’s Marxist analysis approvingly on this point: “If what [the intellectual] says could be said in terms of ordinary language he would probably have done so in the first place. [Understanding] presupposes the collapse and invalidation of precisely that universe of discourse and behaviour into which you want to translate it.”9 And she speaks disparagingly of “truisms which, now fully commodified as ‘radical theory,’ pass as critical thinking” 10—the use of the term “commodified” suggests again a claim that modern style is capitalist style. Her second point, therefore, seems to be in opposition to Orwell’s third point: he saw the plain style as the one way to ensure that ideology did not dictate style. This political manipulation of language was, of course, something he feared above all else; it is the “Newspeak” of his novel 1984. Yet, to Butler, apparently, if you want to express an opinion that does not fit the opinions of those who formed the language, you must be obscure. You cannot follow the rules of style. c) Obscurity is the proper medium to represent the obscure. “Luckily for us, Spivak’s new book gives us the political landscape of culture in all its obscurity and proximity.”11 This seems to be a separate, third point: if you are describing something obscure, your language should be obscure (“nuanced,” in the current postmodern jargon) to reflect this accurately. Roney 15 d) Finally, Butler appeals to authority. She has not invented this trend in language, she notes; the Frankfurt School did. She might also have mentioned Kant; other postmodernists have. She quotes not only Marcuse, but Adorno: “Man is the ideology of dehumanization.” 12 Adorno, she argues, here objects to the use of the word “man” as itself ideological. For the most part, then, Butler and Orwell seem to be making opposite assumptions about the nature of language. Is there any objective stance from which we can judge whether the one or the other has got it right? Let’s look more closely at Butler’s points, one by one. Difficult ideas require difficult language We find this in the hard sciences. A newly-discovered thing requires a coined word, and these can be impenetrable to a newcomer: “charm” (on the sub- atomic level), “quark,” “quantum leap,” or, for that matter, “ROM,” or “DOS.” Scientific or academic precision may require a special term even for familiar things. If you ask a Korean, for example, whether ducks can fly, he will tell you they cannot; but the average Canadian is equally certain that they can. The problem is that the Korean language classifies “duck” and “wild duck” as quite different things, while English sees them as essentially the same. Latin names for animal species avoid such problems. Similar semantic issues are common in philosophy. Specialized terminology may, accordingly, be needed to ensure we are talking about the same thing. However, to ensure that we are talking about the same thing, note that this need for specialized terms is not quite the same issue as that of clarity of style generally. The use of unfamiliar words is only one element; scientists can write well or badly by Orwell’s rules, apart from using jargon terms. Einstein, for example, wrote with great clarity. It is worth noting that Butler’s academic writing, and that of other postmodernists like Spivak and Bhabha, do not conform to Orwell’s rules on other points; yet this argument apparently addresses only this one aspect of style. For his part, Orwell stressed he was talking of political language; this is apparent in the very title of his essay, “Politics and the English Language.” From his point of view, the issue would presumably be whether Butler, and the other postmodernists, were using obscure or uncommon terminology for the sake of scientific precision, or for political aims. In fact, Butler is explicit in asserting that her goals are political, not scientific. Butler does not, indeed, believe in science or in the possibility of scientific precision. When a participant at a seminar protested to Butler that it is necessary to believe there is right and wrong, truth and error, Butler’s response was: “for political reasons, it’s extremely important to use those terms, and not to know what their future and final form will take.” 13 Indeed, the word 16 Academic Questions / Spring 2002 she chooses to illustrate her point about technical terms is clearly an example of political terminology: “hegemony.” Butler defines “hegemony,” illustrating the need for such technical terms, as “a dominance so entrenched that we take it for granted, and even appear to consent to it.” 14 This is, of course, not the dictionary definition of “hegemony.” The OED gives the common English meaning of the word as “Leadership, predomi- nance, preponderance; esp. the leadership or predominant authority of one state of a confederacy or union over the others.” There is nothing here about it being unconscious or hidden. Butler’s use, on the other hand, implies and requires acceptance of a postmodern concept, essentially the Marxist one of “ideology,” perhaps here combined with Freud’s idea of unconscious motivation. Neither of these theo- ries, Marx’s or Freud’s, has ever been established scientifically or philosophi- cally to the general satisfaction of thinkers; they are very much open to debate, and, in the case of Marxism, specifically political debate. Butler’s use is ac- cordingly, at the least, rhetorical, and open to the Orwellian charge that she is giving to airy nothing a name and a habitation, “giving an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” 15 Is there any reason, without accepting Marxist/Freudian/postmodernist theory, to suppose there is such a thing as “hegemony” in this sense? Does not Butler’s usage—is it not indeed designed to—disguise that fact? Does it not do so for essentially political reasons? More generally, against Butler’s claim that difficult subjects require diffi- cult or specialized language, there is the obvious truth that many—indeed, most—generally recognized “great thinkers” have been clear and lucid in their writing. This is especially true in Butler’s field, the humanities. Freud won the Goethe Prize for Literature. Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Henri Bergson won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Hume, Descartes, Plato, Darwin, Berkeley, Pascal, Rousseau, Augustine, and Marx are all models of literary style of the Orwellian sort, plain, elegant, clear of expression. Is Butler claiming to be deeper than all of them? Can she be rejecting the greatness of all as a social construct? How can she, when her own admitted starting points are Marx and Freud? Nor is it enough, for the present point, to show that it is possible to express difficult ideas in difficult language. For Butler’s thesis to hold, it must be necessary to do so. For Butler, no syntactically simply sentence can express other than a “truism,” a thing too obviously true to be worth saying. Let’s look at a few counter-examples: “Let the dead bury their own dead.” (New Testament) “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” (Zen koan) “I think, therefore I am.” (Descartes) “Know thyself.” (Oracle at Delphi; quoted approvingly by Plato, attributed to Socrates) Roney 17 “He who knows, does not speak; he who speaks, does not know.” (Tao Te Ching) “Whoever eats me will draw life from me.” (New Testament) “The word was made flesh; he lived among us.” (New Testament) All of these are expressed in the simplest language. Yet they are taken by various cultures to be expressions of some of the profoundest thoughts those cultures have produced. For most of them, although expressed simply, the true and complete meaning is not immediately apparent. All are quite prob- ably true; none could, I submit, fairly be characterized as a “truism.” Conversely, it does not seem to follow that a phrase that is difficult to parse grammatically, or language that is unfamiliar to the average person, is diffi- cult to conceive. There seems no necessary relationship between a complex sentence and a complex thought. As if to illustrate the point, a wag at Monash University has set up a web page called “The Post-Modernism Generator.” Its software generates mechanically an example of Butlerish prose, with the ca- veat at the end of the page that “The essay you have probably just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated. . . . More detailed tech- nical information may be found in Monash University Department of Com- puter Science Technical Report 96/264: ‘On the Simulation of Postmodernism and Mental Debility Using Recursive Transition Networks.’” 16 A second counter-example of sorts is the celebrated Alan Sokal essay in Social Text.17 Sokal, a physicist at NYU, submitted and successfully published a paper in this postmodernist journal arguing that the physical world of science was a social construct. He later declared the piece a deliberate hoax, a “com- pilation of pomo [postmodern] gibberish” and “an annotated bibliography of charlatanism and nonsense.” 18 Language radically conditions thought; our present language enforces capitalist hegemony. There are, properly, two points here. That language conditions thought is, in fact, an unpopular claim among modern linguists, generally dismissed as the “Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.” Nevertheless, in the present debate, it is Orwell’s premise, too. Orwell proposed the rules of modern English usage, just after the Second World War, in the belief that language and style have political causes and consequences. The same claim, as noted, figures in 1984. It is also clear, at least to the present author, that there is a relationship between language and politics in various cultures: hierarchical societies tend to have elaborate honorifics, while honorific forms have generally disappeared from languages like English and French. We no longer use the intimate “thee,” for example; everybody now is “monsieur.” However, there is a limit to how far this point will push. If language fully conditioned thought, it would follow that we would not be able to express or grasp the claim that language conditions thought. Our own thought would be 18 Academic Questions / Spring 2002 conditioned by the words in which we stated the proposition, to the extent that we could have no clear view of any linguistic order but our own. We could say nothing objective about another language, and nothing about language generally. The claim disproves the claim; it is on a par with the paradox, “Ev- erything I say is a lie.” The example given, differences in honorifics, can be equally explained by changing circumstances’ altering language, making some grammar and vo- cabulary practically obsolete, rather than by language altering thought. The buggy whip, in turn, probably did not disappear because people stopped saying “buggy whip.” The test case is gender. French, Italian, and Spanish have a universal gen- der distinction; Chinese and Korean have none, even for people. English is in the middle, with gender for people but not for objects. It should follow, from the Butlerian thesis, that sexual discrimination would be greatest in France and least in China and Korea. Most observers do not find this so. Nevertheless, this is not germane to the choice between Butler and Orwell; both accept the premise that language conditions thought, at least to some extent. However, if the possibility of conditioning is not great, as the above examples suggest, Orwell’s position seems the more plausible one: the solution is to keep things simple and general. For no one system could then plausibly be so overwhelmingly powerful as to condition our thought so completely that we “take it for granted, and even appear to consent to it.” Yet this is what Butler assumes. We can be more definite, on historical grounds, in examining the second part of Butler’s claim here, that the English tongue and style we know is “coined by commerce.” Does it indeed enforce capitalist assumptions? For the modern style per se, Butler is certainly wrong. If it was meant to impose any particular ideology, it is that of socialism, not capitalism. Orwell, its main proponent, was a socialist, a leftist, a Marxist,19 who sought to encour- age social progress and equality. He advised sticking to short, Anglo-Saxon words largely as it was the language of the common man—of the oppressed proletariat, if you prefer. Nor does Orwellian style seem in any way to inform the actual practice of commerce, of large corporations, today. Is corporate writing generally a model of plain speech and clarity? Just the reverse, if the test case is the internal memo: corporations and MBAs love jargon and indeterminate speech. Contracts, too, are rarely models of simplicity or of clarity; but contracts are the essence of all trade or exchange. Advertising may be; but that is only one form of “corporate speech.” And its plainness may better be explained by the need to communicate effectively to as broad a group as possible as by any ideologi- cal content. Nor is advertising that uses novel terms or ambiguous phrasing most to be trusted; which tends to illustrate Orwell’s point. Roney 19 In terms of the history of the language, the question can be quickly settled by etymological research. Choose a handful of Anglo-Saxon terms, the sort Orwell advocates; look them up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Find the date they were first observed in print. If this was before the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth century, they are not the creations of capitalism, in- vented to impose capitalist power structures. The power structures, on the Marxist model, changed from feudal to capitalist only at that time. None of them were. These, rather, are the oldest words in English. The same is probably equally true of simple, daily terms in French, Korean, or any other language you might name. These are precisely, as Orwell argues, the terms least likely to be influenced by any particular historical regime. Does Butler, then, really choose to go far beyond (and away from) Marx and argue that all of past history has been radically conditioned by capitalist oppression? Besides its apparent logical impossibility, such a general premise that any culture is so radically conditioned, by language, by economics, or by its structure of power, leads us down paths we may not want to go. If culture circumscribes thought, it of course follows that different cultures and languages will produce different thoughts, different ideologies. This would imply a correspondingly radical difference among the different cultures and nations—the different “races,” if you will—of mankind. Moreover, if it is possible significantly to improve any one language for purposes of either political advancement or profundity of thought, as Butler implicitly claims, it follows that one existing language may and quite probably will be superior to another for purposes of political liberty, or indeed for thinking per se. The plausible assertion of radical cultural superiority and inferiority is enshrined in this thesis. It may be so, but it is not a pleasant or a politically progressive thought. The obscure is best described by the obscure. This, Butler’s apparent third point, sounds satisfyingly McLuhanesque: if you are describing something obscure, your language should be obscure to reflect this accurately. This makes some seeming sense. Overly-precise language can, postmodernists argue, enforce distinctions that do not really exist. Giving two distinct names to two types of bird can be scientifically misleading if the two actually interbreed, and there is a continuum of individuals with distinct features between the two supposed species. This charge of unnecessary over-classification has recently been argued in the case of the human “races,” for example; albeit perhaps for political, more than scientific, reasons. It is per- haps a real issue, as well, in the case of classifying human individuals by sup- posed disability. 20 Academic Questions / Spring 2002 There is a difference, however, between demonstrating that terminology is too precise in any given case—that there has been, in effect, an error in classification—and demonstrating that terminological accuracy is wrong for an entire area of human endeavor, such as the humanities or culture studies; or, indeed, to postmodernism, for all discourse. As a possibly illustrative parallel, the fact that many first graders make errors in arithmetic does not make two and two any more probably five. That oversimplification is a legitimate con- cern does not mean all simplification is oversimplification. For Butler’s thesis to hold, then, oversimplification must first be shown to be a pervasive problem. And she must also establish that it is not, by comparison, in whatever other language or style she proposes. Orwell would agree, as would any modernist, that there is a time for obscu- rity in language. To express the muddle of emotion in his Wasteland, for example, T.S. Eliot ends his verse lines with the weak gerund form, a violation of Strunk & White’s rules for “vigorous” speech—to show precisely this lack of vigor. Politeness also commonly requires a certain indirection. But this, surely, is exceptional, and gains its force from its exceptionality. Orwell simply believes that the opposite, in practice, is more often true. More often, the greater the initial obscurity, the greater the need for clarity in ex- pression, even to understand that the object is obscure—leaving aside any intent to dispel that obscurity. Otherwise, by the same postmodern logic, if you are visiting a dangerous place, your approach to it should be made or kept dangerous. If you write a technical manual on a difficult operation, say safety measures for a nuclear reactor, you should ensure that the writing is as difficult as possible to understand, to represent the task fairly. If you teach a difficult subject, you should choose your teaching style to ensure it stays difficult. This becomes Wonderland logic; this becomes a caucus race, where everyone ends precisely where they began, and all must have prizes. Explaining the obscure by the obscure, in other words, seems an only occasionally valuable technique, and only to the ultimate goal of making the obscure, finally, less obscure. If your general goal is to keep the obscure obscure, one wonders, why is one speaking, or writing, or teaching, in the first place? The appeal to authority. The Frankfurt School. If we disagree with Butler, Butler points out, we may also have to throw out other thinkers. While we have cited philosophers who were great literary stylists, there are counter-examples: Adorno, Marcuse. Kant’s writing is impen- etrable and full of specialized terminology; a random fog index produces a reading level, in translation, of grade 26.20 Is Kant also to be dismissed? It should be noted, first, that an appeal to authority is not a rational argu- ment. The authority must itself be tested. We have no obligation to assume the correctness of either Kant or the Frankfurt School. Roney 21 Moreover, Butler’s argument once again not only requires that it be possible to be a good thinker and still a “bad” stylist; it must be necessary to use bad style to be a good thinker. I, for one, while I would not choose to dismiss Kant, am certainly prepared to dismiss his writing style. It was, indeed, in his own day, profitably parodied by Fichte. Nor am I ready to dismiss Adorno. The quote Butler chooses from Adorno to illustrate her point is “Man is the ideology of dehumanization.” It is certainly obscure enough, on the face of it. It has a fog index of grade 20. Butler helpfully explains what Adorno had in mind. He refers, apparently, to a special circumstance at the time in which “man” was used by some thinkers to refer to humanity divorced from social context. Adorno, Butler explains, found this dehumanizing. If this were true, Adorno would be guilty only of not making his referent clear—of bad writing. There would be no justification for making the claimed assertion in such a gnomic way. That Butler can explain it actually to mean something so mundane would demonstrate in itself that the obscurity was unnecessary and an error. Point to Orwell. But, for my part, I cannot see this interpretation of Adorno as plausible. It seems plain enough to me from much else that he wrote that Adorno’s true position is the reverse of what Butler claims here for him. Elsewhere, Adorno finds social context itself, not its absence, dehumanizing. “Society,” he writes, “is integral even before it undergoes totalitarian rule. Its organization also embraces those at war with it by co-ordinating their consciousness to its own.” 21 In other words, for him, social context is totalitarian per se. More probably, therefore, as I read it, Adorno means in the quoted adage to say that one must never speak of “man” as of a thing detached from you; that to do so, to suppose one can be a detached observer of “mankind,” is necessarily dehumanizing. This, true or false, is a very different point. And, whether I am ultimately right in my reading or not, the presumed fact that Butler and I can reasonably interpret Adorno’s position to be so different, in this passage, rather reinforces Orwell’s point that an obscure style is always a hindrance. It is more so if your thinking happens to be good. For now, and for my part, I believe I have established that Butler’s challenge to Orwell cannot be justified on the grounds she has stated. Obscurity of style is still, it seems, and necessarily, a bad thing in itself. As for the true significance of the obscurity characteristic of postmodernism, I would only suggest that it is a symptom, not of a progressive or enlightened position, but of a vested interest seeking to secure its privileges.22 But perhaps Butler’s own chosen authority, Adorno, makes this point for me: “The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power. . . not only suppresses truth . . . but has attacked the very heart of the distinction 22 Academic Questions / Spring 2002 between true and false, which the hirelings of logic were in any case diligently working to abolish.” 23 Butler, and postmodernist colleagues like Spivak and Bhabha, are in a lit- eral sense “hirelings of logic”: they are professional philosophers, paid to philosophize. Without seeking to stigmatize philosophers as a group, the problem of philosophy becoming a specious exercise in head-butting for pay, or a ratio- nalization of whatever the client wants, is an old game, as old as philosophy itself. Plato called the tendency “sophistry.” It is just this tendency Orwell, with his call for plain language, seeks to inhibit; and it is just this tendency Butler and her like seem to be engaged in. At the very least, the burden of proof is with them that this is not so. Notes 1. William Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th edition (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2000). First published 1919. 2. Here is a characteristic passage from Spivak, chosen almost at random: The Subaltern Studies group seems to me to be revising this general definition and its theorization by proposing at least two things: first, that the moment(s) of change be pluralized and plotted as confrontations rather than transition (they would thus be seen in relation to histories of domination and exploitation rather than within the great modes-of-production narrative) and, secondly, that such changes are signalled or marked by a functional change in signsystems. The most important functional change is from the religious to the militant. There are, however, many other functional changes in sign-systems indicated in these collections: from crime to insurgency, from bondsman to worker, and so on. (Spivak, “Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography,” in In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics [NY: Routledge, 1988], 197). 3. George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” originally published in Horizon 76, April 1946. Also in, among other collections, Inside the Whale and Other Essays (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1957/1962), and A Collection of Essays (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich [Harvest Books], 1981). 4. Bhabha was runner up for Philosophy and Literature’s 1998 Bad Writing Award. Here is his winning passage: If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate efforts to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality. (Bhabha, The Location of Culture [London: Routledge, 1994]) 5. Judith Butler, “Exacting Solidarities,” The London Review of Books, 21, 13, 1 July 1999. 6. Judith Butler, “A ‘Bad’ Writer Bites Back,” The New York Times, 20 March 1999. 7. Judith Butler, “Exacting Solidarities.” 8. Butler, “Exacting Solidarities.” 9. Butler, “A ‘Bad’ Writer Bites Back.” 10. Butler, “Exacting Solidarities.” 11. Butler, “Exacting Solidarities.” 12. Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life. Trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: New Left Books, 1974). Original German edition, 1951. Roney 23 13. Kristina Zarlengo, “J’accuse,” Lingua Franca 4, April 1998. 14. Butler, “A ‘Bad’ Writer Bites Back.” 15. Orwell, “Politics and the English Language.” 16. Andrew C. Bulhak, and Pope Dubious Provenance XI, The Postmodernism Generator (Communications from Elsewhere, n.d.). postmodern/. 17. Alan Sokal, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” Social Text 46/47 (Spring/Summer 1996). 18. Alan Sokal, “Sokal’s Reply to Social Text Editorial,” Dissent (Winter 1997). 19. It is possible to doubt Orwell’s Marxism. Nothing mattered more to him than freedom of thought. This being so, he was no doctrinaire or dogmatic Marxist, or anything else. If, however, this is a critical objection to the use of the term “Marxist,” neither were Engels, or Lenin, or Mao Marxists. Orwell was no Stalinist; but many Marxists deny Stalin had much to do with Marx. Orwell fought in Spain, by choice, for the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) (Michael Shelden, Orwell: The Authorized Biography [London: Heinemann, 1991], 276). He did so on letters of introduction from the Independent Labour Party, which Orwell himself describes as Trotskyite in the broad sense (Orwell, Homage to Catalonia [San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1952], 176). On his return from Spain, he continued to write for ILP publications, although he apparently never joined this, or any, party. In his 1941 book, The Lion and the Unicorn, he called for a “specifically English Socialist movement. . . not tainted by Marxism” (Shelden, op. cit., 368). But note the date: at this time England was at war for its life with Germany, and Russia was Germany’s ally. Orwell’s stated reason for rejecting Marxism is that it is essentially a German and Russian doctrine. It is therefore possible to see his opposition as tactical, a matter of rejecting Marx to save socialism in the public estimation. In “Politics and the English Language,” he writes, “Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes” (Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 143). This, surely, is clear only to one who assumes the Marxist doctrine of dialectical materialism, that economic and political conditions are the foundation of all else in society. 20. The fog index is a technique commonly used by editors, especially in educational publishing.

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