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Language and Politics Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. - Benjamin Franklin.

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Presentation on theme: "Language and Politics Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. - Benjamin Franklin."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language and Politics Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. - Benjamin Franklin

2 The Language of Politics Politics is concerned with power: the power to make decisions control resources control other people’s behavior control their values. What are the features of language used by politicians and by the media?

3 Language as Thought Control Why do politicians choose their words carefully? Because they believe in the power of language to influence thought. They believe absolutely that language is power. “If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison, and destroy.” - Ralph Ellison

4 ListenListen: “The Linguistic Legacy” by Brooke Gladstone on WNYC Radio

5 The Spin Starts Here… Orwell describes a future totalitarian society where the government tries to control not only the behavior but also the thoughts of the people.

6 Language as Thought Control In many ways, the psychological control exercised by Big Brother is much more sinister than the physical torture his government promises. Manipulation, control, total domination resides in the language of this society or Newspeak.

7 Newspeak Newspeak is the official language of Oceania, and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984, nobody really uses Newspeak in speech nor in writing. Only the leading articles are written in this “language.” But it is generally assumed that in the year 2050, Newspeak will replace Oldspeak, or common English.

8 Newspeak The purpose of Newspeak is not only to provide an expression for the world view and mental habits proper to supporters of Ingsoc, but to make all other methods of thought impossible.

9 Newspeak Another reason for developing Newspeak is to make old books, or books which were written before the era of the Party unreadable. With Newspeak, Doublethink would be even easier.

10 Newspeak The vocabulary of Newspeak is constructed to give exact expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods (or only by the means the Party dictates). This is done partly by inventing new words, but mainly by eliminating undesirable words, or words with unorthodox meanings.

11 Examples of Newspeak free - Only exists in the sense of “The dog is free of lice.” The concept of political freedom has been replaced by the word crimethink. Miniplenty - Ministry of Plenty (rationing). The Ministry of Plenty controlled the entire economy. Ungood - Bad. One of the rules of Newspeak is that any word can be turned into its antonym by adding the prefix “un-.” This allowed the removal of repetitive words such as horrible, terrible,

12 Why Orwell focused on language as a tool for manipulation Language has the power in politics to mask the truth and mislead the public Language can be used politically to deceive and manipulate people, leading to a society in which the people unquestioningly obey their government and mindlessly accept all propaganda as reality. Language becomes a mind-control tool, with the ultimate goal of destroying the will and imagination.

13 “[we’re] cutting the language down to the bone... Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year”

14 Why Language? When words that describe a particular thought are absent from a language, that thought becomes more difficult to summon and communicate. Without the words to name or summon a thought against the Party, (‘thoughtcrime’), rebellion is impossible. Physical weapons frighten less than spiritual weapons

15 Paradox and Irony Party slogans appear as oxymorons, though when considered through the filter of the Party, they express a type of truth for this society. In essence, they become the working paradox for the world of Ingsoc as much as our world accepted as truth the statement that we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

16 Paradox and Irony, cont… Orwell wrote “Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” In the novel, Orwell provides a scathing satire of this political “truthiness” through the Party language The Ministry of Truth is concerned with the falsification of records The Ministry of Peace deals with warfare. The Ministry of Love is “the really frightening one”, essentially a place for the questioning and torturing of suspected criminals. The Ministry of Plenty makes up economic figures to convince the public that the economy is in good shape, even though there are great shortages of all commodities due to the war. The use of such irony certainly provides the perception that everything is indeed the opposite of what is expected.

17 Paradox and Irony, cont. In Our World Citizens generally strive to expand their lexicon Aims to expand language so as to expand the ability to think. Words maintain clarity and precision Retains and esteems a linguistic tradition. History and language have a direct link (a narrative). Language maintains memory. Holds some suspicion of the media and politicians. In 1984 Aims to cut back Newspeak vocabulary Aims to restrict language so as to restrict the range of thought Words purposely deceptive, contradictory, and without range. Aims to destroy all old language and replace it with an entirely new one. Written history will cease to exist as new language replaces old. Memory is lost with the language Swallows unquestionably the leadership and propaganda of their society.

18 “If the Party [can] thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened – that, surely, [is] more terrifying than mere torture and death”

19 Why it Works While physical punishment is difficult to administer, psychological tactics (manipulation of people through language) can be continuously applied to the general public without raising great public opposition or fear — and that is where its strength lies. Newspeak rather than torture is planned as the way to erase thoughtcrime

20 What About Today…? Are we currently in danger of being controlled through our language? Do you think the media controls our reality? Do you believe politicians have used words to manipulate history both in the past and present? Can you think of examples of Newspeak in our culture? Show Me!


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