There is a quote from Nineteen Eighty-Four that came to mind when I read the recent story about the language guide put out by the University of New Hampshire:
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect.” Syme (to Winston)
This kind of succinctly describes “political correctness.” It seems like it is mostly concerned with “fixing” the language in order to make sure that no one is offended by anything. The only real way to do that is by narrowing the range of allowable thought (and thus, speech) in such a way as to preclude the possibility of thinking or saying the wrong thing.
Honestly, I think that a lot of people would be really surprised to find themselves on the side of Ingsoc. They think of themselves as “progressive” and the government in Nineteen Eighty-Four as being “fascist,” “regressive,” or “Conservative.” But, that wasn’t the case at all. A fair reading of the book would show you that Ingsoc’s methods very closely mirror what we see on the Left in this country.
Is it possible that the same is true on the Right? Undoubtedly it is in in some circles. It’s something to be wary about and cautious concerning.
- George Orwell (1949), Nineteen Eighty-Four. Signet Classic. Retrieved from Signet Classic: http://amzn.to/1OH3FKv.