Thursday, February 07, 2008

On speech codes

It's now possible to commit a crime by simply holding an inappropriate attitude. "Prominent scientist David Suzuki says that people should look for a way to hold politicians who ignore climate change science legally responsible, according to the National Post". His spokesman later said "the call for imprisonment was not meant to be taken literally, Dr. Suzuki reportedly made similar remarks in an address at the University of Toronto last month." By slow degrees we are told what we must say and must not say. Meanwhile ...

"The Philippine Congress has passed the third reading of a bill that would penalize the media for describing suspected terrorists and criminals as Muslims. House Bill 100, known as “An Act Prohibiting the Use of the Words ‘Muslim’ and ‘Christian in Mass Media to describe any Person Suspected of or Convicted for Having Committed Criminal or Unlawful Acts, and Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof” was introduced by Muslim Congressman, Representative Yusop Jikiri (pictured) from the southern Philippine Island of Mindanao and passed Congress on Feb 5. ...

According to the Filipino press, Jikiri told Congress his bill was “a defining law which will finally end the stereotyping of Muslims as kidnappers, drug pushers [and] terrorists.” ... Human rights activists and Muslim community leaders have long protested the public presentation of Moros in the Filipino press, saying their stereotyping as criminals, terrorists and drug traffickers is demeaning. Free-speech advocates, however, object to the bills attempt to regulate speech.

Not only are speech codes being created all over the world, but cut-down languages are being legislated into existence. George Orwell describing the synthetic dialect of 1984, Newspeak, described the goal of the new languages: to reduce the scope of thought.

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought -- that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc -- should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. ...

Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.

Where words were allowed to survive, they were pre-loaded. In Newspeak the B vocabulary played an important role in achieving this goal. It was designed to inherently infuse any statement with "a desirable mental attitude". The overtones were built into the vocabulary itself. Today's "politically correct" speech is an implementation of Newspeak. The word "Christian" for example, cannot now be uttered without conjuring the image of a cowardly oppressor, at once exercising a bigoted tyranny over all non-Christians but at the same time constrained by the doctrines of Christ from responding to any provocation, however extreme. On the other hand, the word "Muslim" in politically correct speech means a person understandably driven to extreme acts in response to unbearable and long endured oppression. Thus, George Bush is a "religious bigot" while Louis Farrakhan is a "great man".

Speakers of political correctease will find that certain thoughts are actually impossible to express in that dialect. Some words have simply ceased to exist. Even names, such as the middle name of a well known Presidential candidate have been effectively excised from the language. Such words are impossible to utter and never spoken. In time they will cease to exist altogether. But that's as it should be. As Orwell put it:

When Oldspeak had been once and for all superseded, the last link with the past would have been severed. History had already been rewritten, but fragments of the literature of the past survived here and there, imperfectly censored, and so long as one retained one's knowledge of Oldspeak it was possible to read them. In the future such fragments, even if they chanced to survive, would be unintelligible and untranslatable. It was impossible to translate any passage of Oldspeak into Newspeak unless it either referred to some technical process or some very simple everyday action, or was already orthodox(goodthinkful would be the Newspeak expression) in tendency. In practice this meant that no book written before approximately 1960 could be translated as a whole. Pre-revolutionary literature could only be subjected to ideological translation -- that is, alteration in sense as well as language. Take for example the well-known passage from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government. . ."

It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink. A full translation could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson's words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.

It won't be long now.



13 Comments:

Blogger Zenster said...

Wretchard, if my own contributions here at the Belmont Club have been worth a damn, then please know how deeply grateful I am for your link to Orwell's essay on Newspeak.

I am nothing less than stunned. Orwell has so presciently cast up politically correct thought in such glaring detail that I am left without the least retort other than to say, "thank you" for so important a reference.

Your tip jar just hit the top of my hit list. I cannot thank you enough.

2/07/2008 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Timothy Garton Ash relates this telling anecdote about Orwell:

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?"

To which I can only add: what have we become?

2/07/2008 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

W: "What have we become?"

Commies.

2/07/2008 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

As long as you have your blog and a receptive audience, we still have freedom of speech. Is there anything you feel restricted from writing here?

2/07/2008 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger putnam said...

I don't see why we should have put up with the deniers any more. I say "start an inquisition and burn them at the cross". Hmmm, how much CO2 does a cross burning produce....

2/08/2008 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

Well, it may boil down to the American people facing problems and making decisions similar to that of our founding fathers - founders like Patrick Henry.

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

2/08/2008 05:07:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

"Who would have thought at the turn of the 20th century that mankind was being watched by intelligences who thought they were far greater than our own..."

And not long after the turn of this century a woman in Michigan, I believe it was, was leaving a resturant and was heard by employees there to complain to a companion about some people chattering in a foreign language "If they are going to come over here why don't they at least learn our langauge?"

She was followed by a restaurant employee, who in turn recorded the license number of her car and made the appropriate report to the Thought Police , er, local authorities.

She was charged and convicted of a Hate Crime, receiving a fine, had to provide community service, and underwent a period of probation.

2/08/2008 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Shropshirelad said...

"As long as you have your blog and a receptive audience, we still have freedom of speech."

I think the point JJ Mollo raises is right. While discourse is certainly facing increasingly heavy restrictions in the public sphere, in the private sphere, in the comment sections of blogs, like yours Wretchard, the conversation goes on much as it always has—in homes, coffee houses, bars, on street corners, savannahs and caves since homo sapiens developed tongues.

Onerous and absurd as some of these restrictions on speech are, it is hard for me to hear them as distant thunder rolling in from some sadistic Future. To me, they sound more like the death rattle of an always hysterical and increasingly senile generation of radical intellects. We can argue about that later.

Right now, those of us who are loyal to the free exchange certainly face challenges: we may face the cold shoulder of colleagues at work, we may confront jail time, excommunication, and some of our brethren may face worse, but this, I think, has always been the situation honest men and women inquiring after truth have always faced. We shall face these terrors as we always have.

The human spirit is a tough old boot. And it is no longer 1984. Galileo might be dead, and Giordano Bruno a puff of smoke, but I have a picture right here, thumbtacked to the wall of my cube, of a living man, named Aldrin, who once stood on the Moon.

However dark the times may seem, the one word we must not let these bullies delete from our dictionaries is, "Hope."

2/08/2008 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger F451-2.0 said...

It may be instructive to note in this regard that "The World's Most Trusted Dictionaries" (as it must be as it says so on the front cover) the 1,081 page, 2006 4th edition Oxford Dictionary of Current English has opted to engage in Newspeak.

That they are at the forefront of political correctness, well I must say that I'm amazed, shocked and appalled.

If one searches for a definition of misandrist, none exists. If one searches for misanthrope one finds " a person who dislikes and avoids other people" but if one searches for mysoginist you are informed that it is of course "a man who hates women."

The inference the English as a second language and the young would draw is that among the English speaking in Western Civilization, women do not hate as there is no defintion of hatred of men by women.The worst emotion women feel and display is dislike and avoidance. But men, only a man can hate, and what he hates most is women.

The editors; Catherine,Sara and Julia are no doubt basking in the the knowledge that one day they too will be recognized publicly as three more hero-ettes of the glorious revolution.

You need no longer scuff the Manollo's storming the Bastille or the Winter Palace when reverse discrimination, blue pencils, white-out and delete are close at hand.

In this way is the sub-concious modified. And a different future created.

2/08/2008 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/08/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

2/08/2008 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Mr.Atos said...

From the trial of Hank Reardon, Atlas Shrugged...

According to the procedure established by directives, cases of this kind were not tried by a jury, but by a panel of three judges appointed by the Bureau of Economic Planning and National Resources; the procedure, the directives had stated, was to be informal and democratic. The judge's bench had been removed from the old Philadelphia courtroom for this occasion, and replaced by a table on a wooden platform; it gave the room an atmosphere suggesting the kind of meeting where a presiding body puts something over on a mentally retarded membership.

One of the judges, acting as prosecutor, had read the charges.
"You may now offer whatever plea you wish to make in your own defence," he announced. Facing the platform, his voice inflectionless and peculiarly clear, Hank Rearden answered:
"I have no defence."
"Do you --" The judge stumbled; he had not expected it to be that easy. "Do you throw yourself upon the mercy of this court?"
"I do not recognise this court's right to try me."
"What?"
"I do not recognise this court's right to try me."
"But, Mr. Rearden, this is the legally appointed court to try this particular category of crime."
"I do not recognise my action as a crime."
"But you have admitted that you have broken our regulations controlling [your opinions]."
"I do not recognise your right to control [my opinions]."
"Is it necessary for me to point out that your recognition was not required?"
"No. I am fully aware of it and I am acting accordingly."

Only by consent of the victims, does tyranny prevail.

2/08/2008 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger joe buz said...

At some point in the not to distant future, the names of wrongdoers will not be printed or spoken for fear of information....

2/08/2008 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Newspapers routinely don't print the race or religion of malfactors. But Americans have gotten pretty good at decoding the secret codes in newspaper stories that tell us who is doing what in our midst.

"Jose Gonzales, a teenaged recent arrival ..." is codese for "an illegal Mexican who is probably a gangbanger"

"16-year-old single mother Shaneeqwa Jones" is a black ghetto high-school drop-out who is probably also unemployed.

"Mohammad Al-Anyone" is a Muslim and we instantly put up our detectors for lying, for misogyny, for brutality, for whining and seething, and for anti-Semitism -- and probably for more than a little bulllying hyseria.

In Australia they don't even print that much information, but limit themselves to initials, so readers are forced to infer who did what to whom by the location of where the story took place. If it's Lakemba, it's pretty sure to be Muslim bad mojo, and I'm sure Wretchard could fill us in what which suburbs of Sydney are known for what so that in printing a location, the reader is being clued in with between the lines information.

How could it possibly be a hate crime to report that A.H. from Lakemba was arrested on charges of gang rape, and that he's going to plead innocent because that's what his culture taught him to do?

2/08/2008 10:32:00 PM  

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