In an effort to bring about the awareness of propaganda, George Orwell in Politics and the English Language, Newman and Genevieve Birk in Selection, Slanting, and Charged Language, as well as D.W.
Big Brother is watching you!
All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others!
These and so many more ideas that shape the way we talk about politics came from the pen of Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell. When people speak out against oppressive regimes or argue that the government has gone too far in snooping into their private lives, they tend to invoke ideas that Orwell first articulated sixty years ago. Orwell used his sharp wit and voracious intellectual curiosity to skewer everything from the atomic bomb to misuse of the English language. He traveled the globe in his quest to understand more about how the world works (destroying his health in the process; after a lifetime of health trouble, he succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 46). His experiences made him a passionate supporter of socialism and an equally vociferous opponent of totalitarianism. His masterpiece novels and remain the quintessential arguments against the authoritarian state.
Orwell's goal, as he put it in an essay explaining what drove him to write, was "to make political writing into an art." He staunchly refused to veer into hysteria or inaccuracy in order to get his point across, and argued that if a book was boring, it didn't matter what point the writer had to make in the first place. His name and his "Orwellian" creations are frequently invoked today in ways that would probably make real George Orwell cringe. He had no desire to be a prophet or an idol. In the discipline of his craft, the originality of his ideas, and his courage to write what he believed, George Orwell convinces us (and please, George, forgive the cliché) that the pen really is mightier than the sword.
A brilliant essayist with a magnificent command of the English language,Orwell in this first collection dealt with Charles Dickens, the English"boys' weeklies," and Henry Miller. He used his subjects to dwell on awide variety of issues including "cultural unity," propaganda, andliterary trends. These essays, as one critic later remarked, are "small masterpieces in a limited field." Inearly 1940 1,100 copies (with overs) of this book were printed; the book wentout of print before the end of the year. All copies were not sold; some weredestroyed by bombing. Orwell probably earned less than £30 for this splendidcollection. No American edition of this book has been published. However, theessays would surface over the years in various edited collections, in the U.K.(such as the Penguin editions), the U.S., and elsewhere in translation.
Orwell deals with two related issues in this piece. The first is the decline he sees in the quality of the English language. It is easy to agree with the argument he makes here. The trite metaphors he produces as examples are as common today in 2015 as they were when Orwell penned this article in the 1940’s. These overused metaphors have become a part of the writing vocabulary of a majority of English speakers. This failure of the English language is most prominent in the field of politics. It is very easy to use modern English in a vague way. This can be very useful to politicians. Euphemisms are the order of the day (it is almost impossible not to use the unoriginal phrases Orwell bemoans in this essay). Many examples of this can be found in American politics. Vagueness is especially important in the more controversial issues. Abortion is never referred to by that name. Supporters prefer to be labelled “pro-choice.” Critics are referred to as “pro-life.” Both of these labels are unassailable. Who would not want to be considered pro-choice? To stand against such a label means that the person must prefer a restriction of choice, which means a restriction of freedom which is anathema in democratic society. On the other hand, to stand opposed to the idea of being pro-life means to be de facto pro-death which is an equally unappealing option. Vagueness in speaking and in vocabulary prevents true political discourse. This vagueness pervades all manner of political discussion in the modern United States. It is fruitless to listen to many politicians speak. All use references to concepts such as freedom, democracy, and America. All lack a clearly defined image of what these concepts entail.