Doublethinking 1984 After 70 Years

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Published seventy years ago, in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a modern classic. As Americans in the Age of Oligarchy acquiesce to a mutable truth—a gospel according to Google—George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare is creeping into the American dream. Politicians openly lie. “Fake news” riddles the media. Moral relativism commonly and craftily validates immorality. It is all part of the plan, part of the agenda. It is a war over cultural identity in a campaign for political control. Don’t forget, war is peace. Though the federal government is not watching us on telescreens (yet), a central element of Nineteen Eighty-Four—doublethink—has arrived.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is set in a futuristic world of government domination, defined by anxiety, hatred, and insanity. The Party, whose head is reverently called “Big Brother,” presides with omnipresent surveillance and brainwashing techniques. Winston Smith’s adventures begin as he fearfully steps out of the established traces, sensing the deception that surrounds him, and searches for truth. What he finds is a rat cage strapped to his face by the Ministry of Love in Room 101. Ignorance is not simply bliss. Ignorance is strength.

Orwell’s citizens are indoctrinated not only to accept it if Big Brother says that 2 + 2 = 5, but also to believe it in a practice called “doublethink.” Doublethink—a facet of the language newspeak—is a mental contortion that assumes two mutually contradictory premises simultaneously for the sake of exercising control over reality. Doublethink denies that reality has been denied, existing in a necessary cognitive dissonance. This mind control allows the Party to shape the world and make people feel accepted as they accept the pressures of the system and gain status within the Party. “Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink,” runs the Party’s manual of oligarchical collectivism. “For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”

The act of doublethink involves a well-known, though unspoken, hypocrisy in today’s societal acceptance of mendacity ranging from alternative facts to transgenderism. Everyone who is rational is disturbed by blatant demagoguery. Everyone who is straight is unsettled by queer behavior. Given the challenges of evangelizing, admonishing, or speaking honestly under the enormous pressure to be “tolerant,” “diverse,” “inclusive,” and “accepting,” submission through doublethink provides a tempting escape. The world at large is knuckling under the tyrants of untruth in loving acceptance of omnisexual behavior, cultural corruption, and fact fogging. Being cruel in order to be kind is “hateful” nowadays. It is bigotry. It is thought crime. Having difficulty with that man in the ladies’ room? Try doublethink—or else.

 

Doublethink is the principle of a new breed of civil rights. The women’s liberation movement and the African American civil rights movement were about libertarian justifications that were actually just. They upheld the truth. The doublethink of transgenderism, for instance, imposes the opposite. It demands that lies and obscurities inform the law. The appropriation and elevation of the term “gender” is a good example of doublethink fodder. “Gender,” as a state of being, is an airier thing than “sex” and therefore more suitable for the purposes of turning the truth into something transient. Sex is immutable; gender is grayer. Sex is about biology; gender is about psychology. The modernist emphasis on feelings and thoughts is central. It is doublethink and it is dangerous. A man is not a woman, nor a woman a man, nor does 2 + 2 = 5 merely because someone believes it. Yet it must be accepted on pain of social excommunication, loss of employment, and discrimination lawsuits. Save yourself. Doublethink. Freedom is slavery.

Faced with popular perversion, middle-of-the-roaders hunker down in the muddle of loving the sin and not knowing where to place the sinner. People do not normally accept abnormal tendencies. When they do, the result is contradiction. Although Doublethink America is defining a “new normal,” definitions only go so far when it comes to reality. The instinctive rejection of things that go against the natural order cannot be fully stifled by mental contortions. It can only be repressed until it turns into something denied. The “remedy” is doublethink: an abstract approval that exists in theory (“acceptance”) for something that is concretely wrong and the uncomfortable approval reinforced by the phobia of appearing homophobic, or xenophobic, or transphobic, or Islamophobic, or whatever the phobia du jour may be.

Contradiction must eventually collapse. The United States is lining itself up for legitimizing a range of disorders and subcultures where, eventually, the absurdity created by the criteria will lead to unbridled chaos. This is the logical conclusion when logic is abandoned. Doublethink is no more than a self-imposed mental illness that encourages other mental illnesses, allowing, in the end, disease to dictate. American doublethink is not sympathy. It is enabling evil by affirming neuroses and illusions.

“I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive,” George Orwell said, “but I believe that something resembling it could arrive.” Although Americans are not citizens of Orwell’s world seventy years after Nineteen Eighty-Four, there is a complacency in American society that resembles Orwellian mind-capitulation. America must declare that there is nothing hateful in rejecting falsehood, in thinking clearly, and in calling a spade a spade.

War is not peace. Ignorance is not strength. Freedom is not slavery. Once Americans stop pretending that there is nothing wrong, they can start making it right. Loving acceptance does not lie in a loving acceptance of lies. Nevertheless, there is a paranoia of passing negative pronouncements when negative pronouncements are called for. There is a fine line, of course, between condemning a sin and condemning a sinner. The victory for Catholic America will lie in keeping its head while doing the former without the latter, thus reversing the trend of the last seventy years before the clock strikes thirteen.

Sean Fitzpatrick

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Sean Fitzpatrick is a senior contributor to Crisis. He's graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, Penn. with his wife and family of four.

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