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One of the key themes of George Orwell’s 1984 was the constant erasing of both language and history, as this highlighted by this passage describing the updates to the infamous “Newspeak Dictionary:”
‘How is the Dictionary getting on?’ said Winston, raising his voice to overcome the noise.
‘Slowly,’ said Syme. ‘I’m on the adjectives. It’s fascinating.’
He had brightened up immediately at the mention of Newspeak. He pushed his pannikin aside, took up his hunk of bread in one delicate hand and his cheese in the other, and leaned across the table so as to be able to speak without shouting.
‘The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,’ he said. ‘We’re getting the language into its final shape — the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words — scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won’t contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.’
He bit hungrily into his bread and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls, then continued speaking, with a sort of pedant’s passion. His thin dark face had become animated, his eyes had lost their mocking expression and grown almost dreamy.
‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. If you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just as well — better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning, or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already. but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words — in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston? It was B.B.’s idea originally, of course,’ he added as an afterthought.
A sort of vapid eagerness flitted across Winston’s face at the mention of Big Brother. Nevertheless Syme immediately detected a certain lack of enthusiasm.
‘You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,’ he said almost sadly. ‘Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak. I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in The Times occasionally. They’re good enough, but they’re translations. In your heart you’d prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?’
Did you know that Occupy Boston has a lending library? The New York Times will tell you all about it, in hilariously bland and pious United Colors of Benetton tones*:
The growing collection includes more than 500 books, sorted by genre — consumerism, gender, activism/organizing — and overseen by a bookstore owner and a number of librarians supporting the movement, including some from the Boston Radical Reference Collective. The library has a simple checkout system, an expanding archive of Occupy Boston’s meeting notes and proposals, and a nascent program of speakers and writing workshops.
John Ford, who temporarily shuttered his Metacomet alternative bookstore in Plymouth, Mass., to run the tent library, said it was intended to help protesters learn about systems they find frustrating and explore possible alternatives.
“I hope, at the very least, it just makes people more inclined to be thoughtful about what they’re doing here,” said Mr. Ford, 30, as he stood in front of a table piled with newly donated books that had yet to be filed.
How thin must their copy of the Newspeak Dictionary be? And where would it be filed? Forget General Ripper’s obsessions with fluoride** for the OWS gang, the Dewey Decimal System is the monstrously conceived and dangerous capitalist plot we’ve ever had to face:
The librarians have eschewed the Dewey Decimal System, concerned by historical accounts that portray Melvil Dewey, its inventor, as a racist and misogynist.
That sort of thing seems to be going around the Bay State these days:
Anne Foley, the principal at Kennedy School in Somerville, Mass., sent an email to teachers warning them about celebrating Thanksgiving, the Boston Herald reported.
“When we were young we might have been able to claim ignorance of the atrocities that Christopher Columbus committed against the indigenous peoples,” Kennedy School Principal Anne Foley wrote.
“We can no longer do so. For many of us and our students celebrating this particular person is an insult and a slight to the people he annihilated. On the same lines, we need to be careful around the Thanksgiving Day time as well.”
Teachers have already been told not to let students dress up for Halloween.
Parents told MyFoxBoston that they felt the principal was overreacting.
“My kids were brought up with Halloween and whatever have you. She has no right to tell these kids they can’t have it,” one woman told the station.
“The children, they need to express themselves and be children. Don’t take holidays and fun time away from them. They have so much homework. They don’t have enough play time,” another said.
Superintendant Tony Pierantozzi told The Herald that Halloween is “problematic” because of connections to witchcraft.
“I don’t think they should not be able to celebrate these holidays I mean this country was formed with the idea that everything is a free country, and they should be able to celebrate these holidays,” a Somerville woman told MyFoxBoston.
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who has three kids at Kennedy, also weighed in.
“I’m the son of Italian immigrations, so I take Columbus Day very near and dear, and I’m proud that he discovered America and that America’s named after another Italian,” Curtatone said. “If we ignore and we don’t want to talk about it, if we want to stifle debate, then we’re ignoring history.”
But history is fungible. The Gregorian calender has been under assault for several years; as we’ve just seen, traditional holidays such are increasingly verboten, and at Occupy Boston at least, the Dewey Decimal System is verboten. The accelerating speed of the great PC cleanup is fascinating though. In his recent book Primetime Propaganda, Ben Shapiro accurately noted that ABC was the first TV network to begin to tilt left in the late 1960s; the other two followed by the early 1970s. Yet even back then, liberalism still at least made an effort to appear compatible with traditional American history; as Ace noted shortly before the past Fourth of July, ABC’s beloved Schoolhouse Rock cartoons from the mid-’70s would be verboten today:
To understand where we were, and where we are now:
These cute cartoons ran on Saturday mornings as a pro-social, pro-civic bit of public service, in the interests of educating kids (or… edutaining them, at least) and instilling some patriotism in them.
They wouldn’t run. They are “controversial.” These cartoons are now rightwing jingoism, and possibly incitements to violence and disorder.
Speaking of which, the Retronauts Website has as interesting look back at Apple computer advertising through the years. 15 years or so before marketing the Apple in the mid-1990s with such mainstream counter-cultural icons as Muhammad Ali, Gandhi and John and Yoko, Apple’s ad agency took a more historic approach. Some of their earliest ads showed the Apple II being enjoyed by Ben Franklin, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, and the Wright Brothers. Could any of these figures be used non-ironically in an advertisement today? While I’m not aware of the PC clean-up brigade bringing their truncheons and airbrushes to bear on Ben Franklin, Henry Ford is better known for his anti-Semitism than his automobile (which has long under attack from the left), Jefferson for Sally Hemings than helping to found the country, and Edison’s light bulb is being banned. And between chemtrails and “binge travel,” don’t even get the far left started on the environmental horrors of commercial aviation.
As Bryan Preston noted at the start of the month, OWS is attempting to recreate civilization on the fly, as numerous past movements born in a state of religious fervor have attempted. That’s a task that seems easier and easier to accomplish, as the amount of knowledge required — and acceptable in polite society — continues to shrink.
spotlighting the hilarious quote about about OWS eschewing the Dewey Decimal System, yesterday, James Taranto wrote, “Take a college humanities department and deprive it of all the support it receives from capitalist enterprises–investment income from the institution’s endowment, tuition money from well-heeled parents, subsidies from taxpayers–and what do you get? A bunch of crazy freeloaders sleeping in a park.”
But the occupiers have been systematically denied a fair chunk of knowledge for quite some time now. And they’ve been quite eager to go along with process, all the while borrowing a fortune to learn less and less.
It’s almost enough to make you want to surrender to the madness and declare peace.
Update: Intellectual foundation for Occupy Wall Street finally revealed to world.
* The New York Times’ whitewash of the assorted Occupy Obamavilles isn’t exactly happening “unexpectedly,” is it?