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Don't You Believe It  

The DoubleThink/Newspeak Skit (demo): Download

The above video is an unfinished demo of the skit we're putting together for the shows in March. We couldn't help but to share it before it was finished. We get all excited about stuff like this. The "lyrics" are below.

Tonight we will be bringing to you ideas from George Orwell's 1984 - Principally we will be dealing with the concepts of DoubleThink, and NewSpeak.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.

To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing them to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, to remember it again when it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to be aware of the reality which one denies.

Even using the word doublethink is exercising doublethink. 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 concept itself is rediculous, exagerrated, and oddly used in Orwell's world in ways that we find silly and impossible. There are the various Ministries, with DoubleThink names: The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with War; the Ministry of Truth with Lies; the Ministry of Love with Torture; and the Ministry of Plenty with Starvation.

We are smarter, more sophisticated... We would not fall for this... But yet...

We have an agency today called "The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition", founded by Phillip Morris, but publicly known as a grassroots organization of scientists and experts that denounce bad, junk science, like the science that showed us that asbestos and DDT was bad, and they defend good, sound science, like the kind that showed us that cigarette smoking was indeed good for us, and that global warming will create a beautiful, green paradise as long as we don't start putting restrictions on pollution.

We have "The Alliance For Better Foods", an industry funded, "independant" group defending genetically modified food.

And we have "declarations" - statements produced by PR groups representing industry, then sent off to be signed by "prominent scholars" and "noted scientists". One of these, called the "Liepzig Declaration on Global Climate Change" - declared that global warming was not happening, and they had experts to prove it. It had 110 signatures on it.

Some folks looked into this list... and found that 25 were weathermen, some without college degrees, there was a dentist, a medical laboratory researcher, a civil engineer, an amateur meteoroligist, a medical doctor, a nuclear scientist, and an expert on flying insects. 12 denied ever having signed, and some said they'd never heard of the Declaration. After discounting the signers whose credentials had been inflated, irrelevant, false, or unverifiable, they found only 20 of the names on the list had any scientific connection with the study of climate change, and some of those were known to have obtained grants from the oil and fuel industry, including the German coal industry, and the government... ...of Kuwait.

When the US sent troops to Panama in 1989, the Bush Administration named the operation Just Cause. The name irked some critics who had reservations about the legitimacy of the invasion -- the New York Times ran an editorial on the name entitled "Operation High Hokum." But a number of news anchors picked up on the phrase "just cause" to describe the invasion, which encouraged the Bush and Clinton administrations to make a policy of using purposefully biased names for their military actions.

NewSpeak - is the language created for the people living in George Orwell's nightmare world.

Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that one was allowed to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words - the words that remained were stripped of undesirable meanings.

To give a single example, the word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as "This dog is free from lice" or "this field is free from weeds." It could not be used in its old sense of "politically free" or "intellectually free", since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.

The various ministries in Orwell's world had "shortened" names. This was not done solely with the object of saving time. It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it.

Even in the early decades of the twentieth century, telescoped words and phrases had been one of the characteristic features of political language; and it had been noticed that the tendency to use abbreviations of this kind was most marked in totalitarian countries and totalitarian organizations.

This, also... We would not fall for...

But yet...

If there was hope, it must lie in the average person because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 percent of the population, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within. It's enemies, if it had any enemies, had no way of coming together or even identifying one another. Rebellion meant a look in the eyes, an inflection of the voice; at the most, an occasional whispered word. But the people, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it?

And yet--!

Credits: Most of this text comes directly from George Orwell's 1984. Other material came from "Trust Us, We're Experts!" by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, used entirely without permission... oops.
Bits of this referenced text have been altered slightly to roll off the tongue a little smoother and be accessible to a live audience.