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Synecdoche is a powerful, expressive linguistic device

The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Controlling Language

Double speak – ignorance is strength.

Ignorance is strength
“an ancient repressive artifice, known to all churches, the typical vice of our political class…”

In truth, language is thought. Restrict one to suppress the other.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith, worked as a clerk in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. Truth, it soon becomes apparent, means untruth. The ministry is in charge of rewriting language, subverting and inverting its very meaning.

Controlling the means of expression is the means of controlling the populace, restricting their freedom, and finally controlling thought itself.

Primo Levi addressed the issue of a proscriptive and contrived use of language as a means of creating a purposeful miscomprehension. He describes using language to confuse people while upholding the pretense of offering information.

Levi described this linguistic form as, “an ancient repressive artifice, known to all churches, the typical vice of our political class, the foundation of all colonial empires.”

He described how powerful institutions use their language to do others down, to suppress dissent. Their language is too advanced and makes those ill-equipped to fully grasp it feel inferior. They cannot express their true needs.

In The Adventure of English, Melvyn Bragg describes another illuminating episode where language is a means of control. After the Normans took England, the language of the aristocracy was French. Suddenly words began to be used, and would filter down to the land’s vernacular, to describe things that were unobtainable for the commoners. These were words of luxury items, foods in particular, words of money, words of class and culture. They are words of law and repression.

Passport, fruit, fur, art, melody, arrest, bail, crime, debt are among the words imported by the new ruling class. The english tended the calves which produced the veal for their lords. Language gave the feudal system descriptive form.

Gobbledygook, Don Watson, Atlantic Books, 2003
The Adventure of English, Melvyn Bragg, Hodder & Stoughton, 2003
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, Penguin, 1972 edition

This article was posted by on Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 16:27.
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