Thursday, March 13, 2008

Doublethink and What It Means...Or Doesn't Mean. What Is It?

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

Doublethink.....The prevailing mental condition is controlled insanity.

The rules of the Inner Party are held together by adherence to a common doctrine. In a Party member not even the smallest deviation of opinion on the most unimportant subject can be tolerated. But it is also necessary to remember that events happened in the desired manner. And if it is necessary to rearrange one's memories or to tamper with written records, then it is necessary to forget that one has done so. The trick of doing this can be learned like any other mental technique. It is learned by the majority of Party members, and certainly by all who are intelligent as well as orthodox. In Oldspeak it is called, quite frankly, "reality control." In Newspeak, it is called doublethink, though doublethink comprises much else as well.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.

Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing them and to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies - all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise 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. Ultimately it is by means of doublethink that the Party has been able - and may, for all we know, continue to be able for thousands of years - to arrest the course of history...

But since in reality BIG BROTHER is not infallible, there is need for an unwearying, moment-to-moment flexibility in the treatment of facts. The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known as doublethink.

The official ideology abounds with contradictions even when there is no reason for them. Simultaneously, true to the principles of doublethink, the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it does this in the name of socialism. It systematically undermines the solidarity of the family all the while appealing to the sentiment of family. Even the names of the four Ministries by which Oceania is governed are a deliberate reversal of facts:

  • The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with War;
  • the Ministry of Truth with Lies;
  • the Ministry of Love with Torture;
  • the Ministry of Plenty with Starvation.
These contradictions are not accidental. They are a deliberate exercise of doublethink. If the High are to keep their places permanently - then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.

The subtlest practitioners of doublethink are those who invented doublethink and know that it is a vast system of mental cheating. In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as is. In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane.

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