Saturday, April 05, 2014

Surveillance and Language

To Orwell, this threat was not merely that loose and imprecise writing fails to convey one’s real meaning. His more immediate fear was more fundamental: that reliance on vague, “ready-made phrases” would, over time, conceal one’s real meaning even from oneself. Orwell understood that when a population stops “hunting about” for words—when it instead regurgitates the limited vocabulary of those in power—it stops truly thinking. “The fight against bad English,” Orwell wrote, “is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.” Far from it—it is “a necessary first step toward political regeneration.”

The government’s mass-surveillance apparatus, and the secret legal gymnastics that purportedly justify it, is a chilling expression of Orwell’s worst fears.
Dragnet Surveillance and the English Language

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