In his political satire, 1984, George Orwell famously developed a notion of an official language for the authoritarian state, called Newspeak. The purpose of Newspeak was “to diminish the range of thought … by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum”. Newspeak was a constructed language that reduced the range and scope of meanings available to a bare minimum, thus controlling thought.
Many authoritarian and democratic nations with established National Intelligence Services redirected them into State Security Agencies, thus semantically reframing the role these agencies play, allowing ruling parties and their henchmen to identify their own interests within their nations. They are then they are able to do so in plain sight of the public. This has happened throughout Africa, Central and Latin America, the Caribbean and some believe in North America too. The ruling parties endless pursuit of redefining their nation’s agenda suggests a variation called NoSpeak.
As opposed to Newspeak, which restricts the meaning to an authoritarian minimum, the aim of NoSpeak is to say nothing while appearing to say something. This tactic seems to assert something definitive and accountable while leaving the communicator with room to say whatever they like. The messenger intends to undermine all systems of belief except for what is being presented.
It is said that there are three approaches to undermining meaning. Silent NoSpeak has government ministers and their officials ignore legally mandated requests by establishing controlled Access for Information Acts of law.
The second form is described as Lying NoSpeak. An act that appears to support democratic principles of governance while actively subverting them. A minister appears to be supportive of open government, while is actively working for the opposite goal.
The third form is Noisy NoSpeak, which occurs when ministers undermine the meaning of communities’ commonly accepted terms, perverting their understanding. The word most used is “transformation and reshaping”, referring to perhaps a department of the government that needed to be cleansed of corruption and mismanagement. A minister would say the said department will go through an aggressive reshaping that will transform it. Of course, the opposite will happen. Corruption will possibly continue in the shadows while the impression of change is publicly seen.
Authoritarian regimes manipulate language in an attempt to control the narrative, presenting to the public a created illusion of what reality is within the community, neighbourhood or nation itself. Within every well-tuned dictatorship lies an effective marketing agency, a group of savvy agents of psychological group think, advising ministers on what, why and how to present themselves and the government they serve.
By understanding NewSpeak-Silent, NoSpeak-Lying, NoSpeak and NoisyNoSpeak, an educated individual can realize what a national farce is being presented to the nation they live in.
In democratic nations like Canada and the US, this pattern also happens. Ever since the government in power, which seems so active and responsive to a crisis or social problem may be hiding something.
Is their public language seemingly empty of answers or concrete information? Is presentation more important than the message? Is your government officials’ promise that something will be transformed or reshaped for the betterment of us all?
Read Orwell’s 1984, and make your conclusions.