The last night of the Republican Convention was probably the most vivid exercise of George Orwell’s theory of Doublethink, in the modern political era. As Orwell wrote,
If one is to rule, and to continue ruling, one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality. For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one’s own infallibility with the power to learn from past mistakes.
As the hall monitors from The War Party handed out the Peace signs, the lines from Orwell’s 1984 sprang to mind.
His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it.
In 2004 when Karl Rove was able to get George Bush reelected, a certain cynicism descended over the propaganda arm of the Republican Party. The belief that Americans could be sold any lie if was packaged correctly. “War is Peace”. “Surveillance is Freedom”.
And now the ultimate Orwellian con job, “Keep our party in power so we can change Washington.” I know that John McCain and his handlers must think the American people just fell off the turnip truck to buy lines like this.
“I promise you, if you’re sick and tired of the way Washington operates, you only need to be patient for a couple of more months,” he told supporters in O’Fallon, Mo., on Sunday. “Change is coming! Change is coming! Change is coming!”
For a man who voted with Bush 95% of the time and can only point to one election reform bill passed 7 years ago as a reform credential, this “maverick” label is a total myth. The next nine weeks will be a case study at Schools of Communication like mine in the Republican Party use of Orwell’s principles of mass persuasion.
Walter Lippmann wrote in 1922 that elites can “manufacture consent” because the average American is like a “deaf spectator in the back row” at a sporting event: “He does not know what is happening, why it is happening, what ought to happen.”
Is the average American still so easily manipulated?