“It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”
The difference between Orwell and other writers who examine the perversities of power is that he doesn’t accept those dark alternatives as inevitable. As a journalist, Orwell waded through some dismal scenes: World War I, British colonialism, and the rise of fascism. However, he never threw up his hands and accepted these situations. As “Politics and the English Language” demonstrates, Orwell believed that the outright abuses of power and the carelessness that enabled them were within the ability of conscious people to correct.
For Orwell, language was the starting (and perhaps, end) point: “Political language is designed to makes lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” If the conscious reader and writer recognizes the features of political language, its traps can be avoided. Otherwise, Orwell would have no purpose in pointing out the dangers of empty language. He was fundamentally concerned with correcting and avoiding these traps, because they were precisely the devices that aided and abetted the rise of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco.
A decent read of “Politics and the English Language” takes only 30 minutes. It is time well spent.