Out-Orwelling George Orwell: How the Left Really Lies To You and Your Children
He was on the right track in his book 1984, but reality ended up out-Orwelling even George Orwell. He expected the totalitarian state would control the people through twisting language, and he expected it would depend on the state’s controlling the media. He got that part of it right: That’s exactly what the left is doing to America.
The rest of it he got exactly upside down. Orwell thought the state would subvert human thought by speaking lies and making them seem true. “Freedom is slavery.” “War is peace.” “Ignorance is strength.” Today’s left has found a more expedient way, both easier and more effectively manipulative: They speak truths, yet stuff them full of lies.
Let me take you back to the yard sign I wrote about recently. “We believe,” it says, “Black lives matter, no human is illegal, love is love, women’s rights are human rights, science is real, water is life, and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
It’s all true. No one could disagree with a word of it. It’s all true, but at the same time it’s all lies. That was my point in the playful, imaginary conversation I wrote last time, but it’s worth dwelling on a bit longer, though, so we see it more clearly. This is the way the left lies to you. They tell you things you’re sure to agree with, but then twist them around to mean something entirely different.
Stuffing Sensible Words With Unbelievable Lies
“Love is love,” they say. Well, of course it is. Orwell thought totalitarian language would depend on taking impossible contradictions like “Freedom is slavery,” and training people into accepting both freedom and slavery at once. He called it “doublethink.” Here we have the clearest possible proof he got it wrong.
It would have been a hard sell anyway. Americans are way too sensible to believe war is peace, and no one would post a yard sign saying “Love is hate.”
Instead our rulers have used a slow but steady media game to fill their language with meaning no sensible American could have countenanced even 25 years ago. There was a time when “Love is love” would have been a truism, a logical tautology. Now it’s become a three-word abbreviation for every gay marriage and gay rights argument that’s ever been trotted out.
They did it by taking that glorious word “love,” ripping it open, trashing everything in it that has anything to do with seeking the other’s best interest no matter what, and replacing it with untrammeled, undisciplined sexual “expression.” All it takes is two consenting adults and it’s “love.” (And even the “adult” part of that limit is weakening under pressure.)
Manipulating You with the Foot-in-the-Door Tactic
What we’re suffering from is a version of the persuasive technique called the “foot-in-the-door.” Researchers have found that people who say “Yes” to one small thing are more easily persuaded to follow it up by saying yes to much bigger things. Next time you get a call from a telemarketer give him a moment or two to try his pitch on you. Almost every time he’ll come in early with a question you’re sure to answer “yes.”
It’ll be something innocuous, like, “You want to save money on car repairs, right?” They’re not asking so they can weed out the people who’d rather waste money on repairs. They’re asking because they know the foot-in-the-door principle. They want you saying “Yes” right from the start of the call, so you’re more likely to say yes at the end of it.
The left wants you saying yes, too, so they use slogans you have to agree with. The old bumper sticker said, “Hate is not a family value.” Who could argue with that? “Women deserve choice.” Yes, absolutely! Yes, Yes Yes! They have us saying. They know what they’re doing.
These things are all true, in fact truisms; the sort of thing no one could object to. But we all know what the left really means by it, and it’s not what the words really say.
Admit It: They’ve Dog-Trained Your Mind
We got here with enormous help from the media. You couldn’t make “Love is love” a political slogan any other way. It takes a lot of sophistry to gut a meaning-rich word like “love” of its original sense and fill it with another.
Our masters have done quite a job of it. Americans’ minds are lab-trained now to see “Love is love” or “No human is illegal” and salivate leftist messaging. They’ve trained your mind. Not that you agree with them. But you can’t read certain English phrases innocently or honestly any more. “Black lives matter” no longer means something clearly true about the lives of those sons of Adam of African descent. It means support for a certain wealthy Marxist revolutionary movement. See it on a sign, and your mind flashes immediately to the left’s message about it.
You can still process it differently, but only by disciplining yourself rigorously to think about what the words say. And if you want to explain your position on, say, illegal immigration, you can’t get there in four simple words, as they do with “No human is illegal.” You actually have to take the time to explain it.
It puts conservatives at a real disadvantage. We don’t have the media’s power to do what the left has done, flipping ordinary, obviously true language upside down to mean something else entirely. Even if we did have the power, I hope and I believe we’d resist the temptation to use it, because it’s nothing but a savvy and sophisticated way to sell a lie.
Defend Yourself From the Lies — And Defend Your Children, Too
We can’t do what they do, but we can defend ourselves from it. It’s a two-step process: First, we need a firm grip on what’s true and why. Second, we must discipline ourselves to think, not react. The best way to keep the foot-in-the-door technique from working on you is by saying “No,” as in, “Of course black lives matter, but no, not if what they really mean is that I should support the BLM movement. That would be wrong.”
We can defend ourselves that way, but more importantly we can teach our children to defend themselves. Keep it age-appropriate, but start early, because they’ll probably be ready for it at a younger age than you think. Talk to them about slogans like these. Use real examples that you see on billboards or TV shows. Tell them what’s going on inside the slogans. Show them how wicked propagandists take true statements and twist them to deceive. Give them a taste of how evil that is, how insidious, how manipulative.
And when they’re old enough, make sure they read 1984, so you can explain how today’s left has out-Orwelled even George Orwell himself. Re-read it yourself. When you do, just remember that if you think the book’s double-think is ugly, turning plain truths into manipulative lies is uglier still.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.