A guide to manipulating people to obey you – or a simple explanation of “Orwellian”

This may be a little choppy, my time for writing was short, but I really wanted to share this video!

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I’ve long appreciated dystopian novels, from the famous Hunger Games trilogy and 1984 to the less well known Genesis by Bernard Beckett. Throughout my youth and adult life I have gobbled up many dystopian novels.

While not all the dystopias I read were successfully written or smartly imagined, one common theme that slinked through most was that of language manipulation. Language can be used as a mechanism for control – through rewriting history and propaganda it can be used to manipulate people’s thoughts.



In Ayn Rand’s Anthem we see this through the absence of the word “I” – without “I” the characters in the novel were left without any concept of individual identity, and instead, resided in a collective “we.”

In 1984 we see this through Newspeak.

Most people have read 1984 at some point in their schooling; and because of this terms like “Newspeak” or “Orwellian” are frequently thrown about when describing politics, culture, and society.

However, are we using them correctly? Since 1984 is such a popular book right now (skyrocketing once more to the best seller list) it seems more important than ever to understand what exactly this book is saying. What is Orwell doing with language? How does he portray manipulative language games?

I personally, was extremely intrigued by this question, because from my memories of reading this book in my high school English class, the way that people were using “Orwellian” and talking about 1984’s totalitarianism, was not the way it was in the book. So I decided to dive a bit deeper.

In my search, I came across this fantastic video about what Orwellian means. Though it did not give me specific answers to my questions, it did give me the knowledge needed to navigate the numerous situations where people might be using Orwellian correctly or incorrectly.

Fascinating, how even well intentioned people might be using “Orwellian” Orwellianly….it goes to show how easily language can be manipulated – sometimes without even thinking.


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