Today’s flavor of doublethink
Part of Orwell’s genius was identifying especially scary ideas which oppressive states could use to control their populations. The notion of DoubleThink is perhaps the most compelling and problematic of the notions he identified in his book 1984. In Erich From’s brilliant afterword for this book we see this disturbing thinking:
Our own society is disturbingly similar to the totalitarian state of Big Brother. Doublethink exists today. It is the power to hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accept both of them. When a political leader expects or demands what we think to be absurd, we go through doublethink; doing something even if we know it’s wrong. We use doublethink in regard to nuclear weapons. We spend vast sums of money and energy building nuclear weapons, but then avert our eyes to the fact that once released, they will destroy half of our own population along with half of our enemies’ population.(Fromm, p.264)
Obama took us down doublethink lane yesterday, with two speeches. The first was about the need to reform the US security culture, including the Patriot Act and reigning in the NSA. The second was about how Obama was cancelling the Russia summit over tensions about the Snowden affair.
So what is being said here that the government is concerned with your civil liberties and is going to roll back some of the worst surveillance offenses of the Bush and Obama administrations. While the US is penalizing the next most powerfully armed national power in the world because they are harboring the guy who revealed exactly these worst offenses.
The idea that the US can simultaneously reform its oppressive security culture while it tries to oppress the speech and rights of someone who pointed out these offenses is almost as laughable as it is dangerous. Believing Obama’s two most recent speeches is a doublethink exercise.