Pavlov made a significant discovery: the conditioned reflex could be developed most easily in a quiet laboratory with a minimum of disturbing stimuli. Every trainer of animals knows this from his own experience; isolation and the patient repetition of stimuli are required to tame wild animals. Pavlov formulated his findings into a general rule in which the speed of learning is positively correlated with quiet and isolation.
The totalitarians have followed this rule. They know that they can condition their political victims most quickly if they are kept in isolation. In the totalitarian technique of thought control, the same isolation applied to the individual is applied also to groups of people. This is the reason the civilian populations of the totalitarian countries are not permitted to travel freely and are kept away from mental and political contamination. It is the reason, to, for the solitary confinement cell and the prison camp.
Another of Pavlov’s findings was that some animals learn more quickly if they were rewarded (by affection, by food, by stroking) each time they showed the right response, while others learned more quickly when the penalty for not learning was a painful stimulus. In human terms, the latter animals could be described as learning in order to avoid punishment.
These different reactions in animals may perhaps be related to an earlier conditioning by the parents, and they find their counterparts among human beings. In some people the strategy of reward and flattery is a stimulus to learning, while pain evokes all their resistance and rebellion; in others retribution and punishment for failure can be a means of training them into the desired pattern. Before he can do his job effectively, the brainwasher has to find out to which category his victim belongs. There are people more amenable to brainwashing than others. Part of the response may be innate or related to earlier conditioning to conformity.
We can and must write in a language which sows among the masses hate, revulsion, and scorn toward those who disagree with us. – Vladimir Lenin
Pavlov also distinguished between the weaker type of involuntary learning, in which the learned response was lost as soon as some disturbance occurred, and the stronger type, in which training was retained through all kinds of changed conditions. As a matter of fact, Pavlov described more types of learning than this, but for our purposes it is only important to know that there are some types of people who lose their conditioned learning easily, while others, the so called “stronger” types, retain it. This, by the way, is another example of how our choice of words reflects our bias.
The descriptions “strong” and “weak” depend completely on the aim of the experimenter. For the totalitarian, the “weak” P.O.W. is the man who stubbornly refuses to accept the new conditioning. His “weakness” may be, in fact, a resistance, the result of a previous strong conditioning to loyalty to anti totalitarian principles. We never know how strongly conditioning and initial learning are impressed on the personality. Rigid dogmatic behaviour has its roots in early conditioning and so may submissiveness based on ignorance rather than knowledge.
Pavlov had already explained that man’s relation to the external world, and to his fellow men, is dominated by secondary stimuli, the speech symbols. Man learns to think in words and in the speech figures given him, and these gradually condition his entire outlook on life and on the world.
In the Pavlovian strategy, terrorizing force can finally be replaced by a new organization of the means of communication. Ready made opinions can be distributed day by day through press, radio, and so on, again and again, till they reach the nerve cell and implant a fixed pattern of thought in the brain. Consequently, guided public opinion is the result, according to Pavlovian theoreticians, of good propaganda technique, and the polls a verification of the temporary successful action of the Pavlovian machinations on the mind.
The Principles Of Newspeak
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world−view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.
Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever.
To give a single example. The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as “This dog is free from lice” or “This field is free from weeds”. It could not be used in its old sense of “politically free” or “intellectually free” since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless. Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum. […]
The intention was to make speech, and especially speech on any subject not ideologically neutral, as nearly as possible independent of consciousness. For the purposes of everyday life it was no doubt necessary, or sometimes necessary, to reflect before speaking, but a Party member called upon to make a political or ethical judgement should be able to spray forth the correct opinions as automatically as a machine gun spraying forth bullets. […]
Newspeak, indeed, differed from most all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was a gain, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to take thought. Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. […]
It would have been possible, for example, to say Big Brother is ungood. But this statement, which to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self−evident absurdity, could not have been sustained by reasoned argument, because the necessary words were not available. Ideas inimical to Ingsoc could only be entertained in a vague wordless form, and could only be named in very broad terms which lumped together and condemned whole groups of heresies without defining them in doing so. […]
For example, “All mans are equal” was a possible Newspeak sentence, but only in the same sense in which “All men are redhaired” is a possible Oldspeak sentence. It did not contain a grammatical error, but it expressed a palpable untruth−i.e. that all men are of equal size, weight, or strength. The concept of political equality no longer existed, and this secondary meaning had accordingly been purged out of the word equal. […]
A person growing up with Newspeak as his sole language would no more know that equal had once had the secondary meaning of “politically equal”, or that free had once meant “intellectually free”, than for instance, a person who had never heard of chess would be aware of the secondary meanings attaching to queen and rook.
There would be many crimes and errors which it would be beyond his power to commit, simply because they were nameless and therefore unimaginable.
I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace. — George W. Bush
The underlying purpose of manipulating vocabulary becomes evident upon considering the excerpts from ‘1984’ mentioned above. Those who wield control over language also exercise power over the human mind, as it becomes incapable of articulating forbidden thoughts or is prompted to think in a predetermined manner based on the words encountered.
For instance, a term like “discrimination” possessed great potency as it served as a constraint on tyrannical rule. By altering its meaning, it becomes more challenging to recognize the sinister nature of collectivism. Similarly, it was crucial to blur the line between “equality” and “identicality,” as this is the only means to negate individual talent, consequently erasing notions of beauty (which often elicit revulsion from those who seek conformity).
Undoubtedly, language stands out as the most potent social identifier. It surpasses skin color, attire, wealth, and even social circles. Your choice of words reveals your identity. Language holds such sway over our thoughts and actions that it remains the primary instrument of propagandists. We highly recommend the thought-provoking book ‘The Rape of the Mind‘ by Joost Meerloo, which delves into this powerful connection.