A colleague I talked to recently asked me to suggest him some innovative ideas that could be of particular interest for discussion between young and older people and enable to bridge the generational gaps. Since I don’t watch Western television programmes because of their biased views on a number of world issues that serve their diverse and multiple interests – economic, political, cultural and others, I came up with the concept of debating the role of media in society. The discussion would be led by young people where they would interview/ discuss with older people on their views on bad and good reporting, and what policy changes they would want to see applied to the media industry.
This week also a contact sent me the text of a speech that William Hague, British Foreign Secretary pronounced on Saturday 11 February 2012 at Chatham House. The theme of the conference was focused on the situation in Somalia and the humanitarian work that Great Britain wants to lead on in that country. After reading the whole speech, I thought of George Orwell in his Nineteen Eighty-Four classic novel where he describes the capacity of the members of the Party [or dominant institutions – my emphasis] of holding side by side two opposing realities in one’s mind. The author explains the concept of Doublethink, which in my understanding enables someone to deceive themselves and others, and at the same time not feel any act of deceit at all towards anyone.
‘Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth. Ultimately it is by means of doublethink that the Party has been able – and may, for all we know, continue to be able for thousands years – to arrest the course of history.’
Like in other places such as Libya, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, where there have been foreign interventions [or well thought trough not official interventions like in Rwanda of 1994, since this was the best policy to achieve geostrategic objectives], victims or populations to become collateral damages are never told the real motivations of those pretending to come to help. The latter uses doublethink approach to deceive while not feeling ashamed or otherwise by doing so.
In the same classic of George Orwell, the author points out the fact that from the Party [dominant institutions – my emphasis] perspective ‘Ignorance is strength.’ This is where the role of the media becomes critical in nurturing that ignorance among its audience at all levels while falsely portraying what its interests consider should be seen as reality. If the British Foreign Affairs declares that his country is planning an important humanitarian operation to help Somalia, how far can he be taken seriously knowing the capacity of doublethink of his government and other foreign forces which intervene forcibly into other nations’ internal affairs, as proven for example in Libya in 2011?
This concept of Doublethink as coined by George Orwell is applied almost in every aspect of relations between the state and its citizens or foreign partners. It is used of course variably depending on the level of desired deceit. It explains for example the outcome of nearly 50 years of ineffective aid policies towards Africa or economic liberal initiatives promoted towards the developing world by the institutions of Bretton Wood [the World Bank and International Monetary Fund].