In an column about the gloomy predications made by President Bush’s commission on Social Security, Paul Krugman asks: “So how did the commission reach its pessimistic conclusion?” He answers: “Through a truly Orwellian exercise in doublethink—the art of believing two mutually contradictory things at the same time.” What, however, makes an exercise in double-think “Orwellian”? George Orwell was not an exponent of double-think but a writer who exposed its features like no other. Double-think is therefore not intrinsically “Orwellian”; a faculty to recognize its presence, as well as its practitioners, is. As Clive James wrote in The New Yorker some years ago (scroll down to reach James’ review essay on the complete works of Orwell), “The word ‘Orwellian’ is a daunting example of the fate that a distinguished writer can suffer at the hands of journalists. When a totalitarian setup, whether in fact or in fantasy … is called Orwellian, it is as if George Orwell had conceived the nightmare instead of analyzed it, helped to create it instead of helping to dispel its euphemistic thrall.”
Where’s “Omnivore”? Inigo Thomas’ Idea of the Day has replaced his Omnivore column. The name is new, and the layout has been streamlined, but Inigo will still focus on what’s happening in arts and culture around the world. You may read the entire Omnivore archives by clicking here.
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