What Exactly Is The Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s 1984?
With the establishment of the “disinformation governance board,” many say the Biden administration is, in effect, creating a Ministry of Truth. But what exactly is the Ministry of Truth from Orwell’s 1984? Here’s a brief recap.
Appearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee to defend the 2023 budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the Department has “just established a mis- and disinformation governance board” to “more effectively” combat supposed disinformation campaigns; especially in regards to supposed Russian interference in American elections.
With the establishment of the “disinformation governance board,” many people—especially those on “Team Reality”—say the Biden administration is effectively creating a real-life version of the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s famous (and prescient) sci-fi novel, 1984. But how realistic is that comparison?
In Orwell’s novel, which takes place in a fictionalized London of the future—one that feels cold and gray and full of despair—the Ministry of Truth is an organ of Big Brother; the totalitarian leader of Oceania—one of three fictional superstates in the novel—who enjoys an intense cult of personality manufactured by the brainwashing methods of “The Party.”
As the U.K. website Fighting Fake notes “If Big Brother makes a prediction that turns out to be wrong, the employees of the Ministry correct the record to make it ‘accurate.'” This is done because the Ministry’s core function is to maintain the illusion that The Party—the all-powerful regime that controls Oceania and is divided into two classes including the Inner Party and the Outer Part—is always right, absolutely. The Party, as Fighting Fake notes, cannot ever seem weak; nor can it ever appear to change its mind or make a mistake.
To deceive the population, the Ministry of Truth—headquartered in “an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air”—tracks down and deletes evidence of Party opposition members who have been “vaporized” by Big Brother, so it seems like they never existed—a function of the “Records Department” in the Ministry. Likewise those working in the Records Department—including Winston Smith, the novel’s titular hero—forge documents so the Party’s past statements and positions always agree with their current ones.
Along with the Records Department, the Ministry also contains a “Fiction Department” and a “Tele-Programmes Department”; the former of which The Party uses to generate fake articles and photographs, the latter, create and propagate propagandistic video content for people’s tele-screens. There are also several other Departments within the Ministry, including the “Propaganda Department” and “Pornography Department.”
To propagandize Winston and the rest of Oceania’s Outer Party the Ministry of Truth employs Newspeak—the official language of Oceania that “had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism.”
According to “The Principles of Newspeak” from the novel’s appendix:
“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.”
In the video above—a clip from an eponymous film adaptation of Orwell’s 1949 novel, starring John Hurt—we see Winston (played by Hurt) working at the Ministry. Like his other bland and droning co-workers, Winston sits in his cubicle, working to—literally—rewrite history. In the clip Winston takes an already published newspaper claiming “[The Ministry of Production] Pledge No Reduction in 30 Gramme Chocolate Ration” and requests that it be rewritten to read: “[The Ministry of Production] forecast increase in chocolate ration in 1984 from 20 to 25 grammes per week.”
This “correction” by Winston—which is also in the novel, although referencing the Ministry of Plenty instead the Ministry of Production (a change made for the film)—shows how the Ministry of Truth works; replacing one lie with another and then another, all in an effort to make The Party seem infallible. And far more competent than it actually is. In this instance, when The Party fails to deliver on its promise of 30-gram rations of chocolate, it simply adjusts records of its promise down to 20 grams; then, when it can only deliver 25-gram rations, it appears to have overdelivered on its promised rations when—in fact—it missed the goal by a wide margin.
Along with literally rewriting history the Ministry of Truth has one other critical tool at its disposal: memory holes. That is, small chutes in the floors of the Ministry that all lead to large incinerators used for utterly wiping from the public record embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, etc. for The Party.
As for parallels between the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue in Newspeak) and the DHS’ newly announced disinformation governance board? There are enough to make a good case that the latter, real-life “organ” of the state is on its way to becoming just like the former fictionalized one.
As mentioned in a recent Sense Receptor opinion post, Nina Jankowicz, the new executive director of the disinformation governance board, is an absolute nightmare for America and freedom of speech. Jankowicz, a “disinformation fellow” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who’s “advised the Ukrainian government on strategic communications under the auspices of a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship,” says America needs “law enforcement and our legislatures to do more” to censor and punish “disinformation” spreaders online.
Jankowicz has even promoted the idea of America adopting something similar to the U.K.’s Online Safety Bill “where they’re trying to make illegal this currently, quote, ‘awful but lawful content’ that exists online where people are being harassed.”
As for rewriting history outright, it appears Jankowicz nor the disinformation board have yet to start exercising that power. However, Jankowicz has unequivocally fallen on the wrong side of history—both ethically and factually, numerous times before. The “disinformation fellow,” for example, dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop story as “a Trump campaign product” in October of 2020. Now, even The New York Times admits Hunter’s laptop is real and full of lewd and nefarious content.
Likewise, Jankowicz has called for the government to forcefully lockdown its citizens against their will (in the tweet above). Not only is the idea of a director of a “disinformation governance board” calling for FORCED LOCKDOWNS a frightening prospect, it turns out lockdowns don’t work to mitigate disease spread or save any lives whatsoever.
Perhaps worse, Jankowicz has never apologized for being wrong about such substantive topics that were so relevant during a critical turning point in our country’s history. She’s also unable to understand that her current role puts her in direct opposition to what she felt was the place of government regarding censorship just two years ago. In the tweet above posted by Twitter user Maze Jankowicz describes in a May, 2020 interview how she was “horrified” at the idea of the executive branch (i.e. Donald Trump at the time) having any say over what’s true or false, noting that:
“[W]ith President Trump right now calling all these news organizations that have inconvenient-for-him stories that they’re getting out there that he’s calling fake news and now lashing out at platforms; I would never want to see our executive branch have that sort of power. And that’s why the legislative process… with our duly elected officials is really important. That sort of consultative rule-making process. And we can’t just govern by executive order anymore.”
While the disinformation board and Jankowicz have yet to hit their stride in becoming a real-life Minitrue, it should be noted that the U.S. government has had “ministers of truth” spouting lies since the beginning of 2020. Tony Fauci, for example, has outright lied again and again—attempting to change the history of what he said, as well as the meaning of words and phrases like “gain-of-function.” (It’s a “very nebulous” term according to Fauci.)
We’ve also seen Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Wolensky, et al. attempt to “memory hole” their myriad statements about the COVID-19 “vaccines” being “almost 100% protective against severe disease,” by simply claiming they never said such a thing.
In one particularly stark example of real-life Minitrue Newspeak, Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie has noted on Twitter that the federal government has literally changed the definition of the word “vaccination” since September, 2021. Prior to 2015, the definition of “vaccination” was an “Injection of a killed or weakened infectious organism in order to prevent disease.” Post September, 2021, the government has changed its definition of “vaccination” to “The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce protection from a specific disease.”
Massie’s tweet highlights something very important in this context: The Ministry of Truth is already here and functioning as intended. Jankowicz and the disinformation governance board can now only make things much worse. Or, according to the incoming “Disiboard,” far more splendid.
Feature image: Jordan L’Hôte
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