Thursday, September 06, 2007

What would Orwell think of the blogosphere ?

The Guardian has an interesting article, some of which I agree with, on how Orwell would view the millions of bloggers posting furiously on blogs in today's world:

In 1946, Orwell said English was 'in a bad way'. In 2007, quite a lot of people would probably concede a dismay at the overall crassness of contemporary 'cyberprose'. But such is the general nervousness and incomprehension about the internet revolution that no one is willing to articulate this. It's also interesting to set Orwell's celebrated call to arms next to the practices of the internet because, among the guardians of cyber culture, the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four remains a household god. The same people who trumpet the 'democratic' qualities of the internet would probably cite his famous essay approvingly in any discussion of English today.
But this point I disagree with:
On closer inspection, Orwell's jeremiad turns out to have been misjudged. He was right that Forties English was 'full of bad habits' (dying metaphors, pretentious diction, meaningless words), but wrong to think that 'the decadence of our language', a typically Orwellian formulation, was irreversible.
From many points of view, the story of Anglo-American English from 1950, the year of his early death, to 1991, the year Tim Berners-Lee launched the worldwide web, is of a language going from strength to strength in vitality and range. Not coincidentally, it was during these Cold War years that the left-wing jargon that shaped the linguistic landscape of 1946 swiftly became derelict. Who, in the online fever of the new millennium, talks about 'the class struggle' or 'the dictatorship of the proletariat?

Who are you kidding here? The abuse of English is now worse than it has ever been. There are a lot of politicians and journalists who still mention "class", and the proleteriat is a word that was never in widespread use in the West, except amongst a few hard-core communists.

Take a look at all of these empty and distorted words that are used today:
  • The "Environment"
  • Social justice
  • National interest
  • "Fair" wage
  • "Sustainable" living
  • Carbon neutral
  • "Environmentally friendly"
The way politicians and journalists refer to "The economy" is entirely incorrect, as is their definition of "The environment" and "fair workplace laws".

And the Guardian, being a left-wing rag, pretends that journalists really do care about the blogosphere and react to it:
There's another thing that Orwell the great freelance would have been quick to identify: in the blogosphere, no one gets properly paid; its irresponsibility is proportionate to its remoteness from the cash nexus. Worse, the blogosphere, to which all journalists are now professionally committed, not only challenges the old infrastructure of print, but it also sponsors a new prolixity.
Journalists still sit in their ivory towers and sneer at any fact-checking or criticisms arising from blogs. The Guardian live in a fantasy world.