Politicians tend to promise all the world during campaigns but usually changes them when they get elected. In as much as they realize the realities of public office, the past few years have seen politicians saying about two contrary things at the same time, up from bluffing and hypocrisy. This rather fictional concept come to life in during the British referendum on its European Union membership and the election of multimillionaire businessman-slash-celebrity Donald Trump as US president. Doublethink has now arrived in real life politics, and it thrives on the post-truth period of convenient lying and contradictory rhetoric.
Is this the real life?
The concept doublethink emerged from the dystopian fictional novel Nineteen Eighty Four of George Orwell as part of the literature’s fictional language newspeak. Accordingly, the book explained that doublethink is:
The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… 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 as 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
This rather literary technique somehow describes the type of hypocrisy that are exhibited by populist politicians thriving on the bigot, racist, and sexist instincts of disgruntled citizenry as a smokescreen for their bluffing. While the phenomena was not distinctly similar to earlier episodes of rhetoric used by fascists of the 20th century, documentation of political speeches and the rise of fact-checking made it easier to spot doublethinking.
The election of Donald Trump as the president of the so-called bastion of modern democracy is one of the best examples of the “reincarnation” of doublethink. A former Democrat, Trump emerged as a new face of American politics by offering himself to the projected Bush-Clinton matchup. His inexperience in politics — though he have often spoke out his mind in multiple issues — made him popular among the American voters. He often use his (in)famous Twitter account to express his often uniformed, ironic views on political issues.
On one instance, he questioned the same election that he won. He said in a tweet that he would have won the popular vote — the United States’ outdated electoral college system made it possible for Trump to win the presidency — had illegal voters did not vote. His lack of appreciation of intelligence agencies “because he is too smart” for intelligence briefings backfired at him as he used to criticize Barack Obama for not attending such briefings. There are much more that Trump has said that reflects his doublethinking and by the way he acts during his first week as president, this will continue.
Brexit means Brexit… or not
When former British prime minister David Cameron announced a referendum — a British obsession nowadays — on the United Kingdom’s membership on the European Union, the right saw it as an opportunity to promote the brewing anti-immigrant, anti-regulation, and anti-cooperative spirit among British. It was also an opportunity to doublethink and express blatant lies for the sake of political partisanship.
The most famous “stunt” at the referendum campaign was the so-called Brexit battle bus, or the red bus that stated how UK spend 350 million pounds on the EU while it can be spent on its National Health Service. Such claim has been highly disputed by those on the other side of the fence for being misleading and has been pulled out. Despite this, the Leave movement won with a very small margin, thanks to the deception that ruled the campaign.
The minimal majority that voted for Brexit makes the process of exiting the EU awkward. Theresa May, the woman who replaced Cameron as the head of government, has been identified to the Remain side but has to negotiate Brexit. This reluctance has been seen in her actions since her selection as prime minister. While she has repeatedly committed to Brexit, no actual plans have been made so far.
War is peace
The world has entered the so-called Trump era, a period where unpredictability is the norm and doublethink will be frequent. Undermining the credibility of independent media firms by calling them fake news is one manner of discrediting those who would call out doublethinking. The actions done by those in power today may not be entirely orchestrated but repeated actions over several countries would make the trend of doublethink seemingly normal. It is up to people to voice out what is wrong and change it as soon as they can.
Image Source: Metro UK