Orwellian Must Die: An Examination of Political Language

Orwellian in the Media
Orwellian in the Media

Table of Contents

These days, everything is Orwellian.

Did you know?

CCTV is Orwellian. Your smart toaster is Orwellian. The UK Government’s COVID Track & Trace project is Orwellian. Internet cookies are Orwellian. Social media is Orwellian.

Or so people say.

But what on earth do they mean by this?

Often used to signify vague allusions of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwellian has become as moribund as other words like Kafkaesque and McCarthyist.

It’s a trash word that empowers imbeciles on the alt-right, so it’s time we stopped using it.

Orwellian must die.

Why People Invoke Orwell’s Name

Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four introduced numerous words into public discourse. A strange irony, considering the novel is predominantly about the erasure of language and thought.

‘Thought crime’, ‘newspeak’, and ‘Big Brother’ are all used hyperbolically – often by people who have never read an Orwell novel in their life – to bemoan public or private overreach.

In death, his legacy has only grown.

In fact, the cult of personality surrounding Orwell has been allowed to reach a bizarre pitch of near-reverence.

Part of this is down to his incredibly strong, and vocal, political convictions.

As a political writer (see Politics and the English Language and Homage to Catalonia), Orwell was painfully honest.

Homage to Catalonia is a must-read for a first-hand account of the Spanish Civil War.

He’d speak his truth, irrespective of what ‘his side’ thought. This alienated him from both his friends on the Left and enemies on the Right.

And yet, at the same time, this frank objectivity garnered Orwell a lot of respect. It’s primarily because of his honesty and rejection of dogma that both the political Left and Right tend to try and claim Orwell as their own.

This intellectual honesty is perhaps a sign of someone worth listening to.

Orwellian and the Legacy of Nineteen Eighty-Four

‘Orwellian,’ when used as an adjective by anxious, overzealous citizens comes from a collective public idea of Orwell’s novel,  Nineteen Eighty-Four.

It’s a fever dream of a novel that even the most stoic of readers undoubtedly find troubling. But it’s also gross parody (though not a very nice one) of the totalitarian state.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Oceania, free speech has ended. Its civilians are subject to round-the-clock surveillance. Futuristic technologies are used to subjugate the people. 

Winston himself, our protagonist of the novel, actively creates and disseminates fake news. ‘Groupthink’ is encouraged, with the Thought Police out for anyone who deviates from the narrative. Ignorance and mistrust reign supreme.

The social and political anxieties of Nineteen Eighty-Four transcend the time it was published in. These days, those on both the political Left and Right use Orwellian as a paranoid invocation of Orwell and the fearful elements of Nineteen Eighty-Four. But this is either done spuriously, or unconsciously.

To be fair, some of the novels topics are prescient to our present day. Fake news is a real problem – with ‘troll farms’ a genuine business, designed to sow discord in Western nations. And in Hong Kong, its people are actively subject to some of these measures.

But mere similarities aren’t enough.

Because of this muddy, binary political battleground for Orwell’s legacy, we find ourselves listening to people – usually on Twitter – rewriting his history as either some sort of ‘anti-woke’ hero or, in other cases – some sort of sage prognosticator of a fascistic fantasy future cultivated by Western leftists.

It’s all very odd.

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s legacy is therefore somewhat sketchy. But this is largely thanks to lazy readings of Orwell’s work.

The novel is not a warning, nor Orwell’s prediction of a tainted future. Though a talented writer he may be, Orwell is not blessed with powers of precognition. 

Sorry conspiracy theorists – life isn’t that interesting.

Orwell in the media - The weaponising of Airstrip One

The ghastly phrase ‘Orwellian’ has not helped either. 

Has anyone who has ever uttered ‘Orwellian’ without a shred of irony ever actually read Nineteen Eighty-Four

I highly doubt it. 

It’s a word used largely by imbeciles who either haven’t read the book, or couldn’t read it.

A cursory glance of social media will show a range of far-right activists parroting of Orwell, despite the rather awkward fact that he was a committed socialist.

Therefore, the phrase Orwellian must die. 

It has become overused to the point of cliché and risks falling into the realm of ‘McCarthyite’ – a political term that has since lost all sense of meaning.

Just Google Nineteen Eighty-Four or Orwellian and scroll down the news column and you’ll see what I mean. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious.

Articles such as ‘Are we entering the Orwellian era of Nineteen Eighty-Four?’ framed by big data, ‘The deletion of womanhood,’ a very Daily-Mail article on how being a woman is now becoming thought crime.

Orwellian is the ‘they’ve cancelled Christmas’ [sic] of political discourse and criticism. Stop it.

Why Orwellian Must Die

The problem is this – the phrase Orwellian tarnishes Orwell’s legacy. It implies that he only wrote dystopian fiction, which is obviously false.

Orwell lived in a time where the threat of the Soviet Union was not being adequately challenged by his comrades on the Left. This is addressed in depth in Homage to Catalonia – one of the greatest pieces of war journalism ever written.

And then there’s The Road to Wigan Pier – travel writing with a highly socialist bent. It’s fantastic, if a little preachy in parts.

Meanwhile, Politics and the English Language remains essential reading for any writer. Any writer, journalist, or politician must read this at least once.

Essentially, there’s more to Orwell than Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is, without a double, a fantastic novel. Certainly one of my favourites.

But lazy reading, lazy political discourse, and lazy use of language limit the range of discussion surrounding Orwell. 

Ironic, considering that this limiting of language & the range of thought is exactly what Orwell guards most against – something those decrying things as ‘Orwellian’ perhaps don’t realise.

Let’s stop using this awful word.

Orwellian must die.

Got any strong thoughts either way? Any additional Orwellian Bingo suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

[Podcast] The Business of Creativity

Podcast - The Business of Creativity

Last week, I made my first podcast appearance after being kindly invited to join Lucy Kikuchi on the Business of Creativity Podcast.

We discussed our favourite books, the blurring of marketing and personal life, work/life balance, and the creative influence of our late fathers.

Check out the full podcast below and, if you enjoyed it, please consider subscribing to Lucy’s YouTube channel!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue Book Review

Table of Contents

“Never pray to the gods who answer at night.”

This is what Estelle – the wizened old character of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – warns forebodingly.

So naturally, Adeline (Addie) prays to a god who answers at night.

To be fair to Addie, she was peering into the abyss of an arranged marriage in 1713 France.

Fearing being caged by domesticity, she barters with the devil for freedom.

But there’s a hitch. Because of course there is. It’s the devil. 

Addie will live forever. And yet no-one she meets will ever remember her. Once she falls out of their sight, she’s forever forgotten.

And thus begins The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

An Invisible Life is a Lonely Place

It’s not easy being forgotten. Not when you yourself remember everything.

Think about your own experiences. Those coffee breaks with a friend which always end too soon – the nights spent in a beer garden until last orders, amongst great company. 

After all, memories are the fountain of the soul. Our experiences, often with other people, enrich our lives. A lot of this has been sorely missed in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic. So, in many ways, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue has come at a very pertinent time for many readers.

Addie, of course, can experience a veritable eternity of these moments – many lifetimes’ worth in fact. But they are experiences she cannot share with anyone beyond the time itself. 

She cannot even tell anyone her true name – the words failing on her tongue as she attempts the first letter. All part of her bargain with the devil.

There’s also the issue, which Addie faces frequently, where she tries to find somewhere to stay – pays her board – before being subsequently accused of squatting and then booted out onto the street.

Schwab captures this alienation spectacularly. It’s troubling, often getting Addie into difficult situations, let alone heart-breaking ones.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and Immersion

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a truly immersive novel.

This is my first experience of V. E. Schwab’s writing, but it’s excellent. From people’s mannerisms, their appearance, and especially Schwab’s outlining of setting – it’s all dripping with detail. It’s a genuine pleasure to read.

I was especially impressed by how unpredictable the plot was. About 10% into the novel, I was fairly sure I knew where it was going. So, I was pleasantly surprised as the twists revealed themselves and proved me wrong.

This is not a straightforward boy-meets-girl, star-crossed lovers affair. There is some of that, however, Addie’s tale is far more nuanced than that. It’s a powerful exploration of thought and memory.

I cannot wait to read more of Schwab’s work.

“Oh, Adeline...” - Thoughts on Addie

To be fair to the people Addie meets, she is quite forgettable. 

For someone who has lived for over 300 years, she lacks hobbies, interests, social awareness, and possesses a bizarre historical indifference.

This is a person who has lived through some of the most seminal moments in Western history. As a French woman, she’ll have experienced the French Revolution but only makes passing references to it, such as meeting Rousseau in a café.

Addie’s lived through multiple World Wars and has seemingly little to say about it, bar some interludes with Luc about death. She’s witnessed the rise of the civil rights movement in America and, again, has nothing to say about it.

We get a few passing references to the fact that she learned Greek and watched Hitchcock movies when they originally came out, but she doesn’t always read as someone who’s witnessed over 300 years of life & death.

Having said all of this, Addie is by no means a poor character – just limited. 

I felt her pain throughout, and she undoubtedly grows as a person. 

I particularly appreciated her first meeting with Henry (the first person to remember her). She doesn’t immediately fall for him, as one might expect in this type of novel. She’s (understandably) more drawn to the fact he can remember her. 

Addie doesn’t just have relationships with men either. Schwab explores the idea of Addie being bisexual, her views and preferences altering over time – as they might well do if one lives as long as Addie. I really appreciated this.

Addie is quite flawed but she’s harmless. I’d like to think that most readers would find her to be a likeable enough lead, if a little limited.

How is the Audiobook?

I listened to the audiobook of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, following a recommendation in AndOnSheReads’ Audiobooks to Relax With blog post. 

Julia Whelan’s performance as narrator is outstanding.

She captures the characters in an extraordinarily good way. Her voices for Luc and Henry are particularly strong, challenging my heterosexuality at pretty much every turn(!)

Luc’s voice is like velvet, yet with a cautionary sharpness. Henry’s is genial and approachable. 

The narration itself is clear, well-delivered, and captures the mood of the novel in a phenomenal manner. 

Should you choose to listen to the audiobook over the novel, you won’t miss out. It’s a brilliant experience.

IsThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue worth reading?

Certainly. 

It’s written with passion, precision and the themes of alienation and faustian pacts are very compelling. Readers who enjoy elements of romance, the supernatural, and YA fiction will adore this book. As will anyone who appreciates immersive writing.

Schwab makes you feel things. Whether it’s anxiety, sadness, or frustration at Addie’s predicament. It’s difficult to not empathise with Addie – you find yourself picturing yourself in the same situation; waking up in the morning and your partner & child not recognising you… walking out of a shop having paid, but nobody actually remembering you’ve paid… and so on.

The only thing that The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue falls down on for me is the lack of social and historical awareness. It does impact on immersion and makes Addie’s considerable struggle to live on a little less believable.

However, the scope of the narrative and the deep themes explored are well worth the price of entry.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a beautifully written book that is absolutely worth your time. I’d strongly recommend it.

4/5

Enjoy my Addie LaRue book review? Have you read the Schwab’s novel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Copywriting Is… Book Review

Copywriting Is... Andrew Boulton Book Review Wide

Table of Contents

There is no shortage of marketing and copywriting books out there. 

Pocket paperbacks promising simple, step-by-step solutions that help you generate all of the leads and make all of the monies.

Weightier tomes, costing an arm-and-a-leg, poring over sales funnels, the customer journey, and other topics that you’ll definitely do a Udemy course on …and then never do.

Copywriting Is… I’m delighted to say, is neither of those things. 

It is not a primer on how to write. Nor does it reveal the deepest, darkest secrets of a customers’ wants, needs, and desires.

It’s far more straightforward than that.

What IS copywriting?

The author, Andrew Boulton, is lecturer, wordsmith, and – to borrow a delightful phrase from the blurb – ‘a seasoned alphabet wrangler’.

He, like many other copywriters before, has experienced the fun game of roulette when attempting to explain to well-meaning friends and relatives what exactly a copywriter is. 

Err towards the ‘copy’ and they’ll think you simply scribble down dictations. Err the other direction and you’ll hear your gran proclaiming to her peers on how you’re writing ‘the next Harry Potter’.

The truth is, copywriters exhibit a lot of talents, quirks, and attributes. There’s no one-size-fits-all definition for the trade of the copywriter. Copywriting is a lot of things, which is where this book comes in.

30-or-so thoughts on thinking like a copywriter,’ the canary-yellow front cover declares.

Copywriting is madness.
Copywriting is envy.
Copywriting is silly.
Copywriting is alive.

Buy this book. Twice. Perhaps Thrice.

If you’re yet to realise, this is an incredibly funny book.

Not like those books you get in a Christmas stocking, mind. The ones that claim to tell you the extent of your pet turtle’s intelligence. Those poor, unloved books that seasonal Waterstones staff solicit you with at the checkout. All apologetic, with puppy dog eyes, hoping that by shifting a few, James Daunt may actually put his hand in his pocket and pay his hardworking staff a fair living wage.

But it is an amusing book – a veritable trove of eclectic copywriting witticisms and observations. It’s also one of the most quotable books I’ve ever read.

If you’re in the business of writing words in exchange for money, do not sleep on this one – it’s well worth a read. Copywriting Is…. is a wonderful insight into creative thinking generally – a portable post-it of perfection, a cocktail of creativity, and other fine alliterative superlatives. 

But equally, even if you aren’t a copywriter, I’d strongly recommend this book. In some ways, I’d almost recommend it even more for a non-writer. At the very least, you’ll be entertained and at best you’ll appreciate the strange quirks that come with working alongside a creative writer.

I shall no longer be found without this book in my possession. If so, please return me to the nearest bookshop.

5/5

Andrew Boulton’s Copywriting Is… is a number one bestseller
and available at amazon.co.uk.