As is my wont, I sit here watching the salamanders play in the embers of a lazy fire, blowing slow, mighty rings of the cherry-tinged tobacco smoke that I inhaled from my Calabash pipe and ponder the week gone by. And what a week it was. It brings to mind that great sage of sociopolitical dystopianism, George Orwell and his discovery of doublethink.
Doublethink is believing two contradictory things simultaneously. Some say that doublethink is just a snappy name for cognitive dissonance, although I would argue that there’s a subtle but important difference between them. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling that you get from believing two contradictory things. Doublethink is when it doesn’t bother you at all. The concept is a key method in stage magic, hypnotism shows, advertising, and coercive propaganda. If you are in a state of cognitive dissonance, a part of your logical mind is jammed. In that state, you are very suggestible.
We’ve seen plenty of doublethink this week. At a low level, Google pretending they don’t get FISA gag orders while simultaneously trying to get them eased is a good example, as is Hollywood’s stance on employee pay. The Chamber of Commerce got into the game by claiming that Bollywood’s success means they’re failing in a way only strong copyright will help.
There were also more subtle variants on this theme, such as failing to recognize that keeping secrets harder can make the secrets get out faster or that telling people not to see what their lying eyes have seen.
But, the crowning moment of doublethink this week was the disclosure of the makeup of the advisory council for “Free Speech Week”. That Chris Dodd is the chair was just the desiccated cherry on top of an ant-infested sundae.
Not everything was doublethink, though. There were some stories that demonstrated sublime consistency. Dick Cheney is still an illusionist who refuses to use his power for good. Spies still want to make criminality legal, while attorneys want to turn law-abiding citizens into criminals. Hollywood declares itself awesome, and the FBI is annoyed by the Constitution.
Oddly, I suppose, I find solace in that.