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Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 20:36:09 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) Next time I'll just say "explain yourself"

Blattid wrote:

>Second, I do not mean (nor did I mean to imply) that Ascian
>Correct Thought is _exclusively_ a parable of the Maoist
>Cult of Personality.

But you =do= mean to exclude all things Orwell from the mix, right? I mean,
that is what I heard before, that is what I hear now.  That is what I
continue to find so puzzling.

>The approach to thought control taken by the Ingsoc Party
>(more specifically, one supposes, Ministrue) in NINETEEN
>EIGHTY-FOUR is fundamentally different (in my opinion) from
>that taken by the Group of Seventeen in tBotNS; the former
>seeks to redesign grammar and vocabulary so that thoughtcrime
>is literally unthinkable, but to leave enough flexibility that
>more or less anything can be thought.

Hmmm.  I don't know.

>The approach of Ascian "Correct Thought" is somewhat different.
>It does not seek to change the _form_ of the language, but to
>limit -- by what mechanism we are not told -- the actual things
>the people are allowed to say (and so, presumably, to think).
>Like Newspeak, the basic idea of imprisoning minds this way
>is (Skinnerian or Whorf-Sapirean) nonsense, and Loyal to the
>Group of Seventeen's story of the just man shows how Correct
>Thought can be manipulated to think the "incorrect" (or
>"unthinkable") -- on this much, at least, we are agreed?

Hmmm.  Well maybe.  I mean, part of the problem in this approach (comparing
Approved Texts, most of which comes from "The Just Man," with Newspeak of
NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR) is that we do not have an Ascian boundary and its
penetration as we have in Oceania ("down with Big Brother!").  Winston
Smith is a rebel; Loyal to the Group of Seventeen is a prisoner of war who
does not show any clear signs of switching sides -- we take his speech to
be orthodox.  What would be the unthinkable elements in "The Just Man"?

>My point is that the Ingsoc approach is more subtle and, in a
>word, structural, allowing an essentially infinite array of
>thinkables while fencing off certain areas as unthinkable --
>a bounded infinity of utterances, if you will. The Ascian
>approach is radically different; it uses brute iterative force
>to say "Here are the thinkable thoughts; there are no others."

I'm not sure I follow.  One difference I can see, as I try to understand
what you are saying (yet this is actually not what you are saying), is a
difference of unit scale: Newspeak is built on the word level, whereas the
units of Approved Texts are . . . well, what, exactly?  Paragraphs,
sentences, and perhaps sentence fragments (like "loyal to the Group of
Seventeen"; "no one is to receive more than 100 blows").

These units are used differently, it seems.  Paragraphs would seem to have
the most rigidity to them and so presumably offer less room for nuance (as
they drag more of their original context along with them).  Sentences,
otoh, are removed from textual context and thus presumably could be used to
say the opposite of the original meaning.

Thus, if Foila isn't actually lying (i.e., giving a false interpretation of
the source text), a fellow can use Approved Texts with a cut and paste
approach and tell an original story . . . hmmm, or =is= it original?  Maybe
the entire text of "The Just Man" is unabridged, verbatim Authorized Text
-- is that what everyone assumes?  If so, that completely demolishes my
"human spirit works around the obstacle" line of reasoning . . . the tale
becomes a propaganda told by a cunning robot.

(My thinking before was something more like, oh, tell the story of "Romeo
and Juliet" using only complete sentences from "MacBeth.")

>I take this to be an extrapolation-to-the-final-stage of the
>Maoist _type_ of "political correctness."
>> OTOH, to the best of my knowledge, even at the height of the
>> personality cult the Chinese did not make a practice of
>> speaking exclusively in quotes from the little red book.
>> So the historical context of the little red book
>> does not contain the aspect of Approved Texts/Correct Thought.
>I cannot speak of the Chinese, except from the somewhat random
>reports I recall of people being sent to camps for "re-education
>in Chairman Mao thought" during the Cultural Revolution. (The
>thought of the Cultural Revolution inspired the Subject: line of
>this posting, of course.) I can give anecdotal evidence of folks
>I knew in Berkeley in the mid-'70s, who had a Chairman Mao quote
>for every occasion and who judged all opinions (even, it seemed
>at times, all utterances) against Chairman Mao Thought. These
>people took Mao's quotations as the set of axioms from which all
>politcally "correct thought" must flow.
>It seems to me to be a relatively small step, a relatively small
>_satirical_ and extrapolative step, from there to simply closing
>off the minds of the followers to all other thoughts completely.
>And so I believe that to say that "the historical context of the
>little red book does not contain the aspect of Approved Texts/
>Correct Thought" is orthogonal to the point I am making.

Then it was doubleplusgood of you to give a plusbig answer to it.

I hope the basic point of my note is undarkthink. We was gived unOrwell
statements, vaguing a position as darkthink to me (and maybe others) as the
elephant is to the three spying sightless mans: one touch the leg and say,
"Elephant is treeful"; one touch the trunk and say, "Elephant is snakeful";
man three touch the belly and say, "Elephant is houseful." When in fact
Total Elephant is untreeful, unsnakeful, and unhouseful.

For myself as unseeing man in this Elephant case, I gived the Orwell
position.  Spying into the dark, the question "Is a unsurplus of Orwell
basic the cause of this darkthink?"  No, undarkwise not: 1 = 1. Orwell
quota is established. Plusgood.

Next question, "Is littleredbookthing used in unhistoryful way?" Yes,
undarkwise: 2 = 2. Littleredbookthing position is semibuilded. Plusgood.

It was a surprise, then, that even though 1 = 1, and 2 = 2, still the
darkthink remain dark, likewise darker than anteanswer.

Undarkwise this line of inquiry is unuseful.  Down the memory hole.



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