Monday, 23 January 2017

The truth - or something like it - is out there!

I read this morning that Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer" are regularly top of the list of books that parents want banned from the US school curriculum. Another book frequently top of that list is Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird". I wonder which books people would like to ban from UK schools.

Apparently one reason for objecting to "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" is Twain's use of the "N-word". While I can understand objections to its continued use, that word was in common use at the time when Twain was writing. Think of Joseph Conrad producing a novel called "The Nigger of the Narcissus". Maybe we should go back and change all the words, as happened recently with Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" being changed to "And Then There Were None".

It all begins to smack of Orwell's "1984" where Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue in Newspeak, the language of "1984"), altering past news items so that they reflect the reality required by the present leader. After all, we already live in the Post Truth era, where false news abounds and where officials talk about Alternative Facts.

Back in 1946 Orwell wrote about the decline in standards of English, criticising the bad English of his day, citing dying metaphors, pretentious diction and rhetoric (does that sound familiar?), and meaningless words, which encouraged unclear reasoning and doublespeak. Towards the end of an essay on that topic he wrote, "I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this may argue that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development, by any direct tinkering with words or constructions.” Oh dear!

Meanwhile the Alternative Facts continue. Here's a link to an article about the new White House press secretary's claims that the crowds at the inauguration of the new president were the greatest ever, despite photographic evidence to the contrary.

I particularly liked the writer's reference to Sean Spicer as the "official Donald Trump spokesgoblin", a term that would fit nicely into Newspeak.

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