Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Some old uses for Newspeak.

As the cash-strapped advertising industry returns from its annual approximately $200-million Bacchanal at Cannes, it all makes me think, as so many things do these days, of George Orwell.

Mostly I think of Orwell's "Newspeak." The only language ever divined where the number of words decreases every year.

The number of words in Newspeak is limited for a specific reason. Limit words and you limit thoughts.

(Think of 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down.' 'Hot or Not.' Complexity of opinion narrowed to two options. No nuance, controversy or discussion.)

As Orwell wrote in "1984,"
"Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end, we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it."

Geoffrey Hughes, a noted English philologist said in his classic book, "Words in time: A social history of the English vocabulary,""Newspeak is the product of a totalitarian control over semanticshistory and the media more ruthlessly complete than any which has yet emerged in the modern world."

Over the past few days I have kept track of 3,191 different comments of friends and colleagues in the industry who have just returned from the south of France.

My extensive research led to the chart below. Almost 40% of the speeches, tweets, posts and emails about Cannes included the word "humble." 20%, the word "brave." And the remaining 40% was divided among just five words.

As an industry, we used words like humble to mask our incessant chest-beating and bragging. We say brave because we're not. And so it goes.

Our industry's cognoscenti want to narrow our range of thought. As agency 1-percenters make off with 99% of our business' spoils, they want you to stop thinking. They hope you won't notice that in our no-raise era, they are drinking wine on yachts.

They want you to believe they're brave, humble, changing the world and doing it for a cause.


And War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. 

Open Plans are Productive. Everyone is Creative. Timesheets are Accurate. Seventeen Rounds of Review improves Work.

And bragging is humbling.

I might not be very smart. But I'm smarter than that.

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