Digital doublethink: Playing truth or dare with Putin, Assad and ISIS

Christopher Dickey writes: The videos of American and British hostages being beheaded are so valuable to ISIS as memes of power and fear that now it has murdered a convert to Islam: Peter Kassig, 26, whose sole desire after serving in Iraq was to return to the region to help suffering civilians. Kassig had acknowledged the one God and His one Messenger, taken the name Abdel Rahman (Servant of the Merciful) and prayed five times a day, according to his parents. The Prophet would have understood, and spared him. The thugs of ISIS simply used him.

Such is the world of doublethink and triplethink.

Orwell put his finger on the core problem years before he wrote 1984. In wars, everybody lies. We do, they do, the victimizers and the victims do, too. But totalitarianism is different. Putin, Assad and ISIS all aspire to the kind of complete control that Stalin, Hitler, or the caliphs once had: total domination over their own people, brutal intimidation of their enemies. And, as Orwell wrote in a 1944 essay, “the really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits ‘atrocities’ but that it attacks the concept of objective truth: it claims to control the past as well as the future.”

Orwell hoped, without complete confidence, that “the liberal habit of mind, which thinks of truth as something outside yourself, something to be discovered, and not as something you can make up as you go along, will survive.”

One hopes. But 70 years after Orwell wrote those words, doublethink seems to be winning.

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