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In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labeling disapproved thoughts with the term thoughtcrime or, in Newspeak, "crimethink".[1]

In the book, Winston Smith, the main character, writes in his diary: "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."


Thought Police

The Thought Police (thinkpol in Newspeak) are the secret police of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four whose job it is to uncover and punish thoughtcrime. The Thought Police use psychology and omnipresent surveillance to find and eliminate members of society who are capable of the mere thought of challenging ruling authority.[2]

The Thought Police of Orwell and their pursuit of thoughtcrime were based on the methods used by the totalitarian states and competing ideologies of the 20th century. It also had much to do with, as Orwell called it, the "power of facing unpleasant facts," and his willingness to criticize prevailing ideas which brought him into conflict with others and their "smelly little orthodoxies." Although Orwell described himself as a democratic socialist, many other socialists (especially those who supported the communist branch of socialism) thought that his criticism of the Soviet Union under Stalin damaged the socialist cause.

The term "Thought Police," by extension, has come to refer to real or perceived enforcement of ideological correctness in any modern or historical contexts.

Technology and thoughtcrime

Technology played a significant part in the detection of thoughtcrime in Nineteen Eighty-Four — with the ubiquitous telescreens which could inform the government, misinform and monitor the population.

See also


  1. ^ Orwell, George; The Orwell Reader: Fiction, Essays, and Reportage; pg. 409; 1956: Harcourt, Brace; ISBN 0156701766 9780156701761
  2. ^ McCormick, Donald; Approaching 1984, p. 21, 1980, ISBN 0715376543, 9780715376546

Further reading

  • Kretzmer, David and Kershman, Hazan Francine (Eds.) (2000) "Freedom of Speech and Incitement Against Democracy". Kluwer Law International, The Hague, Netherlands. ISBN 90-411-1341-X

External links

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