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When two claims contradict one another, it is futile and useless in attempting to analogize between the two. George Orwell, the author of the novel 1984, defines doublethink as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” It is the idea of genuinely accepting two conflicting ideas, which eliminates an individual’s capacity of being able to think or act freely. Dinh, the author of both the Patriot Act and the essay “How the USA Patriot Act Defends Democracy”, uses a modern day form of double think in an attempt to justify the Patriot Act, an act which unconstitutionally violates the individual’s right of privacy through the clandestine use of surveillance.
Gelsey, the author of the essay “The FBI is Reading over Your Shoulder” illustrates the potential effect of the Library Records Provision of the Patriot Act, otherwise known as Section 215. Section 215 allows the government to search and obtain the records of any individual without the individual’s consent or knowledge.
Gelsey claims that “intimidating readers in such a manner is, in effect, controlling what we read and how we think”, thus it “circumvents the First Amendment by threatening readers rather than prohibiting what they read.”
Gelsey compares this statement to Winston Smith, the protagonist of the novel 1984, whose capacity of free thought and self expression is impaired and damaged due to constant monitoring and surveillance. The two conflicting claims of both Dinh and Gelsey bring in to point the issue of protecting individual rights versus the right of the state to access an individual’s private information.
Dinh claims that a balance of “ideals” and “techniques” is necessary and required for the rights of the individual to be protected. However, these “techniques” of surveillance and monitoring violate those “ideals”, which are the constitutional rights that protect an individual from state power. Dinh’s statement of combining “ideals” and “techniques” can be viewed as a modern day form of doublethink because Dinh attempts to justify the Patriot Act through the explanation of how the rights of an individual can only be protected when those rights are unconstitutionally violated through the exposure of privacy.
Doublethink, which is the simultaneous belief in two contradictory ideas while being unaware of its compatibility, is a form of manipulation of the mind. In the novel 1984, the protagonist Winston Smith is constantly under monitor and surveillance, which has altered and mangled his mind. Thus he becomes incapable of being able to know which thoughts are truly his, and is no longer able to express himself of his own free will. The perpetual government surveillance in the novel forces Winston to secretly purchase a diary in which to write his own thoughts. However, the pressure of being under incessant monitoring has made Winston incapable of expressing his own thoughts, as he is only able to write the same phrase over and over. This creates a sense of paranoia that is also seen in Gelsey’s essay as she writes about the interminate surveillance and monitoring of innocent and unsuspecting individuals. Gelsey states that “the feeling of being monitored inhibits freedom of thought” as seen in Winston, and also in modern society today.
However, Dinh, the writer of the Patriot Act, claims such fear and paranoia are absurd, and states that it is “historically and legally unfounded” to compare government surveillance to that of the surveillance used in 1984. In the novel, the Party, who are elites, uses doublethink as a massive campaign in order to psychologically manipulate the individuals of the society they live in. By using double think, the Party is able to deteriorate the individual’s capability of being able to think independently. They manipulate the individual into believing whatever they are told to believe. The official slogan of the Party, which is “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” is the first example and introduction to a form of doublethink. The words of the slogan all contradict one another. Yet the party is successfully able to manipulate society, which allows them to force individuals into believing whatever is needed to believe, regardless of how illogical or contradictory the statement may be. By being manipulated and coerced into accepting the ambivalent and conflicting nature of doublethink, the independence and self determination of individuals begin to dwindle and diminish.
In 1984, doublethink is seen once more as Winston Smith deletes disturbing yet true facts from the public records. He is then forced by the Party to believe the fabricated version of the truth. A modern day form of doublethink is used by Dinh, the author of the Patriot Act. Dinh expresses a modern day form of double think as he arfues that the Constitution, which protects individuals from government power, must be violated by the government in order for the individual’s right to be protected. This unconstitutional claim contradicts itself, thus Dinh has incorporated a modern day form of double think in his essay. As the plot of 1984 progresses, it is clarified that newspeak must be present in order for doublethink to be effective. Newspeak is the official language of the society in 1984.
The Party created Newspeak with the purpose of limiting a person’s thought and speech, thus eliminating any rebellious thought. This allows the Party to constantly monitor individuals and to further ensure that everyday thought and speech can be limited and manipulated. Newspeak is the method the Party members adopt in order to control and manipulate thinking through the alteration of language, while double think is the technique the Party members use to directly control individual thoughts. Doublethink also allows the Party, or in Dinh’s case, to hide its own wrongs from itself and society through the continual use of surveillance and propaganda. This proves to affect not only the individual’s thought and actions shown in 1984, but also that of the individual members of the Party. Doublethink proves to be an effective method of persuasion and manipulation not only in the novel 1984, but in modern society as well, as seen in the issue brought upon by the Patriot Act.
When the individual’s right to privacy is tested by the government, it is justifiable for the principle and morality of the government to be tested by the individual. The Patriot Act, written by Dinh, claims to balance the “ideals” and “techniques” that are required for the protection of the individual’s rights granted by the Constitution. Section 215 of the Patriot Act grants the government the ability to obtain the records of any individual, such as library book records, providing that the government assures that it is trying to “protect against terrorism.” It is stated in the First Amendment that an individual has the right to read whatever book or material they desire to read. However, Section 215 of the Patriot Act violates the right of being able to freely choose what an individual wants to read. If the rights of one person are violated, then the rights of every individual of this country are violated. Therefore it is constitutional and democratic for the right of every individual to be protected, not just a select few.
In society today, the free communication between people is the basis for free thinking. the freedom of thought is curtailed if there is no free communication, which results in restricted thinking. Gelsey writes that the “FBI is policing our minds by purporting to read them.” Although Dinh claims that the Patriot Act protects the rights of individuals, Gelsey believes that this section violates the most essential right granted by the Constitution, which is that “giving up privacy rights can’t guarantee physical safety, but it will almost certainly inhibit intellectual freedom.” She states that she does not want to give up liberty for security because it does not guarantee security. However, the pressure of being watched and monitored will take away the individual’s ability to properly think, as shown by Winston in the 1984. This is where Dinh disagrees.
He states that such “concerns expressed about official surveillance of US citizens are reasonable and should be addressed.” He then attempts to explain how the Patriot Act does not violate individual rights by stating that the society should “trust us. The government wouldn’t abuse these new powers against individuals.” However, it is difficult to trust Dinh’s claim based on his lack of credibility. From the beginning of his essay “How the USA Patriot Act Defends Democracy”, contradictory statements are already evident.
Although he wrote the Patriot Act, Dinh thinks that the Patriot Act is “one of the most important legislative measures in American history.” If Dinh “thinks” that the Patriot Act is only “one of the most legislative measures”, it shows that Dinh himself is not sure whether or not it is important at all. He also states that the terrorists are nihilistic, which is untrue. Terrorists are religious fanatics and true believers in religious or personal causes. All these inaccurate and false statements demonstrates Dinh’s lack of credential. Therefore the readers have valid reason of not accepting Dinh’s claims. As a result, Dinh attempts to use a modern day form of doublethink in an attempt to justify his claims in order to persuade the reader.
Chaos and discord is inevitable without a certain amount of balance. In the concluding paragraph of Dinh’s essay, Dinh attempts to clarify the relationship of ideals and techniques. Dinh states that the “foundation of liberty is under attack…” Although he persuasively attempts to articulate this claim, the “foundation of liberty” is in fact not in jeopardy. The foundation of liberty is the Constitution, which states the rights of citizens in this democratic nation. These rights include the Bill of Rights, which are the amendments of the Constitution. Dinh alerts the readers that terrorists are attempting to attack the foundation of liberty, the Constitution. However, terrorists do not prioritize in the undertaking of missions to eliminate the rights of U.S. citizens. Terrorists attempt to define their reason of terrorism by attacking capitalism. Capitalism and democracy are not similar systems. Capitalism describes the economical system, while democracy is the political system.
Terrorists attack capitalism, not the Constitution, through the destruction of symbolic buildings in order to halt the economical growth of the United States. Further in the paragraph, Dinh exclaims that it is “critical that we both reaffirm the ideals of our constitutional democracy.” Dinh defines “ideals” as the rights given to each individual that protects from government power. The “constitutional democracy” he also writes about is not the fantasy of economic opportunity, but it is Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Dinh also states that it is important to “discern the techniques necessary to secure those ideals against the threat of terrorism.” Dinh believes that the Patriot Act is the necessary “technique” that can extend the powers of government by going beyond what the law permits. These “techniques” violates the Constitution through the surveillance of individuals by the order of the state.
By declaring that these “techniques” are necessary in order to secure the “ideals” against the threat of terrorism, Dinh is acknowledging the fact that the Constitution must be violated in order for it to be protected from terrorism. However, it is was already mentioned that the terrorists do not pursue the Constitution, but rather the economic growth of the U.S. Dinh indicates that the government must violate the rights which protect individuals from state power in order to protect those rights. This is an evident use of modern double think, which is the “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them” Dinh continues by quoting a renowned law professor who knows nothing about the terrorists that Dinh is warning the readers about. The quote “ideals without techniques are a mess.
But technique without ideals is a menace” does not relate to Dinh’s Patriot Act. Dinh simply uses Llewellyn’s quote without even explaining the intended meaning of it. Dinh attempts to relate the Patriot act with the “ideals” and “techniques”, but it is evident that the two cannot be compared in any aspect. There is only the reiteration and repetition of the words “ideals” and “techniques”, which does not clearly explain the meaning or purpose of Dinh’s use of those words. Dinh merely states that the combining of ideals and techniques will shield democracy, and then uses double think in order to justify how the Patriot Act violates the Constitution and individual rights.
It is evident that Dinh’s statement can be viewed as a modern day form of double think because it attempts to combine the contradictory claims that an individual’s rights can only be protected through the violation of those rights. Gelsey claims that the governmental “techniques”, which involve surveillance and obtaining unwarranted records, directly violate the “ideals” and rights that Dinh claims to protect. The capacity of being able to think and act freely are prohibited, if not restricted, hen people are aware that they are under constant surveillance, Innocent individuals being monitored would not be able to act freely because they would not know what actions are capable of being considered suspicious.
Gelsey connects her statement to 1984 and its protagonist Winston Smith, whose capability to act and think freely was tampered with due to the strain of being under constant surveillance. Yet Dinh argues against such claims by stating that “During these times, when the foundation of liberty is under attack, we must reaffirm the ideals of our constitutional democracy and also discern the techniques necessary to secure those ideals against the threat of terrorism.” Beneath all of the fanciful dictation and reiteration of words, the readers discover that such “techniques” only violate those “ideals.” The violation of privacy rights can only be regarded as a direct violation to the Constitution, not as a “shield” to those “ideals.” As Dinh discards the comparison of the Patriot Act with Orwell’s illustration of the state’s potential to invade individual rights, the readers discard Dinh’s credentials as well, due to the inaccurate and inconclusive use of the “techniques” and “ideals” he regards as necessary in the fight against “terrorism.”
Gelsey, Zara. “The FBI is Looking Over Your Shoulder.” The Brief Bedford Reader.
Ed. X. J. K. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Jane E. Aaron. 9th. Ed.
Boston: Bedford, 2006. 473- 478
Dinh, Viet. “How the U.S. Patriot Act Defends Democracy.” The Brief Bedford Reader.
Ed. X. J. K. Kennedy, Dorothy M. Kennedy, and Jane E. Aaron. 9th. Ed.
Boston: Bedford, 2006. 479- 485
Orwell, George. _1984_. Afterword by Erich Fromm. New York: Signet, 1992
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