In his dystopian novel “1984,” English writer George Orwell envisioned a dictatorship ruled by “Big Brother.”

The rulers had begun imposing a new language – a simplified version of English called “Newspeak.” It buttressed Big Brother’s rule by altering words that could express opposition to the dictatorship, which was called “Ingsoc” (for “English socialism”).

Among the language’s new words were “doubleplus-ungood,” coined so that no one could call anything “bad,” and “thoughtcrime,” the criminal offense of thinking thoughts that were not Ingsoc-approved.

Indeed, Newspeak was intended to make thoughtcrime (or any actions based on criminal thoughts) impossible by eventually removing the words in which unapproved thoughts could be expressed. That is, if you had no word for rebellion, you wouldn’t revolt because you couldn’t even think of rebelling – and thus you would always be a passive slave.

Now we find that life, continuing its imitation of art, has made “thoughtcrime” a reality.
Thoughts expressed in words  that encounter disapproval are being punished in ways that have become very real, despite what we laughingly believe is our right to freedom of speech.

The problem is that a genuine moral principle – that it is wrong to offer gratuitous insults to others in a polite and considerate society – has been co-opted and twisted by agenda-driven interest groups into what we today call “political correctness.”

Instead of supporting civility, the trend is to use that as an excuse to punish people, either formally or informally, for expressing ideas not approved by the powers that be. Unapproved ideas are labeled “offensive” and are subject to either social or official sanctions.

This protection from unwanted opinions is extended to people whom the powers that be support – or fear to offend.

And since our elites are primarily liberal, in academia, in politics and in many corporations as well, it’s traditionalists and conservatives who bear the brunt of PC sanctions.

Examples are legion, but here are a few. The U.S. Supreme Court, the supposed guardian of our liberties, recently ruled against a Christian group seeking recognition and support at a California law school.

The group was denied official status because it had restricted its leadership to people willing to sign a statement of Christian belief. This happened despite the fact that the school had no similar rules for other groups – the Democratic club did not have to take Republican leaders, for example.

In the course of the case, the school adopted such rules, but it is apparently not enforcing them against any other club.

A law enacted during the Johnson administration prohibits churches from endorsing candidates under penalty of losing their tax-free status, but it is routinely ignored – by Democrats who appear in the pulpits of historically black churches to make speeches seeking support and where the churches take up collections for the candidates.

As far as I could find after an Internet search, the only efforts to punish churches under the statute – and, in truth, I could just find a few – have nevertheless only been brought against churches supporting Republicans or conservatives.

The law is blatantly unconstitutional – the First Amendment restricts government, not religious bodies – but it has been upheld in court under our judicial elite’s continuing misinterpretation of Jefferson’s private view of  the “separation of church and state,” which even Jefferson would not recognize as we have defined it.

Speaking of faith groups, our view of Islam as a whole continues to suffer from the depredations of a minority of believers.

Typically, PC has again led us to blame the wrong people. Instead of resisting violent  radicals to the fullest while assisting peaceful Muslims (who are the radicals’ most common victims), we try to punish those who warn us about radicalism.

Look at Europe, where the most popular political figure in Holland, Geert Wilders, is on trial for “offending Islam” by saying his nation is harmed by attempts to impose sharia law, which some Muslims think is mandated by the Quran.

And in Germany,  Chancellor Angela Merkel is in hot water for saying “multiculturalism isn’t working.”
As Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer noted, she wasn’t criticizing immigration, but that immigrants weren’t adapting to their new culture, instead remaining in enclaves where radical leaders could enforce rules hostile to Western freedoms.

Moves in nations like France and Holland to “ban the burqa” express the majority’s desire to see new residents adapt to the norms of their new home, including ones that protect the freedoms of women as well as men. Self-isolation in France has produced Muslim areas where unveiled women fear to tread and the police do not enter except in force.

We’re not immune in this country. Molly Norris, a cartoonist for an alternative paper in Seattle, has gone into hiding after proposing an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”

She received death threats – and was told by the FBI it could not protect her.

And this week, National Public Radio and Fox News commentator Juan Williams was fired by NPR’s left-leaning bosses after telling Bill O’Reilly that seeing Muslims on airplanes made him “nervous.”
All that means is that he remembers 9/11 – but it fit NPR’s definition of “thoughtcrime.”
Doubleplusungood, indeed.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:
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