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Doublethink is the act of ordinary people simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.[wikipedia link] Doublethink is related to, but differs from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Somewhat related but almost the opposite is cognitive dissonance, where contradictory beliefs cause conflict in one's mind. Doublethink is notable due to a lack of cognitive dissonance — thus the person is completely unaware of any conflict or contradiction.
In the novel, its origin within the typical citizen is unclear; while it could be partly a product of Big Brother's formal brainwashing programmes,[wikipedia link] the novel explicitly shows people learning Doublethink and newspeak due to peer pressure and a desire to "fit in", or gain status within the Party — to be seen as a loyal Party Member.
In the novel, for someone to even recognize – let alone mention – any contradiction within the context of the Party line was akin to blasphemy, and could subject that someone to possible disciplinary action and to the instant social disapproval of fellow Party Members.
According to the novel, doublethink is:
|“||"To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink."[wikipedia]||”|
|“||"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth."[wikipedia]||”|
Orwell explains that the Party could not protect its iron power without degrading its people with constant propaganda. Yet knowledge of this brutal deception, even within the Inner Party itself, could lead to the implosion of the State. Although Nineteen Eighty-Four is most famous for the Party's pervasive surveillance of everyday life, this control means that the population of Oceania – all of it and including the ruling elite – could be controlled and manipulated merely through the alteration of everyday thought and language. Newspeak is the method for controlling thought through language; doublethink is the method of directly controlling thought.
Earlier in the book, doublethink is explained as being able to control your memories, to be able to manually forget something, then to forget about forgetting. This is demonstrated by O'Brien, during the time when Winston Smith is being tortured toward the end of the book.
Newspeak incorporates doublethink, as it contains many words that create assumed associations between contradictory meanings, especially true of fundamentally important words such as good and evil, right and wrong, truth and falsehood, and justice and injustice.