Why Political Correctness is the Opposite of Orwell’s Newspeak

George Orwell

Yesterday I fired off a Twitter thread about Orwell and political correctness. It was my good fortune that the author Dorian Lynskey (author of a ‘biography’ of Nineteen Eighty-Four) chose to retweet it, which meant a few other people did too. I thought I might as well set out the thread here, as a service to those of you who still prefer an artisanal blog post over commodified, disposable tweets.


I see people are discussing George Orwell with regards to ‘political correctness’ and ‘wokeness’ which they regard as ‘Newspeak.’ I think that’s a mistaken analogy. #

First, political correctness (and it’s modern iteration, wokeness) are, first and foremost, pejorative labels for inconvenient political ideas. There are far more people who claim to be “anti PC” or “not woke” than there are people who positively claim either label. #
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Actually, Nick, ‘Wokeness’ Helps Free Speech

What do people mean when they use the term ‘woke’ in a political context? By the time it crossed my radar, it had come to mean, simply, an acceptance that racism, sexism and other prejudices were still a problem for society.

With that definition in mind, I always thought it slightly weird for anyone to seriously describe themselves as ‘woke’ – especially if one was white and male. For a short time my Twitter bio was tautological-for-fun: Woke Free Speech Bro (until an incredibly embarrassing case of context collapse involving a famous author that I’m too embarrassed to link to).

‘Woke’ has become a term of derision and mockery. Over the summer I asked this:

I just realised that I don’t ever recall hearing the word ‘woke’ (in its new, political/social sense) used in a way that wasn’t pejorative or ironic. Are there still communities where it’s used seriously?

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