My favorite part of the book 1984 by George Orwell is the appendix, entitled “The Principles of Newspeak.” In 1984, Newspeak was the official language of the Party that ruled Oceania.  As the Appendix states:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [English Socialism], but to make all other modes of thought impossible.[…] This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words…

Orwell then explains how, through shrinking the vocabulary of the language, heretical thoughts became unthinkable. He illustrates by quoting the following passage from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.

Orwell then states that “it would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink.”

Why do I mention this?  Well, it is very relevant to our present political situation.

One of the most notable things about Donald Trump is how few words he seems to know. People mock his tiny hands, but to me what’s truly amazing is his absolutely minuscule vocabulary.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in his tweets, where he will often conclude one of his communiques insulting someone or complaining about something with an imperative “Sad!” or “Bad!”

If Trump needs to lengthen some statement, usually all he can do is add the word “very” or, if he is talking about something he does not like, interject “so terrible”.

When Trump wants to add extra emphasis to some point, he often adds that it will be “big league”. (e.g. “We are going to win big league.”) Thanks to Trump’s peculiar accent, many people have misheard this as “bigly”; a child-like non-adjective that seems extremely fitting for the man, with his penchant for gaudy, oversized buildings.

If the problem were merely that our President-elect was a man incapable of eloquence, that would be one thing.  But it is far worse than that.

The scary thing is that his style of communicating is very infectious.  People–myself included–have picked up his habits of saying “sad!” or “big league”. It’s addictive, I won’t deny it; and there is an alarming pleasure in mimicking him–even for people like me, who find him utterly appalling and oppose him completely.

But that is the frightening thing: once you start to talk like him, you will start to think like him.  And once that happens, you could reach a point where “a heretical thought” becomes, as Orwell warned, “literally unthinkable”.

To be clear, I think Trump’s rhetorical style (if you can call it that) is more a symptom than the disease itself. I wrote back in 2010 that “Twitter = Newspeak”, and that was before Trump was even on the political map. I do think that the ascendance of Trump, who communicates through Twitter far more than most candidates, supports my point. It may be that Twitter itself made Trump possible.

The other day I had my most successful tweet yet. The hashtag “DullDownAMovie” had been trending, challenging users to change a movie title to make it boring, and I tweeted “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Commerce”. (Long ago, I volunteered at a Chamber of Commerce. Nice people, but boring work.)

The Twitterati agreed. I got a lot of re-tweets of that little quip. Personally, I didn’t even think it was the best suggestion I made. I preferred “Jane Got a Gnu”.

I also got a lot of “likes”, which brings me to the point of this post: what is the purpose of “likes” on Twitter? They seemingly don’t provide increased visibility at all, unlike re-tweets. (Quick summary for those unfamiliar with the medium: if a person retweets something, all their followers see it. If they like it, they don’t unless they make the additional effort to see their list of “likes”.)

Given that the platform exists to give people greater visibility, why is there a feature that does nothing to enhance visibility?

Yes, my friends, it’s time I came clean and admitted: I’ve been forced to make a Faustian bargain with the Dark Forces of Social Media.  I have a Twitter account. I put it off as long as I could, but when you are trying to promote something, as I am with my books, you sort of have to explore every avenue that you can.

Long-time readers must be wondering why I’ve been so gung-ho about this book business lately.  Well, it’s always been my dream to be a writer, and over the past year and a half, things have happened that made me realize it’s best not to put off trying stuff you always wanted to do–you never know what’s going to happen to you, so it’s best to take every opportunity.

Sorry, I know that sounds as corny as a Hallmark movie; but what can I say?  It’s actually true.

Twitter is, by the way, every bit as annoying to use as it is to read.  I am rather verbose, and Twitter does not lend itself to forming even complete sentences.  “Hey, look!  A thing!” is about all it can express.  So far, using it has done nothing to alter my original assessment of it.