Politics and the English Language Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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From "Politics and the English Language," what is Orwell's best example that shows why political writing is bad writing? Give a quote, say why, and analyze.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that one of Orwell's best examples as to how political writing is bad writing can be seen in the English professor's justification of Russian totalitarianism.  In it, many of Orwell's points about why political writing is bad writing are demonstrated:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

One of Orwell's major points about why political writing is bad writing is that it creates barriers between human experience and political reality. It distances itself from the real element of human experience.  The sample that Orwell gives does this through language.  It becomes an element that constructs borders and divisions from the harsh reality of what happened.  It denies a sense of empathy.  As Orwell points out, it creates a "blurring the outline and covering up all the details."  The politicized use of "idioms" such as "certain curtailment" or "unavoidable concomitant" and "amply justified," refuses to acknowledge the husbands who lost contact with their wives, or the children who became orphans as a result.  The painful nuances of life and being in the world are dulled away and blurred "like soft snow" because of political writing. Orwell's point is that political writing reflects a condition where the consolidation of power has replaced the condition of empathy.  Language has been constructed accordingly, through a mass of polysyllabic and abstract linguistic constructions to prevent full identification with the human experience that is buried beneath it.  Orwell would believe that this emotional desert reflects the instinctive condition of using lengthy words and idiomatic expressions.

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