In his famous article ‘Politics and the English language’ (1946), Orwell drew together questions of liberty and questions of style. Obscure and cloudy writing, he thought, was a means of hiding the true nature of things from the reader, and was thus a form of political manipulation, or ‘brainwashing’:
When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases – bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder – one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. (Orwell 1946, cited from Orwell 2010; italics in the original)
Orwell concluded that ‘if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought’. Such problems, in his opinion, were not confined to English:
I should expect to find – this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify – that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship. (Orwell 1946, cited from Orwell 2010)
Orwell's attitude to the ‘mechanisation’ of language under authoritarian régimes, which was shortly afterwards to be the inspiration for ‘Newspeak’ in Nineteen Eighty-Four (and if a great deal in the dystopian world of the novel is derived from the symbolism of Evgenii Zamiatin's We, the characterisation of this world of ‘absolute aesthetic submission’ (Zamiatin 2011: 141) from a linguistic point of view must be regarded as Orwell's own achievement), had in turn a great influence on the perception of ‘totalitarian society’ by political scientists in the USA and Western Europe and in Soviet dissident circles in the 1970s and 1980s, and also in the post-Soviet period. It became a commonplace that Soviet language was an extremely specific expression of the régime's ‘power game’. As a correlative, the opinion emerged that it would be enough to reform public language in order to create a new public (what in Soviet times would have been called a new social milieu (obshchestvennost).