I just heard Norman Mailer, who died two days ago, in an interview with Andrew Marr in 2002, say something very profound: "The essence of totalitarianism is the perversion of language." (This is, I admit, a paraphrase, from my age-enfeebled memory.) He was talking about Bush, of course. One of my major political prophets was George Orwell, who expounded so eloquently on this in the immortal essay "Politics and the English Language", and indeed, that essay is probably the germ of Mailer's political analysis, as it is of mine. The other, closely related, concept besides "newspeak" that Orwell invented in 1984 is the idea of "thought crime". When I read 1984 in 1968, I wondered if things would ever come to such a pass that Western so-called democracies would have thought crimes. In 1984, when Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Reagan held powerful sway, I believed we were on the brink, but still safe in the sane world where evil must be done, rather than just thought about, written about or even aesthetically appreciated (abhorrent as that idea is) before a crime had been committed. Now, in 2007, the US and the UK have had thought crime for about five years. Prisons whose existence we still do not know about are full of these mental "perpetrators".
This week, what I consider a gross miscarriage of justice showed just how far this can be taken.
A 23-year-old Heathrow airport worker who dubbed herself the "lyrical terrorist" today became the first woman to be convicted under the government's anti-terror legislation.
Samina Malik, who burst into tears on hearing the verdict, wrote poems entitled How To Behead and The Living Martyrs and stocked a "library" of documents useful to terrorists.
The article on the trial and conviction of Ms. Malik goes on to catalogue all her "crimes", e.g. the possession of books, the writing of things in a private diary and an ominous nickname she used on social networking websites. "I am not a terrorist." Malik said after her trial.
She claimed to have used the nickname "lyrical terrorist" because she thought it was "cool".