Alfian revisiting Newspeak in Singapore. Thought-provoking, brave, and brilliantly written.
Newspeak Revisited: The Lexical Management of Political Discourse
In Singapore, the depoliticisation of its population has been achieved primarily through limiting avenues for political discourse. While this may take the form of restrictive policies pertaining to freedoms of speech and assembly as well as the delegitimisation of civil society groups, I will explore instead how language has been manipulated to serve the ideology of the ruling party. Through the active promotion of certain chains of equivalences (for example between the government and the country, or the public and the conservative constituency), the epistemic arrest of certain terms (such as ‘communism’ or even ‘idealism’) and the co-option of certain definitions (NTUC was once described as the ‘ideal NGO’ by former PM Goh) the State generates semantic monopolies which effectively forecloses the possibility of alternative ideas. In essence, the current state of political apathy among youths can be largely attributed to a systematic impoverishment and enervation of a shared political lexicon.