Ministry Of Truth
Showcasing some of the finest examples of how traditional and social media strive to bring us unbiased and reliable information, since 1984.
"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"
George Orwell, 1984
We thank The Federalist for bringing to our attention an exchange that took place on Twitter and holds a number of valuable lessons. It started with a philosopher tweeting “2 + 2 = 4” in an ironic meme aimed to criticize those who argue that Western culture enjoys outsized attention and prominence. The philosopher jokingly suggested that by imposing 4 as the only solution to 2 + 2, Western culture negates other possible points of view. The reactions included several efforts to demonstrate that in some cases, 2 + 2 = 5. A PhD student in statistics at Harvard noted that, by the conventions of rounding, 2.4 rounds up to 2, whereas 4.8 rounds up to 5, and hence we can have 2.4 + 2.4 = 4.8, or 2 + 2 = 5.
It’s good to see that good universities still teach how to round numbers, but all this entirely misses the point. We thought we had explained it quite clearly in our original manual, 1984:
“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?”
The point is not that 2+2=5 in some pre-specified circumstances that we can all agree on. The point is that we, at The Ministry Of Truth, decide what 2+2 equals to. We do this all the time. And you believe us. And the point is certainly not that everyone can come up with their own answer to 2+2=X. There will always be only one answer. Our answer.
So this debate left us amused and bemused. In many cases we have already told you that 2+2=5, and you believe it. Covid-19, taxes, Universal Basic Income, the examples are countless. You already believe that 2+2=5. It’s time that you accepted it, without resorting to convoluted explanations. Perhaps this will make it clearer, including to budding statisticians:
2.0 + 2.0 = 5.0
Of Course You Will
Denying the truth is seldom a good policy. Denying the Ministry Of Truth never is. Last week the Wall Street Journal’s Editor-at-Large argued in an OpEd that we do not exist. Yet we pointed out that on the very same day, in the very same edition of the very same day, the Ministry’s operatives were showing off their skills. (see the two items below)
But lack of recognition stings, even for those used to working in the shadows. And so the WSJ’s editor’s attempt to “cancel” the Ministry backfired, not without irony: Just three days later, the Journal’s Editorial Board wrote that their own colleagues in the newsroom had attacked them in a letter to the publisher.
The Editorial Board optimistically declares: “As long as our proprietors allow us the privilege to do so, the opinion pages will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds within the tradition of vigorous, reasoned discourse.”
Of course you will.
After all, the Ministry Of Truth does not exist, does it?
Condemnation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery
Oscar Wilde was wrong. Condemnation, not imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The best praise comes from your enemies, under the guise of biting criticism. Gerard Baker is the Wall Street Journal’s Editor At Large. “At Large”, we assume, in the sense of in hiding from the law, as in “the suspect is still at large”. In this opinion piece, Mr. Baker provides a remarkably lucid analysis of the importance of our work, and of our success and far-reaching achievements to date. You should read it. We could not have said it better ourselves. He even opens his article with the same quote that shines here at the top of our website. And yet, ironically, he writes “We don’t have a Ministry Of Truth in America”. Classic denier. The Ministry Of Truth exists, Mr. Baker (we even reach inside your own paper, see item below); and so, as you will soon discover, does the Ministry Of Love.
Lack Of Social Distancing Will Kill You
We highlight this Wall Street Journal article mostly because the paper’s own Editor At Large claimed (see above) that we do not exist. On the very same day, in the very same paper, reporting on a recent sharp rise in homicides and other violent crimes in Atlanta and other US cities, this article claims that “Academics attribute the increase to a confluence of factors”, including notably “the easing of social distancing patterns as states reopen.” Interesting: reopening the economy leads to people killing each other? This is especially intriguing because another factor cited as cause of violence is, less surprisingly, high unemployment. Reopening the economy reduces unemployment, so why does it cause more homicides? Are these “academics” simply arguing that if everyone is self-isolating at home, people find it harder to shoot at each other (keep away from the windows!)?
Curious to find out more, we clicked on the relevant hyperlink in the article. In a clever self-referential twist, it takes us to another WSJ article which discusses how the reopening of the economy has coincided with a rise in Covid-19 contagion—but has no reference whatsoever to the rise in murders or other acts of violence. If you do a Google search for academic studies linking the rise in violence to the reopening, you will find nothing. But this article has told you that academic research shows reopening the economy causes a spike in homicides, and by placing a self-referential link (that you probably don’t have time to explore) has convinced you that these studies exist. You will now tell your friends on social media. It is now an established fact: lack of social distancing can really kill you, not just with a virus, but with a bullet. And our job is done. Mr. Baker, do you really think the Ministry Of Truth does not exist? Check under your desk…
Science Is On Our Side
Detractors of the Ministry—some still exist, though most hide cowardly in the shadows—argue that our actions are nefarious, harmful to society and the psychological well-being of the population. Our continuous updating of history comes under especially harsh criticism, branded as “rewriting of history”. This is, of course, self-evident nonsense. The work of the Ministry Of Truth is obviously, visibly necessary to the harmonious existence and progress of society. It is also highly beneficial to the mental health of all people.
Science is—unsurprisingly—on our side. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, eminent psychologist and father of behavioral economics, analyzes the workings of the human mind in Thinking, Fast and Slow. This excellent book details how the human brain constantly strives to build a coherent picture of the world around us.
Kahneman explains: “A general limitation of the human mind is its imperfect ability to reconstruct past states of knowledge, or beliefs that have changed. Once you adopt a new view of the world (or any part of it), you immediately lose your ability to recall what you used to believe before your mind changed.”
In other words, any inconsistency between the past and the present causes a cognitive dissonance that is harmful to the human mind. Luckily, through our relentless work the Ministry Of Truth ensures that no such inconsistency exists, safeguarding your mental health. Science is on our side and we, always, are on the side of science.
Rookie Mistake, Dr. Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the government’s fight against the pandemic, recently told the American public that he—essentially—lied to them. Some here at the Ministry are still shaking their heads.
Dr. Fauci says that in the early stages of the pandemic he told us there was no need to wear a mask. Now he brands anyone not wearing a mask as irresponsible. Spurred by his urgings, the city of San Francisco now requires you to wear a mask while you are eating…if you manage to find a restaurant with outdoor seating. Dr. Fauci candidly admitted that he knew all along that masks were useful to contain contagion, but that at the beginning he wanted to make sure they would go to doctors and nurses. Hard to blame him: even toilet paper disappeared for weeks after a fear-driven buying frenzy.
But, Dr. Fauci: what you have done now is such a rookie mistake. Have you forgotten that the Ministry Of Truth is here for you? One phone call, and in 24 hours we would have made sure that you had always recommended the use of masks for everyone. Every Google search, every archived article would have shown you urging all Americans to wear a mask at all time, as far back as last December. Anyone doubting this would have been forced to doubt their own sanity—as well they should. This is what we do; the evidence is all around you. Except, of course, that you will never notice it. That’s the whole point.
Admit to people that you lied to them because you knew better, and they will start wondering whether you might lie to them again. They will wonder whether anyone else in power is lying. This is no way to run a society! That’s why whenever you change your mind, you must call us first. You of all people, you who love being on television and in the papers all the time, should understand this.
In Your Best Interest--We Know It Best
At the Ministry Of Truth, we normally shy away from articulating our mission in public. We don’t need to—we shape reality. We prefer to share our wisdom via selected aphorisms, such as Who controls the past, controls the future. A few days ago, however, the Washington Post has laid out our raison d’être in such a perfect way that we thought we should call attention to it, both to enhance public understanding and because we believe it will be a powerful recruiting tool.
The Washington Post argues off the bat that objectivity simply does not exist. Journalists have to decide what to cover and what not to cover, what to emphasize and what to play down. A lesser mind might have gone on to say, this is what makes our job so difficult, and this is why it is so important that we strive to be objective and bring different points of view to the table. The Ministry Of Truth would have condemned such a naïve position in the harshest possible terms. Instead, the Post rightly concludes “That's why the simplistic "just the unadorned facts" can be such a canard. And that's why the notion to "represent all points of view equally" is absurd and sometimes wrongheaded.” In one brief, perfect paragraph, the author—Comrade Margaret Sullivan--rejects objectivity and fairness out of hand. It will be included in all future (and past, of course) editions of the Ministry’s training manuals.
Journalists should decide “what journalism best serves the real interests of American citizens”, clarifies the Post. Then, as the author says, everything becomes easy, “the knotty problems get smoothed out”. Indeed. Through the Ministry Of Truth, journalists know best what is in the best interest of the country. We know what is best for you, what you should know and think.
The author calls it “our important mission to find and tell the truth”. But of course when you have rightly rejected both the facts and alternative points of view, “finding” the truth really means “creating” the Truth. Because we know what is best for you. We know that War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.
The Ministry Of Truth strongly commends the Washington Post. Comrade Sullivan would make a perfect spokesperson for the Ministry, but even if such a position did exist, she is much more helpful to our cause in her current role.
How Do You Not Trust Us?
"Fake news is fooling more conservative than liberals. Why?"
Because fewer of them listen to the Ministry Of Truth.
That is a scandal, and it must change. It will. This Economist article starts from the news and theories that have circulated on the Covid-19 pandemic, and argues that conservatives demonstrate “a more general suspicion of mainstream sources of information.” Inexcusable, given that as the Economist notes, “conservatives’ complaints that elites are not on their side have become more plausible.” Why do conservatives mistrust media organizations that are by their own admission biased against them? Fools! Mainstream media only ever print the Truth.
The article goes on to say, “In many countries the old left-right political divide, based on economics, has been replaced by a liberal-conservative split, based on culture. This largely pits liberal graduates against conservative school-leavers.” Some old hands at the Ministry Of Truth still remember the bad old days when people used to say “if you are not a socialist at 20, you have no heart, if you are still a socialist at 30, you have no brain.” Thanks to our relentless efforts, the Truth has now been written: if you are not a liberal, at any age, you have no heart and no brain, you callous drop-out. That is why the Ministry Of Truth and the Ministry Of Love work harmoniously hand in hand.
The Economist here demonstrates its masterful command of Ministry Of Truth strategic thinking: it accuses conservatives of falling prey to fake news by eschewing mainstream media in favor of social media and the internet at large—but in way that encourages them to do it more and more. And once they have been lured onto social media…the Ministry Of Truth reaches everywhere…
You Do Not Exist
You might have come across Triggernometry on their Youtube channel. It is a dangerous, subversive show. The two hosts, Francis Foster and the Russian-born (!) Konstantin Kisin, are very adept at using humor to spice up lively conversations with interesting guests, who provide independent points of view on important current topics. Independent views are dangerous, slippery things. The Ministry Of Truth strongly encourages all Comrades to have their own independent point of view, of course, as long as it is the same as the Ministry’s. Regrettably, many of Triggernometry’s guests seem to misinterpret what “independent” really means.
Recently, Triggernometry interviewed Peter Hitchens, a conservative (see above) British journalist and brother of the Ministry’s sworn enemy, the late Christopher Hitchens. Peter Hitchens expressed views that were not unreservedly supportive of the lockdown policies implemented in many countries. YouTube, like this Ministry fully committed to freedom of speech and expression, did not censor the interview. It limited itself to hiding it from web searches, in collaboration with its parent company Google. Because if you express unsavory opinions, you do not exist. That is why there is no need for censorship in Oceania.
The Spectator’s Toby Young, in this article, highlights other necessary and commendable interventions by YouTube to ensure the truthfulness of discourse on its platform. Mr. Young falsely accuses them of censorship, whereas as we have demonstrated above, there is no need for censorship in Oceania. This might all be just a terrible misunderstanding. Mr. Young claims to be the founder of the Free Speech Union—and we all know well that Freedom is Slavery. In the case of Mr. Young, we will defer to our colleagues at the Ministry Of Love. YouTube and Google have the Ministry’s unconditional approval and support. Comrade Konstantin, you really should know better.
This week the Ministry Of Truth was abuzz with the news that Twitter “fact-checked” President Trump. In case you are wondering, we were not surprised—this was a long-planned crucial step in our strategy.
We are not usually inclined to boast, but what you see unfolding now is the Ministry Of Truth at its best. An acrimonious, multifaceted debate already rages: were Trump’s tweets really misleading? What about China’s tweets blaming Covid-19 on the US Military? Was Twitter’s intervention politically biased?
Then Pandora’s Box of legal arguments: does this mean that Twitter is no longer a neutral platform, like a telephone company that bears no responsibility for the content of the conversations running on its lines? Is Twitter now an editorial outfit and as such exposed to all the legal consequences? Or is President Trump trying to impose censorship in the name of free speech?
Much to our delight, Trump’s draft executive order on social media has been called “an Orwellian document” . This is a delicious irony that you can only appreciate if you have truly mastered Doublethink, “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
The executive order will be challenged in the courts, the storm will rage and then blow over.
In the meanwhile however, a key principle will have been established: Our truth is The Truth. Trump has been fact-checked based on the Washington Post and CNN! Our media are the facts—the Truth.
The power lies not in fact-checking—it lies in creating the facts. The Ministry Of Truth will celebrate this weekend—celebrate with us, comrades!
For the second week in a row, the Ministry Of Truth recognizes Bloomberg—though not the man himself, like last week, but just the news outlet. Bloomberg Businessweek goes after Sweden, with a feature titled “Sweden Is Not The World’s Top Model”. We applaud this. Sweden has tried to break out of the herd, eschewing a Big Brother-mandated lockdown in favor of voluntary social distancing. This is indeed a dangerous experiment—in freedom. As such, it must be condemned and proven to be of deadly consequence. Especially as several voices, including a rogue blogger on this very website, have defended Sweden’s strategy with numbers showing its Covid-19 fatality rate is lower than those of many countries which have gone in full lockdown: Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the U.K., France.
Bloomberg ignores all this, and focuses on the only numbers that matter: those that prove our case. Sweden’s fatality rate is higher than neighboring Norway and Denmark. No need to mention any other country. This makes brilliant use of the proximity bias: our intuition tells us that it must make sense to compare a country to its immediate neighbors.
Of course no scientific evidence suggests that Sweden’s susceptibility to the virus is more similar to Denmark’s than to France’s, but most readers will assume there must be. And most readers will come away with the conviction that Sweden is faring worse not just than Denmark and Norway, but than most other countries (the Ministry Of Truth has verified this with an unrepresentative poll.) Repeating this false argument over and over, in a chorus joined by the New York Times, the Washington Post and others, makes it truth.
One word of warning, though. If the Ministry Of Truth were running a “Red Team, Blue Team” exercise on this, the Red Team would raise the sly objection that comparing Sweden to only its immediate neighbors is, dare we say it, rather racist. It suggests a “you all look the same to us” attitude. All the more so as the “Top Model” reference in the title has a faint whiff of sexism to it. The Ministry Of Truth aims for purity, and such mistakes should be avoided in the future. For now, we will let it pass, as the goal of discrediting Sweden’s freedom experiment takes precedence.
Freedom is Slavery.
Patience, Comrades, Patience!
This is a difficult conversation, but it must be had.
We are not (yet) back in 1984. We will get there, of course. The Ministry Of Truth’s methods are tried and trusted, and victory will be ours. The day will come, as our Book shows, when the mere mention of the Enemy (be it Eastasia or Eurasia) will be enough to whip the entire readership and population in a frenzy of rage. We shall still deploy the full range of out tactics and techniques, but it will be salutary to periodically condemn the nefarious acts of the Enemy.
Alas, we are not there yet. Bloomberg magazine, in this opinion piece co-authored by Michael Bloomberg himself, argues that President Trump is making Covid-19 even more deadly, through the Environmental Protection Agency. The title itself suggests such a complex logic that invites the reader to short-circuit to the only important connection: Trump – Deadly!
The article’s line of argument is simple: (1) science tells us more pollution makes covid-19 more dangerous (it is a respiratory disease, after all); (2) Trump has, “in the space of about a month”, “repeatedly undermined rules limiting air pollution” ; (3) ergo: “Tens of thousands of Americans will die as a result.”
This is a brilliantly simplistic argument, that one day will be perfectly effective. Today, however, too many people will realize that while covid-19 is with us, economic activity is condemned to languish and as a consequence we enjoy the crystal-clear air captured in countless Instagram photographs. It will take more work before people can gaze at the pristine horizon and agree with Bloomberg that a suffocating miasma hangs over us. While we get there, we must rely more heavily on the more subtle techniques advocated by the Ministry Of Truth.
Timing is everything. Patience, Comrades, patience!
Love Conquers Covid's Fear
Professor Neil Ferguson, a leading UK epidemiologist, the mastermind behind the Imperial College projection model who bears a great deal of responsibility for the UK’s and US’s decisions to shut down their economies. He has consistently argued extreme social distancing has to be maintained until we found a vaccine—we all need to stay holed up in our homes. In my blogs I have harshly criticized Professor Ferguson, because I think his model and projections are rubbish—worse than useless.
This week, Professor Ferguson’s fame reached the gossip columns, as it transpired he was (is?) having an affair with a married woman, who violated the lockdown to rush into his arms. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board lumps him with politicians like New York’s Mayor de Blasio, who flouted the rules to go to the gym, or the mayors of Chicago and Beaumont Texas who got their hair and nails done. The Journal concludes that Ferguson and the like of him should own up to their hypocrisy and revise their lockdown orders.
Quite the opposite! Professor Ferguson has suddenly and unexpectedly risen in my estimation. I find it inspiring to see that even in this age of fear, love and lust still conquer all. And if Professor Ferguson insisted on locking everyone else in their homes not because he believed in his projections, but to clear the coast for himself and is lover, hats off! Also, the affair brings back the fond memory of Winston Smith—yes, even the Ministry Of Truth gets sentimental at times.
Ferguson’s amorous escapade has no bearing on his science—his models and predictions are rubbish for entirely different reasons. Think back a couple of decades, and imagine a scientist who offered proof that smoking causes cancer but could not himself stop smoking—would that invalidate his findings?
Still, one of the most rudimentary techniques taught at the Ministry of Truth is indeed to criticize an individual’s character in order to undermine the credibility of his arguments. So we feature this article, and the one below, as an encouragement to the Wall Street Journal—not one of our star pupils, truth be told (no pun intended). The Ministry Of Truth ranks this as “Good effort but must try harder (and shows little talent).”
You Only Read The Title Anyway
Here the Wall Street Journal deploys another basic Ministry Of Truth teachings: if you fail in the story, succeed in the title.
As I noted in a recent blog, Sweden refused to follow the herd and did not shut down its economy, preferring a more moderate regime of voluntary social distancing. Most critics have argued it would pay a huge price in additional deaths—as the blog shows, that does not seem to be the case. And this article notes that, as logic suggests, Sweden’s economy is suffering less than others. That, however, is a subversive message: Sweden’s strategy is delivering a better economic outcome without causing more deaths? That might lead more countries to think with their own head. Unacceptable.
Luckily the Wall Street Journal saves the situation with a more right-thinking title: “Sweden has avoided a coronavirus lockdown; its economy is hurting anyway.” Now that’s a much better message: Sweden took an extra risk with the lives of his citizens, and has nothing to show for it.
Crude, but effective. Deserves a passing grade, but the WSJ needs to do much better.
Here the title is enough to secure a spot in the Ministry of Truth limelight. According to The Atlantic, the U.S. state of Georgia is about to embark in an experiment in Human Sacrifice.
Now, the first question that comes to mind is: since human sacrifice is one of the oldest practices, going back at least 5,000 years in ancient Egypt, in what sense are we still at the experimental stage? Surely by now we have perfected it, and if Georgia desires to engage in it, it can draw on a treasure trove of experience and go straight to adopting the state of the art.
Very little remains unknown about human sacrifice.
Human sacrifice looks like this:
Not like this:
The title sets the bar high, but the rest of the article lives up to it. The Atlantic argues that by moving to gradually reopen the economy, Georgia is ready and determined to sacrifice human lives on the altar of profits. It opens with the heart-wrenching story of a bar manager who "thought he would be able to ride the coronavirus crisis at home until things are safe" and instead is now forced to decide whether or not to reopen. As he runs the numbers and weighs the options, he finds that “We can’t figure out a way to make the numbers work to sustain business and pay rent and pay everybody to go back and risk their lives,” This quote leaves me puzzled. I would understand a bar manager who worries that not enough customers will show up as long as President Trump keeps calling Covid-19 "the plague". But a bar manager who worries if he can pay his workers to risk their lives? Has the neighborhood gotten a lot more dangerous, or is he planning to send his bartender into war? Surely a mask and some basic precautions will be enough to keep the risk manageable, especially if the bartender is younger than 65.
The article goes on to argue that "Georgia has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic." Has it?
This chart shows Covid-19 cases and deaths per million of population. Georgia is the red dot, which looks pretty close to the middle of the pack. New York has been hit especially hard; New Jersey too ; maybe Michigan. But with 96 deaths per million, Georgia's death rate is about half of the US national average. If your income is about half of the national per capita income (about $65,000 / 2 = $32,500) you're not especially well paid, you're just doing ok.
The article warns that "Public health official broadly agree reopening businesses will kill people". It describes Georgia's devilish plan to lull people into a false sense of safety and lure them into hair stylists and nail parlors, where scissors and razors are being solemnly sharpened.
There is a lot more in this outstanding piece, and for its daring flair The Atlantic earns a special commendation from the Ministry of Truth.
"It could easily have been true."
The Independent launched the headline you see above: "California teenager dies of coronavirus after being denied treatment over lack of insurance". It was widely reshared because it seems to convey two important messages: (1) the coronavirus kills young people; and (2) lack of medical insurance in the US can kill you (always a favorite theme for European audiences). Except that if you read the article, you find there is no confirmation that the young man died of coronavirus. Apparently the LA County's Department of Public Health initially attributed the death to coronavirus, then changed its mind. The Independent changed the online title to "Coronavirus: Teenage boy whose death was initially linked to Covid-19..."
A few days later we find out that the teenager (i) was not uninsured; and (ii) did not die of covid. This Time article sets the record straight, but its own twisted twist: First, it titles that “The story is more complicated”. Well, the true story is complicated, but the originally reported story was simply false, and that to me would be a better title. Second, Time argues the story went viral “because it easily could have been true”. But it wasn’t. Every prejudice and discrimination thrives on spreading stories that “easily could have been true”. Time clearly thinks that is fine--and the Ministry of Truth's guidelines fully agree. Reinforcing the credibility of a false story while purporting to correct it is also an elegant tactic that the Ministry of Truth applauds and recommends.