Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Newspeak and doublethink of Big Tobacco

PM screenshot
A big tobacco company is hiding an unpleasant strategy behind pleasant sounding words, just as described by George Orwell. In his novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four", Orwell has invented "newspeak" that allows to make lies sounding like truth, and “doublethink" for dealing with two opposite realities at the same time, hiding that there is any contradiction.

The newspeak of Philip Morris, as can be seen on its website, are statements such as "smoking is dangerous and addictive" and that "secondhand smoke from cigarettes causes disease, including lung cancer and heart disease, in non-smoking adults, as well as causes conditions in children such as asthma, respiratory infections, cough, wheeze, otitis media (middle ear infection) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."

For decades, the company had denied that smoking causes disease and is addictive. The new language on its website seems to show that the company has changed its opinion. But this is not true. Lissy C. Friedman has found out that Philip Morris mislead the public into believing that it has changed its stance on smoking and disease. After having studied internal documents and various draft and final versions of the new public statements as well as statements made in tobacco trials, she concludes:

"Philip Morris created and disseminated its website’s message that it agreed that smoking causes disease and is addictive in an effort to sway public opinion, while maintaining in a litigation setting its former position that it cannot be proved that smoking causes disease or is addictive."
This newspeak, obviously, is based upon doublethink - on the one hand telling the public that smoking is dangerous and addictive and on the other hand stating in the courtroom that it is neither dangerous nor addictive.

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