Why Orwell matters

Four writers on the relevance of Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’ in a post-9/11 world.

More than 60 years after it was written, George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" remains the classic essay on the relationship between words, truth, propaganda and politics -- one with renewed meaning, many writers believe, in the post-9/11 world. The essays below are being published in longer form in "What Orwell Didn't Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics," out this week from PublicAffairs. A conference -- "There You Go Again: Orwell Comes to America" -- is being held Wednesday at the New York Public Library. More information at

War, fear and truth
Orwell reminds us that the fear produced by war and terrorism allows those in power to create their own truth.

Making simple expressions dangerous
Orwell's take on the political use of 'democracy' rings true today for words such as 'liberty' and 'freedom.'

The limits of language
Orwell thought that better writing would lead to better politics; he was partially right.

Getting inside us
Even Orwell would be surprised at the sophistication of modern propaganda.