This phrase has been used by George Orwell in the first chapter of his novel. “1984.” In the novel, this phrase is one of the slogans of the Party. These slogans are, “War is peace / freedom is slavery [and] ignorance is strength.” The Party believed that they could endlessly engage in a war to keep peace in the country. This slogan describes the reality of accepting two mutually opposing beliefs simultaneously as correct. This was also a major program of the Party to promote “double thinking.” Hence, it is a good example of double thinking, though contradictory, but the people of Oceania accepted both ideas as correct.
This slogan simply means that, though Oceania is perpetually going through a war situation, and people are behaving like peace is everywhere, they could easily change from one state of emotion to another state according to the demands of the Party. Simply it implies that the Party created these slogans to ensure continuation of control and power over people because during wars nations unite and people focus on their common enemy, and less on how unhappy they are with their own lives. Hence, this makes less trouble for the ruling party or the government.
Today this paradoxical phrase may seem meaningless, but it does make sense. For instance, we can see the actual use of this concept today by the United States and NATO, as they engage themselves in so called preemptive wars. This term is paradoxical, because one could not prevent war by starting it. In contemporary views, this term reflects what U.S. President Eisenhower called on “the military industrial complex” in his farewell address in 1961. According to critics and pundits, the United States kept on waging wars in previous centuries because, by using war rhetoric, it could divert the attention of the people from its internal problems, and curtail popular opposition toward the government.
This term is a slogan of the Party that appears in the first chapter of George Orwell’s novel “1984.” The author describes it with two other slogans as,
“The Ministry of Truth – Minitrue, in Newspeak – was startlingly different from any other object in sight…From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
War is peace
freedom is slavery
ignorance is strength.”
(Book 1, Chapter1, pg.6)
By weakening strength and independence of public minds, and forcing them to live in a continuous state of propaganda-induced terror, the Party forced the people to accept anything, no matter if that was entirely illogical.
In the novel, The Party forced the people to believe that constant war is actually a good way to maintain peace. War brings forth devotion and patriotism to the country, and promotes sacrifice for the community. Constant war shows that people are sacrificing, pledging, and giving devotion to the country and consequently to the government. As a result, this keeps people under control and in check. That was how the Party used this slogan.
- Paradox: This term is a paradox, as it conveys a contradictory idea