Thought police

From Academic Kids

The term thought police was first coined by novelist George Orwell, in his dystopic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), to describe the phenomenon of surveilling and policing 'impure' or politically incorrect thoughts. In modern parlance, the term describes authoritarian efforts to quell the expression of ideas related to the questioning of authority.



In George Orwell's 1984, 'Thought Police' were the secret police ('thinkpol' in Newspeak) of the fictional totalitarian regime depicted in the novel. The Thought Police used psychology and omnipresent surveillance to find and eliminate members of society capable of the mere thought of challenging ruling authority, or in the jargon of the Thought Police, committing a thought crime.

Orwell's fictional Thought Police were based on the startling revelations about the totalitarian structures of Stalinism that first came to light, and to widespread public attention, after World War II. By extension, the term has come to refer to real or perceived enforcers of ideological correctness in any modern milieu.

Technology and techniques

While some academics believe contemporary references to Orwell are often disingenous or wrongheaded, others say his predictions are echoed daily in the news of government officials distorting facts, statistics and their veiled agendas.

Doctors are now able to implant computerized sensors into patients to enable monitoring of chronic conditions minute-by-minute from miles away.

The use of devices such as lie detectors and penile plethysmographs can be regarded as modern intrusions on the privacy of the mind; in some cases, evidence from these devices has been used as evidence in court.

New technologies allow implantation of devices that can deliver psychoactive drugs or electrical stimulation to modify behavior or control cognitive or epileptic disorders.

Programs to identify 'potential offenders', in particular children or adults with real or percieved personality disorders who have not committed any crime, can also be regarded as a movement towards a Thought Police. In the United States, a screening program based on the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) has been criticized for allegedly having characterstics in common with Orwell's concept of 'thought police', in particular for its emphasis on the screening every single child for emotional disturbances, and all adults for mental illness. As of 2005, the program has been implemented in twelve States, and has been recommended for national implementation by the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. In 42 of the 50 States in the US, mandatory adherence to involuntary outpatient psychotropic drug therapy (outpatient commitment) is now permitted.

Historical precedents and 'internal sin'

To extend the concept of 'thought police' to the Early Christian obsession with extirpating heresy is an exercise in anachronism. Nevertheless, the Christian concept of a 'thought crime' was introduced in the mid 16th century, largely with the not wholly new category of Internal sin, which hypothesizes the notion that sin (a crime of religion) may be committed not only by outward deeds, but also by the inner activity of the mind, quite apart from any external manifestation.

'Thought crimes' are as old as heresy, but the Reformation's alarms regarding 'impure' thoughts received new emphasis at the Council of Trent (Session XIV, chapter. v). The session, while reiterating that all mortal sins must be confessed, singled out the unspoken ones that "sometimes more grievously wound the soul and are more dangerous than sins which are openly committed".

Three kinds of internal sin are usually distinguished by Catholics:

  • delectatio morosa, i.e. the pleasure taken in a sinful thought or imagination even without desiring it;
  • gaudium, i.e. dwelling with complacency on sins already committed;
  • desiderium, i.e. the desire for what is sinful.

See also

External links

  • ( - 'Corporate Thought Police: Growing pro-gay business agenda jeopardizes religious employees', John W. Kennedy, Christianity Today (January, 2004)
  • ( - 'Can the thought police be far behind? A hundred years after Orwell's birth, some of his concepts look uncomfortably familiar, while others seem overused', Marie Ewald, Christian Science Monitor (May 15, 2003)
  • ( - 'The New Thought Police Suppressing Dissent in Science: report on the seamless way in which the corporations, the state and the scientific establishment are co-ordinating their efforts to suppress scientific dissent and force feed the world with GM crops', Mae-Wan Ho, Jonathan Mathews (February 2001)
  • ( - Persecution of Christians in America', Mary Ann Collins (revised June, 2004)
  • ( - 'People who had incurred the displeasure of the Party simply disappeared and were never heard of again: Thought Police & Snitches'
  • (,,2087-1650905,00.html) - 'Patients get 999 chip implants', Jonathan Carr-Brown, The Sunday Times (June 12, 2005)sv:Tankepolisen

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