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In the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a thoughtcrime is an illegal type of thought.

In the book, the government attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labelling disapproved thought as thoughtcrime or, in Newspeak, "crimethink".[1]

In the book, Winston Smith, the main character, writes in his diary: "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death."


Thought Police

The Thought Police (thinkpol in Newspeak) are the secret police of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four whose job it is to uncover and punish thoughtcrime. The Thought Police use psychology surveillance to find and eliminate members of society who are capable of the mere thought of challenging ruling authority.[2]

The Thought Police of Orwell and their pursuit of thoughtcrime were based on the methods used by the totalitarian states and competing ideologies of the 20th century. It also had much to do with, as Orwell called it, the "power of facing unpleasant facts", and his willingness to criticize prevailing ideas which brought him into conflict with others and their "smelly little orthodoxies".

The term "Thought Police", by extension, has come to refer to real or perceived enforcement of ideological correctness in any modern or historical contexts.

Technology and thoughtcrime

Technology played a significant part in the detection of thoughtcrime in Nineteen Eighty-Four—with the ubiquitous telescreens which could inform the government, misinform and monitor the population. The citizens of Oceania are watched by the Thought Police through the telescreens. Every movement, reflex, facial expression, and reaction is measured by this system, monitored by the Ministry of Love.

At times, it seems as if the telescreen is constantly watching each citizen. Winston Smith recognizes that he has no idea who is behind the technology, watching him or anyone else.

Winston and the other citizens of Oceania have no idea who "they" is, but they know and understand that they do not want to find out. The Thought Police and the Ministry of Love become universally feared by any member of the Inner Party or any character capable of thoughtcrime.

See also

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