In George Orwell’s futuristic nightmare, 1984, citizens are watched by a secret police for “thought crimes” committed against the totalitarian state. These thought crimes are simply attitudes and ideas the authorities regard as politically incorrect.
Orwell wrote 1984 during the height of the Cold War and its vision reflected an all-too-real fact of life. The Soviet police state had spread its tentacles over hundreds of millions of captive peoples. Tens of millions of them whose ideas failed to conform to the prescriptions of the totalitarian state were sent to labor camps and firing squads for committing thought crimes. Their offense was to be “anti-Soviet” – to speak out against socialism, or its rulers, or to fail to parrot the views and opinions approved by the regime.
During the Cold War, America led a coalition of democracies to oppose Communism because America’s founders had made the principle of liberty the cornerstone of their Republic. The very first article of the American Bill of Rights was not to have one’s speech restricted by the power of the state.