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[Opinion] Ministry of Truth

Posted September. 01, 2003 23:11,   


On the façade of the building of the Ministry of Truth are written three slogans – A war is peace, freedom is binding and ignorance is power. It is a line from George Owell`s novel ˝1984.˝ The hero of the book Winston is working at the Ministry of Truth, but the government agency distorts and manipulates truth instead of dealing with truth. It serves as a government propaganda machine by correcting all the records including newspaper and magazine articles. History is like thin paper on which you can make as many corrections as you want. They don`t think it is an act of deceiving. They are just correcting misunderstanding and misperception.

The fictional organization is soon likely to become a reality. The British government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair now plans to establish the Ministry of Truth, which will govern all the communication operations carried out by government agencies, according to The Independent. The title coincides with the notorious ministry from George Owell`s fiction. As the public is increasingly losing faith in the prime minister and his cabinet in the wake of the death of weapons expert David Kelly, the government has come up with the idea. The vacancy left by Alastair Campbell, the former communications chief who resigned over the Dr, Kelly-gate after long serving as Blair`s spin doctor, must be so big that the government requires a new agency. Behind the idea of setting up the Ministry of Truth is Peter Mandelson, first-generation spin doctor from the 1980s. Then, the plan is seen as a retreat rather than a reform.

And there seems to be widespread skepticism over `the king of spin` Blair himself, despite the effort to revamp the image. What is wrong with a mouthpiece when the problem lies in the leader who makes the mouthpiece say what he says? Responsibilities lie with the leader eventually. It is leader`s ethics and decisions that matters in the end. Prof. Ann Gregory at Leeds Metropolitan University urged the press to ˝write the truth instead of spins.˝ The government must be counterbalanced by the press, experts point out, since it deals with information, seen as power in this information society. When the press fails to play this role, the government will be free to distort information, leading the country to the path of destruction.

Feeling tempted to manipulate the press seems to be the nature of power. The Government Briefing Vol. 1, which was published on Sept. 1 against the vehement opposition and controversy, is filled with titles that make people smile. ˝To put more focus on improving productivity,˝ ˝The government needs to talk with residents in Buan˝ and ˝Labor-management disputes must not put damper on investors` sentiment.˝ The Government Information Agency may as well consider changing its name to the Ministry of Truth.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com