Nothing succeeds like Newspeak

‘By 2050 — earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of The Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like Freedom is Slavery when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness’.
George Orwell, ‘1984’

There are many things that amuse me about the way the Boer War is discussed today. One of the most entertaining is the way that, in the increasingly-frantic attempts to paint the Boers as both wholly innocent, peaceful people, yet also super-human warriors, the meanings of words get twisted and turned out of all recognition. For example, and as I mentioned in a recent blog, a well-conducted, fighting withdrawal can excitedly be termed a ‘rout’ – but only if it is done by the British, of course. Similarly, blatant invasions and annexations of other people’s land can airily be described as being ‘defensive’ – but only if they are done by the Boers, of course.

And if this real life ‘Newspeak’ was not bad enough, I have started seeing the word ‘success’ used in new and interesting ways too – ways which would no doubt have caused George Orwell to raise an eyebrow.

I recently read on a South African tourism webpage, for example, that the Boers ‘successfully besieged Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking’. Given that, in reality, the republicans completely failed to capture any of these towns, how in the name of all that is Holy can their sieges be considered to have been in anyway ‘successful’? Presumably this means one could equally declare that ‘England successfully took on South Africa in the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final’?
Sure, England didn’t actually win the match of course, but that would seem to be utterly irrelevant.

Carrying on this lunatic theme, someone on Quora recently referred to Smuts’ invasion of the Cape as ‘the successful one’. Announcing that there was a ‘successful’ invasion of the Cape rather suggests that the invading Boers captured the likes of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth – or, at the very least, somewhere like East London, Stellenbosch, Graaff Reinet or Grahamstown. Talk of a ‘successful’ invasion also very much suggests that the long-hoped for mass uprising against British rule was sparked, and that the Cape Colony became the ‘third Boer republic’ which Kruger and members of the Afrikaner Bond had always dreamed of.
Needless to say, none of these things actually occurred, so it is rather difficult to know what was in any way ‘successful’ (using the actual definition of the word, rather than the made-up one favoured by Defenders of the Myth™) about Smuts’, or indeed any of the other, attempted Boer invasions of the Cape.

Of course, the game is easy when one can simply make-up one’s own definition of what it means to succeed. Only then is it possible to pretend that a ‘successful siege’ is one which completely fails to take the town, and a ‘successful invasion’ is one where a few thousand men ride about in the semi-desert, desperately avoiding all major towns and garrisons, and fail even to take the tiny settlement of O’okiep.

By these ridiculous standards, the German invasion of the USSR was also a success – but, then again, when has historical reality ever mattered when it comes to defending the myths of the Boer War?

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