Created By: Serocco on January 21, 2012 Last Edited By: Serocco on January 25, 2012

Orwellian Oxymoron

An IronicName masks its true intentions.

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As an aspiring Evil Overlord, you can't let the citizens of your empire rebel, no matter how much they want to. How to keep dissidents from spreading and organizing? You can start by spying on them, inventing vocabulary that keeps them politically correct, torturing them into believing lies - all the good stuff.

That won't do? Use a Propaganda Machine to establish these. An Orwellian Oxymoron is where you name a particularly malicious program, policy, law or product the opposite of what its true purpose entails. It keeps the citizens in the dark, once again, and the irony adds extra insult to injury for those unfortunate enough to find themselves affected by such an insidious policy/program/product/law.

Take a program designed to brainwash citizens. Name it "Memory Enhancement". See the cash flow, the customers swarm and the citizens falling under your control. Take a law that allows the government to spy on its citizens, and call it the "Patriot Act". Take a drug that turns them incredibly lethargic, and call it "Performance Enhancement". If this is particularly effective, this can qualify as Double Speak.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, being the Trope Namer, certainly utilizes this in the form of the various government ministries. The Ministry of Peace conducts war against the other two super-nations; the Ministry of Truth is a Propaganda Machine; and the Ministry of Love is a subversion - it actually lives up to its namesake, in that you're tortured into loving Big Brother.
  • This is far more common in Real Life than one might think in Real Life. In the US, legislation is to be given names that are either unrelated to the legislation in question, or actually in contradiction to what the legislation does, especially if the act in question is written by or for powerful business interests.
  • S.A.I.N.T. from Robocop Prime Directives.
  • The US Department of Defense hasn't fought a war in defense since World War II, and even before then, they've interfered in other wars and/or provoked aggressive responses from other nations. You have the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American war, the Mexican-American war, the invasion of Grenada, and the interventionist wars on Libya (though NATO headed that one), Kuwait, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Hell, it was even renamed from the Department of War.
  • C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength had the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments- the N.I.C.E., which wasn't very nice at all.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • January 21, 2012
    Try to avoid Flame Bait.

    You could have at least explained that the USA PATRIOT Act was really an acronym for: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act
  • January 21, 2012
    We could at least insert the Ministry of Truth in 1984 if we're troping this.
  • January 21, 2012
    I thought we already had this as Orwellian Name Scheme, but I searched and didn't find any sign of it.
  • January 21, 2012
    I do not see how allowing real life examples here can possibly end well.
  • January 22, 2012
    I had never seen it before, but I looked, and we already have this trope

    Super Fun Happy Thing Of Doom, and also Peoples Republic Of Tyranny

    It even uses the Ministry of Love in the page quote, and mentions the Patriot Act in the examples.

    It also does a surprisingly good job of handling the real life examples.
  • January 22, 2012
    CS Lewis's That Hideous Strength had the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments- the N.I.C.E., which wasn't very nice at all.

  • January 22, 2012
  • January 22, 2012
    Double Speak would be about concepts, this would be about institutions, but it could be a subtrope.
  • January 23, 2012
    Sounds like this would be a supertrope of Peace And Love Incorporated.
  • January 23, 2012
    Nothing in the title lets this sound like it's about institutions.

    Second, this is already partially covered by New Speak
  • January 23, 2012
    This seems like a reaction to SOPA and PIPA.
  • January 23, 2012
    I don't think "Oxymoron" means what you think it means.
  • January 23, 2012
  • January 25, 2012
    In Final Fantasy XIII NORA means No Obligations, Rules, or Authority, but Snow is very clearly the leader.