A friend of mine emailed to ask me what "war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" means. My plan was to do a quick Google search, choose the most compelling answer and send him the link. To my surprise, I was not able to find the correct explanation anywhere. Though intelligent and complex answers, in my opinion, none of them was correct.
(The the following article is based on George Orwell's novel entitled 1984. I will keep the article as spoiler-free as I can for those who haven't read the book yet, but I will have to partially reveal the plot in order to properly explain this paradoxical slogan).
"War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength." is one of the three slogans of the English Socialist Party ("INGSOC" for short) of Oceania.
The goal of the INGSOC was to achieve total control over the people and, more importantly, over their minds. And here lies the answer.
What "war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" meant to the INGSOC
One of the main mind programs of the party was the so called "double thinking", or doublethink, which "describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts."
"War is peace" and "freedom is slavery" are good examples of double thinking. Though contradictory by definition, they were both accepted as correct, simultaneously.
This meant that even though Oceania was in a constant state of war, the people were acting like there was peace as well, hence they could easily switch from one emotion to the other, in accordance to what The Party asked from them.
"Ignorance is strength" encouraged the people to accept as truth everything that The Party told them, without any kind of questioning.
For example, even though there was constant shortage of everything, the people believed there was in fact an abundance, only because The Party told them so.
The Orwellian slogan applied in our society
Even in a corrupted semi-democracy, like ours, it is hard to believe that paradoxes like: "war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" could make any sense -- but they do.
Here are some concrete examples:
The concept of "war is peace" is used today by the United States of America and NATO, when they engage in the so called "preemptive wars". The term itself is a paradox, because one cannot start a war in order to prevent it.
"Freedom is slavery" is the very concept of our global societies and the biggest and most ignored problem of a so called democracy. All human beings are "currency slaves", meaning that they must work to survive (though physical labor could have been abolished by now), but at the same time, almost all of them strongly believe they are free.
I urge all those who consider themselves free to stop paying their taxes to already "owned" possessions (homes, cars, lands, etc.) and see what happens.
Finally, the strength given by ignorance is highly encouraged in our society: never question authority, law, legal institutions, school books, history, main stream media or MS scientific communities. Any deviation from the socially accepted norm is swiftly fought and corrected by society, with the help of the individuals. We are both prisoners and prison masters, constantly policing ourselves and each other. And even though we are not aware of it, we are all subjects of carefully designed mind programming, indoctrination and brainwashing, from birth to death.