Happy belated birthday, Eric Blair — the dystopian world you conjured is still here year after year

Happy belated birthday, Eric Blair — the dystopian world you conjured
is still here year after year
By Thomas Mitchell
“The centuries of capitalism were held to have produced nothing of any
value. One could not learn history from architecture any more than one
could learn it from books. Statues, inscriptions, memorial stones, the
names of streets — anything that might throw light upon the past had
been systematically altered.” — “Nineteen Eighty-four”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken to placing a little sticky note
over the camera atop my desktop computer. If former FBI Director James
Comey and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg do it, so will I. Big
and Little Brothers may be watching.
Happy belated 99th birthday, Eric Blair.
On June 25 in 1903, Eric Blair was born in India. This is not the year
overlook this propitious event, because this is the year that gave us
the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board
and its Russian hoax embracing director Nina Jankowicz.
Under the pen name George Orwell, Blair penned the novel “Nineteen Eighty-four.”
After a hailstorm of ridicule, much of it comparing the new DHS board
to Orwell’s Ministry of Truth and Big Brother, after three weeks the
disinformation board was shelved. Purpose served.
When Orwell wrote “Nineteen Eighty-four” he wasn’t forecasting a
particular date, he simply transposed the last two digits in 1948, the
year in which he wrote much of the book. Though a life-long socialist
he despised the totalitarian and despotic nature of communism, fascism
and Nazism.
He added to the lexicon: Big Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak,
doublethink, Room 101, as well as the painted slogans: WAR IS PEACE,
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
In “Nineteen Eighty-four” the warring nations kept changing enemies,
sort of like today.
If you don’t think freedom is slavery, consider the “Life of Julia“ —
the Obama campaign video that showed a woman relying on government
handouts from cradle to retirement. Julia, by the way, was the
girlfriend of Winston Smith, the main character in “Nineteen
Eighty-four.”
Ignorance is definitely strength, not for us but for politicians who
the ignorant keep electing.
As for newspeak and doublethink, consider the language of the Obama
and Trump and Biden administrations. Obama said we were not fighting a
war against terrorists but trying to prevent man-caused disasters. His
Defense Department (They don’t call it the War Department anymore.)
sent out a memo saying: “this administration prefers to avoid using
the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use
‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’” And a man standing on a table,
firing a gun, shouting Allahu Akbar is merely workplace violence.
Trump was going to attack Iran for downing our drone, then the called
it off. He was going to have ICE round-up immigrants who had been
ordered deported, then he delayed it. He was going to impose tariffs,
then he did not. During the election campaign he took 141 policy
positions on 23 issues over the course of 510 days. He changed stances
on immigration, ObamaCare, entitlement programs, gay rights, the
Middle East and so much more.
Biden’s bureaucrats’ budget language refers to “birthing people,” not mothers.
Not to be outdone, the quacks at the Nevada Legislature actually
passed AB287, which declares that on public documents the term mother
is to be replaced with “person giving birth” and father with “other
parent.” The governor signed it and there was no news coverage of the
event.
The Federal Reserve a year ago put out a memo instructing staff to use
bias-free language. The memo lists terms like “Founding Fathers” and
“manmade” as well as the pronouns he and she as offensive.
Then there was the news media blackout of all the Hunter Biden
monetary shakedowns, obscene photos and racial slurs — never mind the
social media banning of a former president and many others.
Trump was called a xenophobe for suggesting the COVID-19 virus came
from a Wuhan lab, but now that is widely accepted as possible.
Orwell wrote: “‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan,
‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”
Recently a law professor suggested editing from classroom teachings
the details of the Dred Scott case in which the Supreme Court ruled a
Black man could not file suit in court because he was not a citizen.
The prof wants to omit language “so gratuitously insulting and
demeaning.” He said assigning the case forces students “to relive the
humiliation of [Chief Justice Roger] Taney’s language as evidence of
his doctrine of white supremacy.”
How can there be any thoughtcrime if we are not allowed to use certain
words or study history? People aren’t in the country illegally, they
are merely undocumented. And this too changes over time. Once the word
negro was the preferred and the politically correct term, but now it
is a slur.
“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range
of thought?” Orwell wrote in “Nineteen Eighty-four.” “In the end we
shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no
words in which to express it.”
Today’s cancel culture is Big Brother incarnate.
Statues are being torn down. Books are banned. Military bases are
renamed. Social media posts are censored. Speech is deemed the same as
violence. Silence is also violence. But violence is free speech. Any
thought outside the strictly proscribed is a crime. Thoughtcrime
literally.
The editorial page editor of The New York Times was ousted after
fellow staffers demanded his scalp for having the audacity to publish
an op-ed by a U.S. senator calling for sending troops to quell
rioting. (It now has a lengthy editors’ note atop it online disavowing
much of the op-ed’s content.) The editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer
was forced to resign for daring to publish an opinion piece under the
headline “Buildings Matter, Too.”
When President Trump tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting
starts …” Twitter hid it behind a warning label because it “glorifies
violence.”
Movies and television shows are being canceled lest they offend the
snowflakes. Classic children’s books are being ripped from the library
shelves for being insensitive.
Bowing to racial sensitivity, the Associated Press changed its
stylebook to call for the capitalization of the “b” in the term Black
when referring to people in a racial, ethnic or cultural context. It
was reasoned that lowercase black is a color, not a person. But the AP
still uses a lowercase “w” for white, whether a color or a person.
Affirmative action run amok?
Back in 1975, David Goodman wrote in The Futurist magazine that 100 of
137 Orwell predictions in “Nineteen Eighty-four” had come true. With
the advance of computer surveillance and drones, how many more have
come true?
In 1983, while working as the city editor of the Shreveport Journal, I
penned a soft feature tied to the 35th anniversary of the original
writing of Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”
I observed in that piece that Orwell’s book was about a totalitarian
dystopia in which BIG BROTHER WAS WATCHING YOU, suggesting this was
like the infrared camera equipped drones or huge network of
cybersnooping computers, long before the NSA revelations.
“George Orwell respected language and railed against its abuse,” I
wrote in 1983. “He was particularly offended by the propaganda — some
of which he helped to write for the BBC in World War II. He saw
firsthand the way the press was tricked and subverted for political
purposes in the Spanish Civil War. Battles that never happened. Heroes
who became traitors.”
In another piece posted here in 2013, I asked whether Orwell was a
satirist or a prophet.
Walter Cronkite in a foreword to the 1983 paperback edition of
“Nineteen Eighty-Four,” claimed the book has failed as prophecy only
because it has served so well as a warning — a warning against
manipulation and power grabbing and the loss of privacy in the name of
state security.
And Cronkite couldn’t resist adding: “1984 may not arrive on time, but
there’s always 1985.”
Orwell himself called his book a satire and took pains to correct
those who saw it merely as a denunciation of socialism.
In a letter written shortly after the publication of the book, Orwell
wrote, “My novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-four’ is not intended as an attack
on socialism, or on the British Labour party, but as a show-up of the
perversions to which a centralized economy is liable, and which have
already been partly realized in Communism and fascism.
“I do not believe that the kind of society I describe will arrive, but
I believe (allowing, of course, for the fact that the book is a
satire) that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that
totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals
everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical
consequences. The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to
emphasize that the English speaking races are not innately better than
anyone else and that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could
triumph anywhere.”
A Newsweek article in 2018 asked the question: “Is Trump nudging
America toward corrupt authoritarianism?” Isn’t corrupt
authoritarianism redundant?
Back in 2008, when the Las Vegas Review-Journal launched its blogging
section online, I engaged in a bit of self-indulgent navel gazing in a
column trying to explain why. I leaned on Orwell like a crutch.
I explained that I and other newspaper scriveners were joining the
lowing herds browsing the ether — otherwise known as bloggers, those
free-range creatures who mostly chew up the intellectual property of
others and spit out their cuds online.
In an effort to find a rationale for this otherwise irrational
exercise I grabbed Orwell’s “Why I Write“ essay from 1946, in which he
lists various reasons for writing.
First is sheer egoism: ”Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to
be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who
snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc.,” Orwell explains. “It is humbug
to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this
characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers,
soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust
of humanity. … Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more
vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in
money.”
I think that was both a salute and a sully to the profession of journalism.
The second rationale, according to Orwell, is aesthetic enthusiasm:
”Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in
words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound
on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good
story. …” Orwell explains. “Above the level of a railway guide, no
book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.”
Third is historical impulse: ”Desire to see things as they are, to
find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”
Finally, and probably most importantly, political purpose: ”Using the
word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the
world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind
of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is
genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have
nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
Orwell wrote this shortly after he penned “Animal Farm,” but two years
before “Nineteen Eighty-four.” He said “Animal Farm” was his first
conscious effort “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into
one whole.”
Orwell wrote against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism.
Ayn Rand wrote for free-market capitalism.
Robert A. Heinlein wrote for libertarianism.
Others espouse various “isms” and objective journalism attempts to
eschew them, not always successfully.
So, what moves one to write?
As our master Orwell said, “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy,
and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
Everybody loves to unravel a good mystery, right?
Happy birthday, Eric Blair.
* * * * *
Thomas Mitchell is a former newspaper editor who now writes
conservative/libertarian columns for weekly papers in Nevada. You may
email Mitchell at  thomasmnv@yahoo.com. He blogs at
http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.
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