Friday, October 19, 2012

Orwell's '1984' Revisited

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Margaret Atwood called George W. Bush, the greatest threat to world peace to date! What Atwood did not mention was that Bushco derived its power from the deliberate and well-planned attack on truth by way of language. George Orwell predicted it; his works remain the textbook example of how governments may manipulate people by first manipulating the language.

If all else fails, a totalitarian regime may make the telling of truth a crime. Traditionally, the names given those truths are treason or sedition. A young United States experimented with the Alien and Sedition Acts giving near dictatorial powers to President John Adams, specifically, the power to imprison or deport aliens upon the mere suspicion that activities posed a threat to the new national government.

To his credit, Adams made no use of them but neither did he rebuke the Congress for passing them. George W. Bush proved a greater threat. Bush arrogated unto himself the power to 'define' the very word "terrorist"! Bush could create a 'terrorist' at will by merely re-defining a target. Indeed --Bush assumed and asserted the power and authority to make you a 'terrorist' by merely 'deeming' you to be one!

Orwell's classic cautionary tale, 1984, describes a fascist, totalitarian government spying on its own citizens, denying reality and creating an alternate state that exploits a fictional enemy in order to wage a perpetual war. Orwell's Big Brother tried to re-write history and succeeded.
In "It Can't Happen Here" Sinclair Lewis describes the dictatorship of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip who might have been inspired by George W. Bush had 'he' not preceded him. In both '1984' and in Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here", a fascist state justifies an omni-present dictatorship by maintaining states of perpetual war and perpetual terror.

The lesson of 1984 is less about the state itself than about the individual. When states are absolutely powerful, the individual ceases to exist. Philosophically, individuals robbed of free will are denied person-hood even as mere 'legal abstractions' (corporations) are made 'persons' by decree. In the U.S. 'corporations' are decreed to be persons by way of a bogus and dishonest decision by our Supreme Court, It remains the very worst decision since Dredd-Scott legitimized the keeping of slaves.
"In order to acknowledge the collapse of Soviet Communism and the failure of fascism to reemerge as a potent political force, I ditched Orwell's oppressive totalitarian state in favor of an entertainment-fueled nihilism in which dimwitted citizens frittered away their lives watching web TV and working at slightly overpaid jobs to buy worthless junk ... on web TV, natch. Where Orwell envisioned endless rows of soldiers marching in perfect unison to the strains of the Two-Minute Hate, I saw a world where nations had been replaced by trading blocs and the objects of hatred were the immigrants in our midst."
--Ted Rall, Addicted To Perpetual War
The images from 1984 are seared into our memories --big brother, the telescreen, the grotty bedroom, the cubicle, the memory hole, the drab gray existence, the rat cage. But 1984 is as much about language. It is more than mere sub-text. Language, in 1984, is the means by which Big Brother creates an alternate reality. It is only in the 'alternate reality' that Big Brother has power.
Big Brother is the Wizard of Oz, an illusion, an image on smoke if not mirrors. If millions suddenly deny the illusion, the lies, the bullshit, Big Bro is finished. The bad news is that, like the cowardly lion, we dare not challenge the great and powerful Oz

The most glaring use of Newspeak is the invention of what I have chosen to call "focus group phrases"; so called because they are invented, full cloth, by consultants who most certainly know their way around a focus group. "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is just such a phrase. "911 Denier" is another. "Al Qaeda iln Iraq" is designed to make a lazy populace forget that the war was begun upon blackhearted lies about WMD.

"911 Denier" is 'Orwell-speak' or 'Newspeak' designed to shift the burden of proof when it is, in fact,  Bush who must prove his theory of 911 --a theory for which there is not a shred of evidence --let alone proof. Anyone believing it is either a part of the plot or stupid! The Bush administration used up several ex post facto rationales for war. None of them were true! "Al Qaeda in Iraq", for example, implies the existence of a shadowy enemy that was never defined! That was by design! A real enemy is defined and can be targeted! Shadows may be summoned up whenever they are needed! 'Al Qaeda in Iraq', we can be sure, tested well.

A lazy news establishment liked it because it saved them the trouble of trouble of describing reality! Orwell understood as few have the power of language and in, 1984 the "tool of power" is language. Language empowers the all-powerful party which dictates the nature and use of language. The institutions of state maintain their power by exploiting the power of language to shape the nature of thought itself. That is, in fact, the job of the protagonist, Winston Smith. Examples may be found in any study of the recent Bush administration.

The George W. Bush regime very nearly gave the game away with the use of the phrase Total Information Awareness. In response to criticism, the regime stopped using the phrase to denote their program of widespread domestic and illegal surveillance.

Orwell is, of course, most famous for 1984 but his great essay on politics and language should also be required reading. See: Orwell: Politics and the English Language. Orwell explores how politicians exploit language to accrue absolute power. Modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.
The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious.
--George Orwell
All who have read Orwell's essay on how easily politicians debase the language for nefarious purposes have recognized in the Bush administration the very techniques that Orwell warned us about.
The White House saw September 11 as a golden opportunity. The first catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil sparked an unprecedented case of leadership projection: desperate for protection and answers (why do they hate us? can we kill them before they kill us?), Americans wishfully compared Bush to FDR and Churchill. Approval ratings hit 92 percent. But Bush's political advisors knew that peaking early wouldn't guarantee reelection in 2004. Bush's father had been turned out of office just 20 months after the Gulf War ratcheted his score up to 911.
The Bushies have lifted their reelection strategy straight out of "1984," and not just by creating ominous-sounding agencies like the Office of Homeland Security, the supposedly-closed Office of Strategic Information, and a "Shadow Government". As in "1984," the Bush regime tolerates zero dissent --a two-party system in name only has been distilled to one in which only Republicans express acceptable opinions. And an absence of follow-up attacks has been met by endless alerts, advisors and empty hysterics in the name of security, most recently culminating with Tom Ridge's much-mocked color-code warning system. 
--Ted Rall, Why Bush Is Addicted To Perpetual War
To be fair, it is not only politicians but bullshit artists who make us vulnerable to tyranny. This has been done by dumbing down the language and, thus, our ability to think critically. Until Bush, even Republican "Presidents" paid lip service to the Constitution.
"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
—Sinclair Lewis, author of "It Can't Happen here"!
In It Can't Happen Here Sinclair Lewis showed us how it might happen here and in ways not unlike those predicted by both Lewis and Orwell. The characteristics of the fascist state so vividly described by both authors were found in abundance in Bush's fascist regime. Millions are still in denial, evidence that truth is tragically denied. A quote from Sinclair Lewis' "It Can't Happen Here":
"Senator Windrip has got an excellent chance to be elected President, next November, and if he is, probably his gang of buzzards will get us into some war, just to grease their insane vanity and show the world that we’re the huskiest nation going."
--It Can't Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis, page 20
Orwell and Lewis not only warned us, they predicted precisely how it would be done. As Shakespeare said: "All is true!" So --why didn't we listen? We did not listen because this nation has a fierce anti-intellectual streak which at its best makes us independent and at its worst makes us stupid!


Anonymous said...

war is peace

in other news today oceania is winning the war in eurasia...

where poppies grow...

row on row

existentially speaking

Len Hart said...


Big Brother is watching you : )

Thanks for posting

kenny said...

Hey Len,

That first comment wasn't from me. I have no idea who it was. Just setting it straight.

I haven't talked to you in awhile and I'll let you know how much I appreciate your longevity and dedication to getting the truth out to those who care.

Len Hart said...


great to see your comments. There was a weird snafu in which some paragraphs got duplicated. Probably the result of my 'authoring' in a more friendly 'editor' then cut-n-pasting the finished draft. I didn't catch the dupes until someone had pointed it out. Hope all is fine now.

Again --thanks for commenting, your kind words and welcome back to the cowboy.

Anonymous said...

And now, the adopted son of a Bush; li'l BRO, doublespeaks for Big Brother and Poppy W/OZ here in (Chicken) George the Third millenial Oceania !

damien said...

Len, good to see you are still fighting the fight on the total debasement of language and the consequential trashing of democracy and civil rights. It's looking very bad, both for the US and globally. The media -- the 'intelligentsia' -- have been shown to be uncritical camp followers. This is all going to end badly, no question.

Glenn Greenwald has a new article up about the 'matrix', a codification of existing powers for the US President to track and kill people. It represents the cementing in of the new police state culture and mechanisms.

On my front I've been battling in the Aussie media, the Iranian 'nuclear threat' being the recurrent bullshit theme. I never used to believe in hasbara but now I'm not so sure. Some of the correspondents I've dealt with, advocates for the nuclear mullahs bullshit, are unbelievably well resourced in packaging their shit. I post here as kenj. See for yourself. (These are the same idiots who have been arguing that the US imprisonment of David Hicks was all legal).

I think we've been spotting this for years now, Len. It's bloody awful...the collapse of democracy and police state stuff. It's all coming. How sad. The democratic forms will be maintained, of course, like some ossified theme park. And how unbelievable that all that Harvard and Yale education of US leaders has not fitted them out with the kind of judgement and good sense that would have been a given for the general public and political leaders of the 50's and even the 60's. There's not a shred of the kind of mature judgement or intellectual credibility essential for the protection of democracy. Sad.

Cheers anyway, mate.

Len Hart said...

Thanks, Damien, and welcome back to the hacienda. Cheers, mate

Len Hart said...

Damien, have some errands to run but I hope to read the Greenwald article today. The link to your post, however, did not work for me.

Your statement -- "The democratic forms will be maintained, of course, like some ossified theme park." --probably describes what is already taking place. In the U.S. there was never that far to go for two big reasons: 1) the lobby system, little more than an on-going AUCTION of the government and 2) the utter bullshit that passes for 'news coverage' on TV. Of late, even the venerable print media seems to just recite the same old platitudes. I STOPPED watching TV news over ten years ago. And when I get glimpses of it today, I am appalled! It's a hologram.