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!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

A movie about and set in Texas starred mega-stars Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. It was a huge box office draw in the early 1960s! The state itself may have dictated the wide screen and mega stars --Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.

The movie was GIANT, inspired by The Edna Ferber novel of the same name! Giant, indeed!
The photo (left) is of the famous Monahans Sandhills west of Odessa, Texas, a city with an interesting history as a destination of gunslingers and seekers after the many treasures that were said to have been buried in West Texas by various outlaws, the Spanish, and Mexican Revolutionaries.
Texas is the second most populous, the second most extensive of the 50 states. It can boast (and often does) that it is the largest of the 48 contiguous United States with an area of over 268,000 square miles and a growing population of some 25.7 million residents.

The word 'Texas' is from the Caddo --Tejas which means 'friend' or 'ally'. It was the Spanish which appropriated the Caddo word and applied it to Texas.

Texas shares a long, winding international border with Mexico, specifically the states of Chihuhua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas as well as borders with the US states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest in the United States. San Antonio --home of the famous Alamo --is the second largest city in the state, seventh largest in the U.S. Depicted in the montage are portions of downtown Houston and, below, an interior view of Houston's 'Galleria' --a famous mall just outside loop 610 at Westheimer Rd. The Galleria is famous for its ice skating rink and a 'collection' of designer shops that probably exceed the famous 'Rodeo Drive' in Los Angeles.
In the 70's, a New York columnist (as I recall) dubbed Houston the "Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt". The monicker may have stuck:
Houston, Texas is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country, with a diverse population of nearly six million and thousands of dynamic, growing businesses. Much of that growth is powered by the energy sector: Houston's nearly 4,000 energy-related companies are responsible for almost half of the city's economic output.
New ideas in energy, however, aren't always received with a warm welcome. "Energy companies can be very risk-averse," says Sarah Groen, a business consultant and investor. "That makes the market very tough for new businesses to break into."
Groen and her business partner, Kirk Brand Coburn, are working to change the status quo with the launch of SURGE Accelerator, an incubation and mentorship program for startups in the energy software space. Companies accepted into the program can focus on anything from digital oil field data to consumer energy efficiency--"as long as it's focused around energy, we're interested," says Groen.
In the program, which launched a year and a half ago, SURGE provides each company with $30,000 in seed funding, free office space, and access to dozens of mentors in Houston's vibrant energy sector in exchange for a six percent common equity stake. Over the course of the three-month program, the entrepreneurs focus their business models and learn from their mentors and one another; the program culminates with the opportunity to pitch to investors on SURGE Day.

"Most entrepreneurs are coming not for the money," says Groen. "It's for mentorship and the program, and access to investors they'd have trouble meeting otherwise."

--SURGE Accelerator Sets Out to Revolutionize the Energy Industry in Houston
It's now official: with a population of six million, greater Houston is now the nation's fourth largest city! Only New York, Chicago, Los Angeles are larger. The metropolitan areas of Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are the fourth and fifth largest metropolitan areas in the United States. Other major cities include El Paso, the western most city in Texas and Austin --the state capital. Depicted (below, left) are downtown Houston (at sunset) and, below it, Houston's famous Galleria Mall. Inspired by the 'Galleria' in Milan, it was appropriately a pioneering work by developer Gerald Hines. Indoor malls with several levels of shopping integrated with both residence and office towers were groundbreaking at the time.

Because it was once an independent republic, Texas is sometimes called the Lone Star State. It is also a reminder of the state's struggle for independence from Mexico which most Americans associate with the siege at the Alamo. The "Lone Star" can be found on the Texas state flag and on the Texas state seal today. Another reminder of the Texas struggle for independence may be found just east of Houston where the 'Battle of San Jacinto' was fought and won by Gen Sam Houston for whom the present city is named. The following videos are a showcase of some of the most beautiful photography of Texas that can be found. Enjoy the tour.

Of late, Texas has acquired a bad name, a process begun, I believe, with the arrival of the Bush crime family, the assassination of JFK, the FBI atrocities against the Branch Davidians and, of course, the utterly failed and criminal regime of one George W. Bush!

By the way, George W. Bush is NOT a 'Native Texan'; he was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Sadly, thanks to GWB, it will require a small miracle to undo the harms done to education, the prison system and the 'state' of justice in the once and future great state of Texas!