by Mark Drolette
July 16th, 2007
I’m sick of lefties snidely comparing the grim totalitarian society of George Orwell’s 1984 to today’s freedom-spewing United States, a country few Americans would dare call dystopian, even if they could define it. The following analysis exposes these aspersions as utterly specious.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. These are the best-known examples of 1984’s “doublespeak,” the deliberate misuse of deceptive language. Some may proffer that George W. Bush calculatingly utilizes doublespeak, but I say no.
His unique linguistic approach comes naturally.
Then, there’s Orwell’s “doublethink”: holding two opposing thoughts simultaneously, which Bush has gone one better by mastering “nothink,” a concept characterized by being devoid of any original thought whatsoever. Unpatriotic types (you know: showoffs who consider intelligence desirable) disparage this, but in reality, it allows our brave decider more freedom to tell the bloody truth, as demonstrated at a February press conference when he boldly pronounced “money trumps peace.”
Cynics who doubt Bush’s sincerity should ask liberty-defending weapons manufacturers if his words ring as true as, say, a non-stop cash register. Admittedly, the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity did announce in 2004 the military industry had given Bush $5.4 million since 1998, tops among politicians, but tellingly didn’t mention somebody’s gotta be number one.
Big Brother is watching you. Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith horrifyingly learns his trysting den has been secretly monitored when a picture crashes to the floor, revealing a previously-hidden telescreen through which his “crimes” have been observed. Among his subversive activities? Making love. (Which, come to think of it, sounds like a plank from the GOP platform.)
In 1984, everyone’s under constant surveillance. Or are they? It doesn’t matter: it’s the thought (crime) that counts. Thinking you’re being watched chills your very core, sorta like how you blanched the morning following yet another spirited night of porn-surfing when it appeared your computer’s history had been searched by your (now ex-) wife.
It’s preposterous, however, to suggest Americans would ever allow impingement of their constitutionally-protected right to privacy. Courageous, magnet-affixing patriots that they are, they’d rabidly fight outrages like cameras at every corner, microchipped passports, a national ID card, no-warrant searches or having the FBI investigate their borrowing of A Marxist History at the library. (Then again, maybe the local field agent should discover why acolytes consider Harpo the funniest of the bunch.)
Two plus two makes five. I’m sure my long-suffering high school algebra teacher was convinced this was my motto. Nevertheless, once I finally comprehended basic addition, I knew Orwell, by having sinister Inner Party member O’Brien inform Smith two plus two makes five if the state says it does, was averring that with enough coercion (or voltage), the government can make one believe even the most absurd notion.
Clearly, no such inane assertions have emanated from the Bush administration.
Which, by the way, had its number of (s)elected office-holders reduced by half recently when Dick Cheney declared the vice presidency isn’t part of the executive branch.
It belongs to Congress, apparently.
Or the Rotary Club.
Which makes sense when you do the new (world order) math: Two minus one equals George W. Bush; I’m sorry, check it: a big fat zero.
In 1984, Oceania is always at war. Oceania’s rulers classically rechannel the masses’ potentially dangerous resentment by creating a perennial national foe. Actually, they fashion two, Eastasia and Eurasia, deeming one a mortal enemy and the other an ally before suddenly reversing the roles, thereby keeping the proletariat further off-balance. The similar-sounding names produce additional beneficial confusion.
Obviously, no comparable situation exists here. We know exactly where the enemy lies: in Iraq.
Or is it Iran?
Room 101. In dreaded Room 101, Oceania’s nascent rebels (that is, independent thinkers meaning, thankfully, most Americans would never see the place) are shattered via the ultimate torture: being forced to face the “worst thing in the world.” Smith experiences this literally when a cage, strapped to his head, allows access to his face by his greatest fear: rats.
You’d never see such shenanigans in America: PETA would howl.
Besides, everyone knows torture doesn’t work. A brutalized person admits to anything, true or not, to stop the pain. Threaten any American with credit card (or American Idol) cancellation and just wait for the babbling.
Plus, torture is distinctly un-American even if, as White House counsel in 2002, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to make it a project for the new American century when he called Geneva Conventions proscribing it “quaint” and “obsolete” in his attempt to justify its use in the never-ending War on Terror.
Or is it Tarot?
No matter. Bush luckily saved the day by forcefully putting his foot down (almost as if stamping on a human face), stating: “America will never torture, arbitrarily imprison, kidnap, rape, murder people or take their stuff even.”
Down the memory hole. In 1984, Smith rewrites history at the Orwellian-named Ministry of Truth, revising old newspaper articles and then slipping the incriminating evidence down a slot leading to an incinerator where old facts go to fry.
Incredibly, some folks claim our government does the same thing! A Web site called The Memory Hole (how’s that for coincidence?) showcases materials it implies prove public information is regularly removed or doctored à la 1984.
OK, so it was interesting to view the headline over a May 2003 White House screen shot of Bush on a carrier that read “President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended” only to see, five months later, the word “Major” had been inserted before “Combat.” America-haters would likely say there’s nothing like a pesky insurgency to make you eat your words (or add one). But, honestly, who could’ve known before the invasion Iraq didn’t really endanger our beloved country?
I mean, besides the millions of protestors proclaiming before the invasion Iraq didn’t endanger our beloved country?
Let’s say the administration does rewrite history. So what? Wouldn’t your very own memory hole have come in mighty handy when you got your last probation report, the one in which you discovered much to your chagrin your supervisor does, indeed, know the meaning of “porcine”?
Personally, I don’t need government assistance to help me forget things. Why, just this morning I –
Uh… what was I saying?
Never mind. I’ve already proved my point, whatever it was. It’s time anyway for my shift over at the Department of Attitude Amendment where we’re finishing our week-long re-education seminars:
“Totalitarianism: Why the bad rap?”
It’s a four-part series.
This is the fifth installment.
Long rule Oceania! I mean, wherever.
(published originally in the Sacramento News & Review)
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.