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It’s 1984 in 2015

TOM BURGUM
Staff Columnist
burgum@lbknews.com

It’s taken us 31 years longer to reach 1984 than George Orwell imagined when he wrote “Nineteen Eighty-Four” in 1949. Orwell wrote for the purpose of warning readers in the West of the dangers of totalitarian government.

Orwell had witnessed first hand the lengths to which a totalitarian government in Russia would go to sustain and even increase its power using, in Winston Churchill’s memorable phrase, “the lights of perverted science.” Orwell was disturbed by cruelties and oppressions he observed in communist countries and was perplexed by the tendency of American intellectuals and the Western press to ignore the evidence of oppression while referring to communism as the great moral experiment.

The government of Orwell’s imagination had developed doublethink, which is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one’s mind at the same time. A good example of this in our 2015 world is the dictate from our intellectual betters that social diversity is so critical to the proper functioning of society that any questioning of the concept of diversity introduces diversity of opinion which cannot be allowed.

Another Orwellian device is the “memory hole.” In this rspect, 2015 is far ahead of 1984. All written materials that differed with the current party line, or were in any way embarrassing, were dropped in the nearest “memory hole.” A memory hole was nothing more than one of the always convenient pneumatic tubes in which unwanted historical documents were sent to a fiery end. Thus, history could be erased.   Orwell understood, as did the dictatorship he had studied, that it was easy to justify current policy if you controlled people’s memory of the past. We, of course, don’t have pneumatic tubes, but we can erase the record of past misdeeds and mistakes by simply pushing the delete button on the computer. See Hillary Clinton and State Department records for the best illustration of this concept.

MSNBC recently hoped we’d either accept two contradictory ideas at the same time or, perhaps even better, hope that some past history has gone down the memory hole. When Donald Trump announced for president, he managed stop saying “I” and “me” long enough to insult the entire Southern Hemisphere by inferring that all immigrants from south of the border were criminals and scum.

MSNBC decided the remarks were too offensive and severed all connections with The Donald. One the other side of that coin, Al Sharpton of Tawana Brawley and Crown Heights fame, continues on as the MSNBC’s contribution to racial misunderstanding.  Really. The words Sharpton and racial understanding in the same sentence present a classic example of two contradictory ideas in mind at one time.

A good bit of what Orwell might call double think or double speak in our time is not the result of a totalitarian government but more the reward for really confused thinking.

Jonah Goldberg came up with a real dozy in his blog, “The Goldberg File.” “I’ll always remember that line from Wendy Doniger when McCain picked Sarah Palin for veep: ‘Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.’ Whatever criticisms you might have for Palin, there was a time when the one thing everyone could agree on is that she’s you know, a woman. But now we live in an age where we must say Bruce Jenner is a woman, but only Right-wing cranks like me bother to complain that a professor at the University of Chicago could write that Sarah Palin isn’t one.”

The war on terror seems to provide the government with multiple opportunities to exercise double think. When a Muslim American officer, who called himself a soldier in Allah’s army, leaped on a table, shouting Allah Akbar and began shooting people at random, the wise men in Washington, D.C. called it “workplace violence.” Really. One has to wonder if this is not more in the realm of “stupid think.”

As the administration surges ahead with the attempts to come to some understanding with Iran, the memory hole gets a real workout. Each announcement of new terms offered by the United States requires some forgetting of where the lines were drawn in prior announcements. At the onset, Iran simply could not be allowed to have nuclear weapons capability and no weapons grade uranium would be allowed. Then some weapons grad uranium would be allowed but only a small amount. It wasn’t long before the Iranians were told they could have larger amounts if they shipped some percentage out of country, but it was not long before, okay, you guys can keep it all. Then, we are told, the deal with Iran as currently constituted, will give them the right to pursue nuclear weapons after 10 years, unless they cheat, then they can get it within one year. In short, accepting our governments position on Iranian nuclear capability requires a great deal of forgetting, not to mention a tolerance for double speak.

Orwell was more prophetic than even he might have imagined when he wrote. “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy”

Sound familiar?’

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1 Response for “It’s 1984 in 2015”

  1. ghostrider says:

    Two years later, The True Believer, by Eric Hoffer.
    Talk about a prophetic book.

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