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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Witch hunting is on the ballot this year

Almost everybody can understand an allusion to George Orwell's 1984.  The media contains constant references to current events as being "Orwellian."  Few people have actually read the novel.  And few that have understand WTF it's all about.  Those who have  some  grasp of its portent think it is kind of roman a clef.  That is a term used to describe novels that satirize and mock real people and situations in a fictional format.  When the novel first came out many people thought it was a polemic about the Soviet Union because Big Brother, the image of totalitarianism, was pictured as a guy with a big, bushy mustache, like Josef Stalin.  No doubt, Orwell used that parallel to make a point, but the novel goes much deeper than warning against the threats of Soviet communism.

A major theme of the novel is how intrusive the media becomes in people's lives.  It influences, shapes, and controls the way they think without their being aware of the fact that most of the thoughts they have are not their own, but thoughts implanted through saturation by the media.  In 1984, every residence has a television screen from which the occupants receive a constant barrage of contrived programs designed to manipulate them and control their thoughts.  There are also television cameras planted throughout neighborhoods to monitor the people.

One of the features broadcast over the television screens are the daily two minutes of hate sessions.  Everyday people gather in front of televisions at a certain time and participate in a state-conducted hate session.  The theory, which Orwell understands from many points in his own experience, is that hate is a tool for taking over the minds and controlling people.  Hatred is a means of inducing bigotry, and bigotry is a condition for utilizing hatred as a control mechanism.  The people of Oceania are led in the hatred of the country with whom they are in perpetual war.  Internally, they are led in the hatred of anyone or any group who criticizes and is a threat to the regime in power.

Big Brother knows that to maintain power, he must never allow the people to relax from the hate that keeps them under his command, so he has to create objects of hate and keep feeding the hate directed towards those objects.  One such object is a character in 1984 named Emmanuel Goldstein.  He is never actually seen in the novel, and may be a total creation of Big Brother.  But the hate sessions impart the information that Goldstein is the Number One Enemy of the People, who once was a  party member, but dissented into opposition and wrote a book against the party.  His speeches are flashed on the television screens and throw the people of Oceania into a collective rage through which they vent their hate against Goldstein.  He heads a subversive group called the Brotherhood that plots against the party and the good people of Oceania.

In many ways, 1984  is a thesis novel in which Orwell tests the principles of how language can be used as an instrument of operant conditioning to gain and maintain control of people's minds.  Orwell's study and knowledge of how language works puts him in the leading ranks of semanticists and linguists.  His own experience as a sympathizer to Marxism at one point in his life put him in a position to understand how language is used as a stimulus, a reward, and punishment to maintain humans in a state of abject obedience to commands, much like treats of food and command words keep attack dogs in a state of control.

Orwell's thesis in 1984 is how language and media can be used, through orchestrated hate, to keep the people in a state of mental enslavement and control.  What makes Winston, the protagonist, dangerous is that he at times questions the conditioning he is experiencing and is put through harsher modes of conditioning to restore him as a loyal, intellectually empty party member.

GOP: "Screw Bin Laden.  Lets get her instead."

The Republican Party does not read 1984 as a thesis of how a dystopia is created but as an operating manual for gaining and maintaining power.  Its campaign against Nancy Pelosi is a classic exercise in creating a hate object and using it to hold power and control over those people so given to mindless hatreds affections.

In order to keep its constituents in a state of rage in which they  can ignore actual issues, the Republican Party has decided to make Nancy Pelosi its Emmanuel Goldstein, its Number One Enemy of the People.

The main feature of the 2010 campaign for the GOP is a Fire Pelosi gimmick.  The party has mounted a Fire Pelosi web site for the purpose of raising funds and announcing anti-Pelosi events.  Part of the campaign will be a 48-state bus tour to conduct Fire Pelosi rallies throughout the country.  The question this campaign raises is what is the purpose of targeting an individual as the Number One Enemy of the The People.  The answer is in Orwell's portrayal of the tactics and purpose of the attacks on Emmanuel Goldstein.  If you don't have a program that withstand public scrutiny and discussion, you erect an enemy.  When people cannot be united in good, constructive purpose, they can be united in hate.

Republicans have opposed everything the Democrats have attempted to do since 2008.  While they claim they have better ideas, when pressed they simply trot out the same old policies that created the international and economic problems in which we are currently mired.  Rather than simply recognize Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House from the opposing party, they do the vilification routine, hoping that they can generate enough hate for her to make people forget their lack of substance and effort to deal with the problems we face.

Pelosi as the Wicked Witch of the West
The campaign conducted by John Dennis in Pelosi's home district is based upon just what the anti-Pelosi campaign is:  a witch hunt.  In a campaign ad, which tries to be funny, but gets embarrassing because it is such an obvious adolescent ploy, Pelosi is portrayed as the Wicked Witch of the West from the film  The Wizard of Oz.  One can dismiss it as an example of an attempt of wit by the witless, but it is part of the larger agenda.

In South Dakota, the Wicked Witch hunt takes the form of  trying to tie Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to Pelosi.  They are both Democrats.  They have some sharp policy differences, but they also work together.  The Republicans shame Herseth Sandlin because she does not go into an obstinate, petulant sulk and obstruct everything that  Nancy Pelosi proposes.  The Republicans think that the most devastating charge they can bring against Herseth Sandlin is that she acts like a rational, productive adult in her relationship with Nancy Pelosi.  In their anti-Pelosi obsession, the Republicans have pretty thoroughly defined themselves.

The Republicans are beset by the Palin-inspired Ignorant Pride movement.  Time was when people were uninformed or unable to grasp certain facts, they retreated from exposing their ignorance to the world.  However, Palin and her tea party disciples take great pride in putting on displays of ignorance power.

The prospect of people of this  mentality governing the country is obscene.  One longs for the late William Buckley and, even, Barry Goldwater.  It is disconcerting to see people in prominence who do not seem able to register facts, but instead depend upon a hateful furor as a basis for cohesion.

One should not dismiss witch hunts.  Periodically, our country has indulged in them.  This year, the country will be tested because witch hunting  is on the ballot.    George Orwell has provided us with the study guide.                        


larry kurtz said...

Thank you for prompting a refamiliarization with Eric Blair.

One excerpt: "In Nineteen Eighty-Four, written shortly after the war, Orwell portrayed the Party as enlisting anti-Semitic passions against their enemy, Goldstein. Nevertheless, he opposed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, taking an anti-colonialist stance against Zionism."

larry kurtz said...

David Newquist, you are prescient.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States