Sunday, February 5, 2017

Who Controls the Present Controls the Past

I hear that George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is a best-seller again.  That's always a good thing, and if people are reading it with an agenda, that's nothing new. (If they're reading it. Buying a book, as I well know, is not the same as reading it.)  Nor is a surge in its sales new, as the NPR story I just linked indicates.  It happened, for example, right after the election of Ronald Reagan, and "Another time sales of the novel spiked was in 2013, after revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowden about the extent of U.S. surveillance operations. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the state keeps constant watch on its citizens to spot potential 'thought-crimes' or rebellion."

I was pleasantly surprised by this remark:
Richard Keeble, chairman of The Orwell Society and editor of the book of scholarship, Orwell Today, said Orwell would also have critiqued other aspects of Obama’s presidency. “In terms of double-think”–a term defined in the novel as the ability to hold two pieces of contradictory information at one time–“let’s think back to a so-called Nobel peace prize winner who waged war for most years of his presidency,” Keeble said.
This time the new popularity of the book is inspired by the presidency of Donald Trump, of course.  And that involves a good deal of doublethink and memory control on the part of many of Trump's Democratic critics, who must be sure to forget anything negative about Obama or Hillary Clinton.  Luckily, they have plenty of practice, forgetting or ignoring inconvenient facts.  Mention any of the less inspiring aspects of Barack Obama's record, no matter how well-documented, and they'll denounce you for making up stuff in the pay of the Republicans.  I'm quite impressed by their ability to block out Obama's support for the Saudi invasion of Yemen, for example, even when I or some other thought-criminal brings it to their attention.  I've sometimes mistaken this, along with their transitory pretense of concern for Syrian children, for a poor memory; but no, it's a strong, controlled memory that won't admit inconvenient facts in the first place.  Like Trump's base, they live in a hermetically sealed alternate reality, just a different one.

So I threw together a little post on Facebook:
"Wait a minute - Oceania hasn't always been at war with Eurasia! We were at war with Eastasia just yesterday!"

"Stop dwelling on the dead past! We need to focus on the future! You just want Eurasia to win!"
I was trying to decide whether to change the last sentence to "You're just trying to normalize Eurasia!" when my post got a couple of likes from liberal Facebook friends, both of whom misunderstood it.  One regularly posts awful political doggerel; I've never actually met him, and I'm thinking of unfriending him.  His comment was a link to his latest product, denouncing the "Trumpies."  So he missed the point.  The other I've known for more than thirty years, since he was a student at IU; he worked for the Clinton campaign last year, and assiduously passed along its talking points in response to criticism of Clinton on Facebook.  His comment: "And the Victory Tobacco ration will be raised from five units to two units! Another triumph on our behalf by Big Brother!"  Pretty clearly he missed the point too, but then he's an Inner Party member with a well-controlled memory.  (He was one of those who missed the point of a satirical Onion article about voting from last year, seemingly taking it at face value -- and he's not that stupid, at least ordinarily.)

If you want a picture of the future, though ...

"Edgy."  Isn't that the cutest thing?  Just a few months ago my liberal Democrat friends were assuring me that she had no interest in politics, she'd only been dragged into the campaign by her mom.  Chelsea Clinton was born in 1980; you do the math.