Freedoms and Language

On the Bush Administration and 1984:
"No one can now doubt the word of America."-President Bush's State of the Union address.

   It is now 20 years since 1984.  George Orwell's dystopic vision of the Western World did not come to pass.  Massive economic deprivation and systematic use of torture for political purposes have not become the norm in America and Great Britain.  The Stalinist Soviet Union, upon which Orwell modeled his Oceania, collapsed under the weight of its flawed economic system and repressive totalitarianism.  The human spirit was more resilient than Orwell anticipated. 
  At the core of Orwell's new political system were four critical elements-the use of perpetual war for political purposes, the control of human sexuality, the cult of personality and antipersonality, and the abuse of language and history.  The current application of the first principle is transparent.  There was the war on drugs.  Now there is the war on terror.  It is indisputable that we were attacked by a brutal and cowardly enemy.  Does this mean that any domestic or international action taken by the government is now justified in the name of security?  There is the Orwellian logic: "Iraq is now the enemy.  Iraq has always been the enemy." We need to engage in doublethink and forget about the Reagan administration support for Iraq and its tacit acceptance of the use of weapons of mass destruction by the murderous tyrant, Saddam Hussein.  We need to forget the Bush administration's stated reasons for war against Iraq.  We need to forget that we have left in anarchy much of Afghanistan where we periodically wipe out families and wedding parties by unfortunate accidents.  There can be no doubt about the success of the exploitation of the war for the stirring of nationalist passions in support of the political party in power.

     The second application is also self-evident.  President Bush used his State of the Union address to support the establishment of the equivalent of the Junior Anti-Sex League of Orwell's Oceania.

     Third, Big Brother. Coupled to Bush idolatry is Goldstein (the opponent of Big Brother) hatred. It doesn't matter who the Goldstein of the moment is. It is enough that the there is always some individual the mere mention of whose name is guaranteed to engender right-wing hatred.

  Finally, there is the assault on language and history.  No group has a monopoly on this practice of calling something by its opposite.  Obviously, the term, "shaheed," applied to a suicide bomber does not correspond to anything remotely like the English term, "martyr."  Translating "shaheed" as martyr is an obscenity; it should be left untranslated.  Nevertheless the right has made the debasement of the English language a central objective.  Newspeak is rampant.  Words are tested for emotional impact upon focus groups.  For the right what does "liberal" (or worse, "New York liberal") mean besides everything evil?  Taxes on the unearned income of multimillionaires are "death taxes."  Contempt for other people's lifestyles is called "family values."  Legislation favoring logging on public lands is called "Healthy Forests."  Legislation increasing air pollution is called "Clear Skies."  Republican candidates are advised to call global warming "climate change" to imply that it is less threatening and even desirable.  The Bush administration arbitrarily designates prisoners of war "illegal combatants" with no legal rights.  Women who advocate equal pay and an end to sexual harassment are called "Femi-Nazis" (a simultaneous insult to women, American World War II veterans, and groups persecuted by the Nazis).  Party Slogan:  FREE SPEECH IS PAID-FOR SPEECH.  At least, that appears to be the opinion of right-wing legislators, commentators, and lobbyists.  The only time freedom of speech is worth defending appears to be when campaign-finance laws try to limit the corruption of the political process.

   In general, for the right, the truth is malleable.  It doesn't matter if one speaks the truth as long as one's political agenda is advanced.  The Party would approve.


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