Its ‘Red Century’ series portrays communism as a noble cause.
National Day for the Victims of Communism. The New York Times marked the same anniversary in a different way: by running a series of articles extolling the virtues of communism.writes: The Trump administration marked this week’s 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by declaring a
The irony of the series’ title, “Red Century,” seems lost on the Times’s editors. The 20th century was “red” indeed — red with the blood of communism’s victims. The death toll of communism, cited in “The Black Book of Communism,” is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.
Never mind all that. University of Pennsylvania professor Kristen R. Ghodsee writes that Communists had better sex: “Eastern women had twice as many orgasms as Western women . . . [who] had less sex, and less satisfying sex, than women who had to line up for toilet paper.” She has tough words for Joseph Stalin because he “reversed much of the Soviet Union’s early progress in women’s rights — outlawing abortion and promoting the nuclear family.” Yes, that was Stalin’s crime. Not the purges, not the gulag, but promoting the nuclear family.
In “How Did Women Fare in China’s Communist Revolution?” Helen Gao recalls her grandmother “talking with joyous peasants from the newly collectivized countryside” and writes that “for all its flaws, the Communist revolution taught Chinese women to dream big.” Mao’s revolution killed tens of millions of Chinese — not counting the millions killed under China’s brutal “One Child” policy, which led to widespread female infanticide. Those Chinese girls never got a chance to dream at all.
In “Lenin’s Eco-Warriors,” Yale lecturer Fred Strebeigh writes that Lenin was “a longtime enthusiast for hiking and camping” who turned Russia into “a global pioneer in conservation.” He fails to mention that Lenin was also a mass murderer who executed more of his political opponents in the first four months of his rule than the czars had in the entire previous century. In one telegram, reproduced in “The Black Book of Communism,” Lenin orders the Cheka (a predecessor of the KGB) to “Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers.” (The telegram concludes with an eerie “P.S. Find tougher people.”) Maybe he was camping when he wrote it.
Berkeley professor Yuri Slezkine explains “How to Parent Like a Bolshevik,” noting that “At home, the children of the Bolsheviks read what they called the ‘treasures of world literature,’ with an emphasis on the Golden Ages analogous to their own” and that “Soviet readers were expected to learn from Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes.” He does not say whether they were also expected to learn from Orwell. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 8, 2017
Wiretapped Data Used In Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates
Andrew C. McCarthy writes: Now that the media-Democrat complex has been caught in its own web, there is some serious skullduggery underway. It’s revisionist history, Soviet style. You know, the kind where the bad stuff gets “disappeared.” The New York Times is disappearing its claim that Obama investigated Trump.
For four months, the mainstream press was very content to have Americans believe — indeed, they encouraged Americans to believe — that a vigorous national-security investigation of the Trump presidential campaign was ongoing. “A counterintelligence investigation,” the New York Times called it.
— Chris Farrell (@cjtfarrell) March 8, 2017
… As I contended in a column this weekend, it was essential for the media and Democrats to promote the perception of an investigation because the scandalous narrative they were peddling — namely, that Trump-campaign operatives conspired with the Putin regime to “hack the election” — required it.
Russia obviously did not hack the election. Russian intelligence services may have hacked e-mail accounts of prominent Democrats, although even that has not been proved. And there is even less evidence of collusion by the Trump campaign in that effort — as one would expect, in light of the intelligence agencies’ conclusion that the Russians sought to hack accounts of both major parties.
So, for this fatally flawed storyline to pass the laugh test, the Left needed the FBI. Even if the election-hacking conspiracy story sounded far-fetched, the public might be induced to believe there must be something to it if the Bureau was investigating it.
But when the election-hacking narrative went on too long without proof, the risk the Democrats were running became clear. If the FBI had been investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded in purported “Russian hacking of the election,” that meant the incumbent Obama administration must have been investigating the campaign of the opposition party’s presidential candidate.
Moreover, if such an investigation had involved national-security wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), that would suggest that the Obama Justice Department had alleged, in court, that Trump associates had acted as “agents of a foreign power” — in this case, Russia. Read the rest of this entry »
Mass surveillance may seem eerily futuristic, but it marks a return to a time when we were watched by an omniscient authority. We called it God.
Amanda Power writes: Humanity, according to the most influential origin story of Western culture, was created naked, unashamed, wholly willing to submit to the scrutiny of the god who made the world and its rules. Through an act of defiance urged on humans by an enemy of their happy state, “their eyes were opened”—they realized their own nakedness and sought to hide from view.
“Nothing is hidden from the eyes of the observing world.”
— Aleksandr Pushkin, 1837
The god was so angered by this that he threw them out of paradise to suffer and die. This was the original sin, the disobedience for which humans deserved to be punished through generations, centuries, and until the world ends. It was, quite simply, the pursuit of knowledge not sanctioned by the one who ruled them, and the hunger for privacy from surveillance. Or so the ruling elite, through its rabbis and priests, has told the population for thousands of years, through the brief and vivid story of the Fall.
Nor did variants on this god—depending on the teller: murderous or tender, wild with wrath or soberly judging, immediate or remote, but consistently male—cease watching after humanity’s expulsion from Eden. The resulting observations were the basis for a highly interventionist treatment of those he called his chosen people. When they obeyed him, he gave them, in his hot and possessive love, pleasant places to live, and he slaughtered their enemies. When they looked to other gods, he rained devastating punishments on them until they submitted once again.
He could see into their hearts and enter their dreams. Much of this remained the same in his Christian incarnation, but the dazzling promise that immortality could be regained through Christ’s death was yoked to the demand for a particular kind of self-scrutiny: the constant examination and exposure of one’s inner self. He knew us but also insisted we know ourselves and share our knowledge with him. Participation in our own surveillance was the price of entry into heaven.
For centuries the history of Western nations was traced from these beginnings, and so for centuries this god was part of how we legitimized our forms of government and those individuals who governed us. The flawed nature of societies characterized by inequality and injustice was simply another aspect of life in the unsatisfactory world created by mankind’s original sin. Around 1159 John of Salisbury, discussing governance in his Policraticus, observed that even tyrants of the worst kind were “ministers of God, who by His just judgment has willed them to be preeminent over both soul and body.
“The mass surveillance of the global population by corporations and government bureaucracies that has transcended all pretense of democratic accountability. The technologies that enable it are sophisticated, sleek, and silent. A sort of cyborg omniscience is obtained by those who control the information.”
By means of tyrants, the evil are punished and the good are corrected and trained.” All this, he believed, was a result of humans reaching a “rash and reckless hand toward the forbidden tree of knowledge,” and thereby plunging themselves into misery and death. The only remedy lay in submission to God; the only comfort in hard times was His watchful eye. So useful a tool did the idea of God prove to be—to ruler and ruled alike—that it has been carried, through the teeth of the so-called Enlightenment, into the social imagination of many republics and democracies. And it would not be surprising if these ideas, reiterated so consistently over the centuries, informed our attitudes toward the sort of surveillance we now experience as a novel aspect of modern life.
“If we have drifted into the dystopia of which George Orwell and Aldous Huxley warned, then surely, we are inclined to think, we have entered a terrifying new world.”
For it seems to be such a contemporary issue: the mass surveillance of the global population by corporations and government bureaucracies that has transcended all pretense of democratic accountability. The technologies that enable it are sophisticated, sleek, and silent. A sort of cyborg omniscience is obtained by those who control the information. If we have drifted into the dystopia of which George Orwell and Aldous Huxley warned, then surely, we are inclined to think, we have entered a terrifying new world.
But those who see in all this something eerily futuristic may have it backward. In our modern surveillance state, it’s possible we have in some perverse and unexpected fashion actually regained something of the comforts of being known by a higher authority—something that the modern West had largely lost, and for which we have perhaps unconsciously longed.
“But those who see in all this something eerily futuristic may have it backward. In our modern surveillance state, it’s possible we have in some perverse and unexpected fashion actually regained something of the comforts of being known by a higher authority—something that the modern West had largely lost, and for which we have perhaps unconsciously longed.”
At its most essential level, the notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, interested, judging God was translated into our inherited forms of governance through the Roman Catholic interpretation of Christ’s words to Peter, in the Gospel According to Matthew. “Upon this rock I will build my church,” Christ says to his apostle, “and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The Church alleged that this authority had been transmitted through the succession of the bishops of Rome, and flowed from pope on down through the clerical hierarchy, so that every priest shared in the power to bind and loose on earth, in the knowledge that their decisions would be upheld by God.
“At its most essential level, the notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, interested, judging God was translated into our inherited forms of governance through the Roman Catholic interpretation of Christ’s words to Peter, in the Gospel According to Matthew.”
Through the priests, God’s power to watch and judge had a human embodiment. They were not to shed blood, but there were circumstances in which they were to hand over obdurate individuals to secular authorities for execution. God’s dispersed authority was thus delegated even to laypeople whose individual jurisdiction extended no further than towns and villages. At the top of the secular hierarchy, monarchs were anointed by priests, thus symbolizing their religious legitimacy. As in John of Salisbury’s “ministers of God,” these monarchs’ worst abuses were sanctioned by the assertion of the elites that governments always operated with the backing of watchful divine will. Read the rest of this entry »
Hillary’s Campaign Has Already Begun to Derail
Hillary Clinton’s second race for the presidency is only about a quarter through, but she already seems to be causing general fatigue.
Victor Davis Hanson writes:
…Clinton’s serial meltdowns may bring Vice President Joe Biden into the race. The only other serious Democratic alternative to Clinton at the moment is 73-year-old socialist Bernie Sanders. He is not registered in the party whose nomination he seeks.
“Most of what happened on her watch as secretary of state is better forgotten: the destruction of a self-reliant Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State, chaos in Libya, failed reset with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, disaster in Benghazi, the alienation of Israel and moderate Arab nations, and Iran’s ascendant.”
Clinton’s derailment has given breathing space to Republicans. Otherwise, they would be panicking that erratic showman Donald Trump has hijacked their party and might lead it to a meltdown in 2016.
“Hillary’s latest troubles reflect a quarter-century of Clinton habits that transcend time and space.”
— Victor Davis Hanson
Both parties face crises — though there are more viable Republican alternatives to Trump than there are strong Democratic choices, at least for now. And whereas the upbeat Trump would probably agree with — or even welcome — charges that he is an egomaniac, Clinton would hardly accept the equally common impression that she cannot tell the truth.
Both Bill and Hillary seem to have always believed they should be exempt from the law. Both seem needlessly tawdry in their avarice. Their cover-ups often prove even more damaging than their indiscretions. Read the rest of this entry »
On Fox News Sunday earlier today, George Will had fierce words for both Clintons in the wake of this week’s revelations about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in her time as secretary of state.
“It’s axiomatic that the worst political scandals are those that reinforce a pre-existing, negative perception. The Clintons come trailing clouds of entitlement and concealment and legalistic, Jesuitical reasonings — the kind of people who could find a loophole in a stop sign.”
“Her obvious motive was to conceal. You conceal in order to control. And that’s what makes this literally, strictly speaking, Orwellian. This is a way of controlling what we will know about the history of our country. And it is deeply sinister.”
The NSF has already poured nearly $1 million into Truthy. To what end? Why is the federal government spending so much money on the study of your Twitter habits?
“The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.”
If you tweet your support for a candidate in the November elections, should taxpayer money be used to monitor your speech and evaluate your “partisanship’’?
My guess is that most Americans would answer those questions with a resounding no. But the federal government seems to disagree. The National Science Foundation , a federal agency whose mission is to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense,” is funding a project to collect and analyze your Twitter data.
The project is being developed by researchers at Indiana University, and its purported aim is to detect what they deem “social pollution” and to study what they call “social epidemics,” including how memes — ideas that spread throughout pop culture — propagate. What types of social pollution are they targeting? “Political smears,” so-called “astroturfing” and other forms of “misinformation.”
“The federal government has no business spending your hard-earned money on a project to monitor political speech on Twitter.”
Named “Truthy,” after a term coined by TV host Stephen Colbert, the project claims to use a “sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex network models” to distinguish between memes that arise in an “organic manner” and those that are manipulated into being.
But there’s much more to the story. Focusing in particular on political speech, Truthy keeps track of which Twitter accounts are using hashtags such as #teaparty and #dems.
It estimates users’ “partisanship.” It invites feedback on whether specific Twitter users, such as the Drudge Report, are “truthy” or “spamming.” And it evaluates whether accounts are expressing “positive” or “negative” sentiments toward other users or memes. Read the rest of this entry »
Sol Stern: The Unfree Speech Movement
How did this Orwellian inversion occur? It happened in part because the Free Speech Movement’s fight for free speech was always a charade.
“I realized years later that this moment may have been the beginning of the 1960s radicals’ perversion of ordinary political language, like the spelling “Amerika” or seeing hope and progress in Third World dictatorships.”
Sol Stern writes: This fall the University of California at Berkeley is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, a student-led protest against campus restrictions on political activities that made headlines and inspired imitators around the country. I played a small part in the Free Speech Movement, and some of those returning for the reunion were once my friends, but I won’t be joining them.
“‘Tenured radicals,’ in New Criterion editor Roger Kimball’s phrase, now dominate most professional organizations in the humanities and social studies.”
Though the movement promised greater intellectual and political freedom on campus, the result has been the opposite. The great irony is that while Berkeley now honors the memory of the Free Speech Movement, it exercises more thought control over students than the hated institution that we rose up against half a century ago.
“Unlike our old liberal professors, who dealt respectfully with the ideas advanced by my generation of New Left students, today’s radical professors insist on ideological conformity and don’t take kindly to dissent by conservative students.”
We early-1960s radicals believed ourselves anointed as a new “tell it like it is” generation. We promised to transcend the “smelly old orthodoxies” (in George Orwell’s phrase) of Cold War liberalism and class-based, authoritarian leftism.
Leading students into the university administration building for the first mass protest, Mario Savio, the Free Speech Movement’s brilliant leader from Queens, New York, famously said: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. . . . . And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”
“Visits by speakers who might not toe the liberal line—recently including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Islamism critic Aayan Hirsi Ali —spark protests and letter-writing campaigns by students in tandem with their professors until the speaker withdraws or the invitation is canceled.”
The Berkeley “machine” now promotes Free Speech Movement kitsch. The steps in front of Sproul Hall, the central administration building where more than 700 students were arrested on Dec. 2, 1964, have been renamed the Mario Savio Steps. One of the campus dining halls is called the Free Speech Movement Café, its walls covered with photographs and mementos of the glorious semester of struggle. The university requires freshmen to read an admiring biography of Savio, who died in 1996, written by New York University professor and Berkeley graduate Robert Cohen.
“by contrast, one of the honored speakers at the Free Speech Movement anniversary rally on Sproul Plaza will be Bettina Aptheker, who is now a feminist-studies professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.”
Yet intellectual diversity is hardly embraced. Every undergraduate undergoes a form of indoctrination with a required course on the “theoretical or analytical issues relevant to understanding race, culture, and ethnicity in American society,” administered by the university’s Division of Equity and Inclusion. Read the rest of this entry »
Shorter Obama administration: We’re not at war with ISIS, we’re at war with the English language
— David A. Graham (@GrahamDavidA) September 11, 2014
David A. Graham’s timely tweet (
is that an original epigram, David? Update: he confirms it is) reminded me of this item from a few years ago, a reference to an ancient figure, before Reagan, before Clinton and Bush, even way back before Lyndon Johnson.
[Also see – John Kerry: America Isn’t at War with ISIS]
From a column by Roger Kimball…
March 27th, 2011, Roger Kimball writes:
…what Obama’s minions are calling our “kinetic military activity” in Libya, I noted that the folks presiding over Orwell’s Newspeak would have liked the phrase “kinetic military activity.” As a mendacious and evasive euphemism for “war” it is hard to beat. But Orwell is not the only important thinker the Obama administration’s assault on the English language brings to mind. There is also Confucius.
…Asked by a disciple how to rule a state properly, Confucius replies that it begins with rectifying the names:
“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be conducted successfully. When affairs cannot be conducted successfully, propriety will not flourish. When propriety does not flourish, punishments will not be properly meted out. When punishments are not properly meted out, the people will not know how to conduct themselves.”
That was written about 475 B.C. When will we catch up with its wisdom?
Salus populi suprema lex: In the name of the people’s safety, the dictator’s will is law.
This essay is an excerpt from Angelo Codevillo’s new book (Hoover Press).
Angelo M. Codevilla writes: The loss of peace abroad has upset the balance between the various elements of life in America, fed domestic strife, and resulted in the loss of peace at home. The need for protection against foreign jihadists and their American imitators occasioned the empowerment of a vast apparatus of “homeland security” that treats all Americans as potential enemies—with only a pretense of even-handedness. In fact, the sense that enemies among us must be dealt with reinforced our bipartisan ruling class’s tendency to regard its own domestic political opponents as another set of persons whose backward ways must be guarded against and reformed. A spiral of strife among Americans resulted. In the light of history and of reason, any other outcome would have been surprising.
[Angelo M. Codevilla‘s book: To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations is available at Amazon.com]
After 9/11 our ruling class came together on the proposition that, at home as well as abroad, America is at war against enemies so evil that there must be no limit to fighting them, whose identity we must always seek but can never know; that to focus on, to “profile,” the kinds of persons who have committed terrorist acts, is racist and provocative; that any American is as likely as any other to be a terrorist, and hence that all must submit to being sifted, screened, restricted—forever. Childhood in the “land of the free, the home of the brave” must now include learning to spread-eagle and be still as government employees run their hands over you. Patriotism is now supposed to mean obeisance to the security establishment, accepting that the authorities may impose martial law on whole cities, keep track of all phone calls, or take whatever action they choose against any person for the sake of “homeland security,” and that theirs alone is the choice whether to disclose the basis for whatever they do. Read the rest of this entry »
George Orwell “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations” pic.twitter.com/Slsc3fqEcI
— LibertarianGeo (@LibertarianGeo) February 23, 2014
Orwell discovered the values of a practical, gentle, empirical people who didn’t kill each other because they disagreed over politics.
George Orwell: English Rebel
Oxford University Press
David Aaronovitch writes: Since whoever we are (save for a few sad Leninists) we all agree with George Orwell, it usually follows that Orwell must agree with us. Whatever our 21st-century predilections, Tory or leftist, conservative or progressive, we discover blessings and endorsements somewhere in Orwell’s words. We grab him for ourselves.
In English Rebel, Professor Robert Colls grabs Orwell for an idea of national affiliation. Colls offsets his attempt by disclaiming any such ambition. “There is no ‘key’ to Orwell,” he writes at the end of his introduction, “any more than he is a ‘box’ to open. His Englishness, though, is worth following through.” A modest grab, then – and, as we shall see, a good grab. But a grab nonetheless.
George Orwell was, argues Colls, “deracinated”. He went to Eton but he was not of the ruling class. He served as a colonial policeman in Burma but he was alienated from the Raj. He became an intellectual who disliked intellectuals, and a socialist who distrusted almost all forms of socialism. He belonged nowhere.
Except, eventually, to England – not Britain, says Colls, which was too abstract an identity, but England. Between coming back from Burma in the late 1920s and the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, Orwell came to understand, and wanted to defend, the peculiar virtues of Englishness as understood and practised by “ordinary” English people. Bluff wisdom resided in the folk of England – whose gentleness and stoicism presumably distinguished them from alien intellectuals and alien peoples. The socialism of Orwell can be moot, Colls suggests, but his Englishness is the most real part of him.
Orwell thought we’d be destroyed by the things we fear. Huxley thought we’d be undone by the things we crave. Huxley was right
John Naughton writes: On 22 November 1963 the world was too preoccupied with the Kennedy assassination to pay much attention to the passing of two writers from the other side of the Atlantic: CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley. Fifty years on, Lewis is being honoured with a plaque in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey, to be unveiled in a ceremony on Friday. The fanfare for Huxley has been more muted.
There are various reasons for this: The Chronicles of Narnia propelled their author into the Tolkien league; Shadowlands, the film about his life starring Anthony Hopkins, moved millions; and his writings on religious topics made him a global figure in more spiritual circles. There is a CS Lewis Society of California, for example; plus a CS Lewis Review and a Centre for the Study of CS Lewis & Friend sat a university in Indiana.
Aldous Huxley never attracted that kind of attention. And yet there are good reasons for regarding him as the more visionary of the two. For one of the ironies of history is that visions of our networked future can be bracketed by the imaginative nightmares of Huxley and his fellow Etonian George Orwell. Orwell feared that we would be destroyed by the things we fear – the state surveillance apparatus so vividly evoked in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Huxley’s nightmare, set out in Brave New World, his great dystopian novel, was that we would be undone by the things that delight us.
No, I’m not joking. Campus liberalism really is in a death spiral — and this is not happy news.
I witnessed firsthand what passes for “liberal” discourse these days at a guest lecture at the University of Michigan last month. A libertarian student group invited anti-affirmative action activist Jennifer Gratz to give a speech to students about her issue and its recent history at the Supreme Court.
Radical activists — many who weren’t even U-M students — repeatedly attempted to hijack the event, talking over and shouting down Gratz at every opportunity. Never mind that that the event was organized exclusively by members of a libertarian club who wanted to hear from a libertarian-aligned speaker; the mob was not going to let anyone express ideas they didn’t like.
Shepard Faires Obama-Poster to fit PRISM.
What’s this stuff in German say? Beats me. But what a great poster. — The Butcher
Ich habe heute jede Menge Sachen zum Überwachungsmonster PRISM gelesen, heute, am 64. Geburtstag von George Orwells 1984 (!), das am 8. Juni 1949 zum ersten mal veröffentlicht wurde. Und weil ich ja heute sehr viel Zeit hatte, da dank eines größeren Ausfalls bei Host Europe die Seite down war, habe ich Shepard Fairys Obama-Poster für das Jahr 2013 aktualisiert. Ich hab’ sogar ein Allsehendes Auge an Stelle von Obey Giants Signet in die linke untere Ecke gepackt, damit das auch wirklich stimmig ist. Hier das Original zum Vergleich, hier das Baby in HighRes. Der Post hier ist ein bisschen länger und hat am Ende jede Menge Links zum Thema, da sind auch jede Menge obskure Sachen dabei, wie PRISM-Designkritik und sowas.
Mark Zuckerberg und Larry Page streiten selbstverständlich alles ab, der eine auf Facebook,der andere auf Google Bloggingplattform, und beide benutzen auffällig gleiche Formulierungen. Von Anwälten glattgerührte, oberflächliche Ausflüchte oder anders formuliert: Bullshit. Von Techcrunch:
The New York Times says you knowingly participated in the NSA’s data monitoring program. In some cases, you were asked to create ”a locked mailbox and give the government the key”, to allow it to peer into private communications and web activity. Even if the exact words of your denials were accurate, they seemed to obscure the scope of your involvement with PRISM. Outlining as clearly as possible exactly what kind of data the government could attain would have gone a long way.
But you were probably cornered by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act restrictions about what you could say about PRISM. And in fact, you might have beeen subtly trying to fight back by asking the government for more transparency. When you decode Mark’s statement “We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe”, I hear “Our hands are cuffed. Only the government can reveal that we participated. We wish they would.”
More via Nerdcore
When looking back on the life of the late Christopher Hitchens, one sees that his persona is oddly like that of Oscar Wilde’s character Lord Henry Wotton from The Picture of Dorian Gray: loved by an assortment of people for assorted reasons, often when they cannot square with him on something else. Like Wotton, Hitchens was popular with individuals, not because they agreed with him, but because they disagreed with him. When faced with the cultivated erudition, wit, conviction, and eloquence such that “Hitch” displayed, peacocking before a podium or a writer’s desk, one couldn’t help but fall like those in Dorian Gray who despised the hedonist Wotton, and yet couldn’t stay away from his conversation.
It’s hard to say where Hitchens’ greatest popularity lies, but much Hitch-love comes from his status as the successor to George Orwell. Orwell’s manner, if anything, was the opposite of Hitchens’ strut. But the two are compared because they both criticized the Left from within on matters of international policy, albeit in independent ways. Hitchens broke from the Left over the so-called war on terror, quitting his literary homestead, The Nation, and making particularly derisive comments about his comrades. These actions were viewed as the strongest individual leftist dissent by a writer since Orwell’s infamous break over the Spanish Communists and the Soviet Union. To boot, Hitchens offered strong, vocal admiration for the elder English author and polemicist, and invoked Orwell on matters of principle and ethics regarding his own conservative turn. Indeed, the two are similarly noteworthy for their incorporation of morals into their politics.
Nevertheless, does all or any of this suffice to anoint Hitchens the inheritor, not of Orwell’s work, but of Orwell’s pen? The idea certainly has its critics. In his obituary on Hitchens, the New Statesman’s editor Jason Cowley argued that many of the comparisons made between the two are false. And although it’s popular to identify Hitchens with Orwell, the only serious, fleshed-out argument for exactly how the younger furthered the elder’s work that I’ve seen is from the Orwell scholar John Rodden, whose excellent essay on the topic appeared in The Kenyon Review in 2004. Rodden considers the idea thoroughly and concludes that there was “an intellectual passing of the torch between the two men,” and that Hitchens viewed his break with the Left as what Orwell would have done, although Rodden writes that the comparisons were too simplistic and he had reservations about such phrasings of inheritance.
However, the connection is a very useful way, if not the best way, to understand Hitchens’ importance—one that hasn’t been properly discerned. Because Hitch didn’t just follow Orwell in similarities over leftish dissent. What he did was to further Orwellian work on the totalitarian, namely by showing the importance of overcoming tyrannies held over the individual through a lack of robust criticism. This, along with his exceptional personality, is why Hitchens will be remembered and studied, because it takes the idea of the totalitarian to the next level, treating the concept as more sublime than is often believed. “The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy,” Hitchens said in his final interview…