The Ministry of Truth, on Orwell and 1984

Richard Stanley

The following excerpt is from an The Atlantic book review, by George Packer, of Dorian Lynsky's Ministry of Truth, a biography of George Orwell. The reviewer discusses the power of re-reading a book after some distance in time from the first reading, which I have also discovered. I had the same high school experience reading 1984 and Brave New World as Packer did, not really being contextually prepared by life experience to grasp it all fully. In this regard I have pondered exactly why we were mandated to read the book.

As discussed below, it is obvious that this was part of the 'cultural appropriation' phenomenon, in our case, the 'Right' wanted to ensure that we were on the correct Freedom Train. So much so that they frequently become what the warning was all about (hence my term: "(F)reedom Loving (f)reedom Haters"). As Packer relates, the same goes for the 'Left', only perhaps via different mechanisms.

(I have more comments after the excerpts.)

The biographical story of 1984—the dying man’s race against time to finish his novel in a remote cottage on the Isle of Jura, off Scotland—will be familiar to many Orwell readers. One of Lynskey’s contributions is to destroy the notion that its terrifying vision can be attributed to, and in some way disregarded as, the death wish of a tuberculosis patient. In fact, terminal illness roused in Orwell a rage to live—he got remarried on his deathbed—just as the novel’s pessimism is relieved, until its last pages, by Winston Smith’s attachment to nature, antique objects, the smell of coffee, the sound of a proletarian woman singing, and above all his lover, Julia. 1984 is crushingly grim, but its clarity and rigor are stimulants to consciousness and resistance. According to Lynskey, “Nothing in Orwell’s life and work supports a diagnosis of despair.”
Lynskey traces the literary genesis of 1984 to the utopian fictions of the optimistic 19th century—Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888); the sci-fi novels of H. G. Wells, which Orwell read as a boy—and their dystopian successors in the 20th, including the Russian Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924) and Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). The most interesting pages in The Ministry of Truth are Lynskey’s account of the novel’s afterlife. The struggle to claim 1984 began immediately upon publication, with a battle over its political meaning. Conservative American reviewers concluded that Orwell’s main target wasn’t just the Soviet Union but the left generally. Orwell, fading fast, waded in with a statement explaining that the novel was not an attack on any particular government but a satire of the totalitarian tendencies in Western society and intellectuals: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you.” But every work of art escapes the artist’s control—the more popular and complex, the greater the misunderstandings.
Lynskey’s account of the reach of 1984 is revelatory. The novel has inspired movies, television shows, plays, a ballet, an opera, a David Bowie album, imitations, parodies, sequels, rebuttals, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Black Panther Party, and the John Birch Society. It has acquired something of the smothering ubiquity of Big Brother himself: 1984 is watching you. With the arrival of the year 1984, the cultural appropriations rose to a deafening level. That January an ad for the Apple Macintosh was watched by 96 million people during the Super Bowl and became a marketing legend. The Mac, represented by a female athlete, hurls a sledgehammer at a giant telescreen and explodes the shouting face of a man—oppressive technology—to the astonishment of a crowd of gray zombies. The message: “You’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’ ”
The argument recurs every decade or so: Orwell got it wrong. Things haven’t turned out that bad. The Soviet Union is history. Technology is liberating. But Orwell never intended his novel to be a prediction, only a warning. And it’s as a warning that 1984 keeps finding new relevance. The week of Donald Trump’s inauguration, when the president’s adviser Kellyanne Conway justified his false crowd estimate by using the phrase alternative facts, the novel returned to the best-seller lists. A theatrical adaptation was rushed to Broadway. The vocabulary of Newspeak went viral. An authoritarian president who stood the term fake news on its head, who once said, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” has given 1984 a whole new life. ...

Here are some more excerpts:
During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, propagandists at a Russian troll farm used social media to disseminate a meme: “ ‘The People Will Believe What the Media Tells Them They Believe.’ — George Orwell.” But Orwell never said this. The moral authority of his name was stolen and turned into a lie toward that most Orwellian end: the destruction of belief in truth. The Russians needed partners in this effort and found them by the millions, especially among America’s non-elites. In 1984, working-class people are called “proles,” and Winston believes they’re the only hope for the future. As Lynskey points out, Orwell didn’t foresee “that the common man and woman would embrace doublethink as enthusiastically as the intellectuals and, without the need for terror or torture, would choose to believe that two plus two was whatever they wanted it to be.”

We stagger under the daily load of doublethink pouring from Trump, his enablers in the Inner Party, his mouthpieces in the Ministry of Truth, and his fanatical supporters among the proles. Spotting doublethink in ourselves is much harder. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” Orwell wrote. In front of my nose, in the world of enlightened and progressive people where I live and work, a different sort of doublethink has become pervasive. It’s not the claim that true is fake or that two plus two makes five. Progressive doublethink—which has grown worse in reaction to the right-wing kind—creates a more insidious unreality because it operates in the name of all that is good. Its key word is justice—a word no one should want to live without. But today the demand for justice forces you to accept contradictions that are the essence of doublethink.
Orthodoxy is also enforced by social pressure, nowhere more intensely than on Twitter, where the specter of being shamed or “canceled” produces conformity as much as the prospect of adding to your tribe of followers does. This pressure can be more powerful than a party or state, because it speaks in the name of the people and in the language of moral outrage, against which there is, in a way, no defense. Certain commissars with large followings patrol the precincts of social media and punish thought criminals, but most progressives assent without difficulty to the stifling consensus of the moment and the intolerance it breeds—not out of fear, but because they want to be counted on the side of justice.
This willing constriction of intellectual freedom will do lasting damage. It corrupts the ability to think clearly, and it undermines both culture and progress. Good art doesn’t come from wokeness, and social problems starved of debate can’t find real solutions. “Nothing is gained by teaching a parrot a new word,” Orwell wrote in 1946. “What is needed is the right to print what one believes to be true, without having to fear bullying or blackmail from any side.” Not much has changed since the 1940s. The will to power still passes through hatred on the right and virtue on the left. ...
People like to read into Orwell's (and Huxley's) mind(s) and insist that this is manipulative 'Predictive Programming', thus, like the 'boy who cried wolf" appropriating 'warnings' into part of the approaching 'globalist' schema for the totalitarian New Age and Order. "1984" didn't come true, so never mind". But I read 1984 while my generation was being encouraged to go fight the Freedom Hating Commies in Vietnam and elsewhere, while Orwell was fighting Freedom Hating (literally, especially American Freedom) Fascists (and Stalinists) in Spain. It's a freaking hall of mirrors.

And, as I have finally realized, historically and culturally (read the Bible --- Hello!!!) expansionist Western civilization (writ large) is inherently a dualism of nationalism versus globalization, the perfect cultural crucible for this schizophrenic hall of mirrors. As we've been discussing elsewhere on this forum, the 'synthetic' [sic] cultural constructs of Judaism versus Goyism create the fear driven emotional space for such as the white nationalist proletariat to complain about Jews being Communist and Capitalists, as part of one big Globalist Plot against them. While it is certainly true that there are Jewish individuals on both sides of the divide, so are there 'goys'. As Jerry and I have been attempting to explain, with our False Dialectic of Western Civilization thesis, there is another smaller set of people that the 'proletariat' should better be concerning itself with. If the Abrahamic religions are so focused on our personal salvation and well being, why are they so driven to tell us, in the canons, to Conquer the Earth? "Somebody" figured out 'cultural appropriation' a long time ago.