The Orwell Thread

Events occurring and how they relate/affect Anabaptist faith and culture.
Bootstrap
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby Bootstrap » Mon Aug 28, 2017 5:30 pm

haithabu wrote:Prager is a well known conservative commentator; he doesn't represent himself as a journalist.


I think he does, here's what I saw at the bottom of the page.

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If it's the alternative to the mainstream media, it needs to be held to the same standards.

I'd like to avoid this danger Orwell mentioned:

Orwell wrote:Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them ...


Applying the same standards to both sides is critical if we want to get beyond partisan groupthink. Most of us are sure that the other guy is the victim of partisan groupthink and we are completely rational, but there's a reason that propaganda is so effective - most people are human beings. That's why thoughtful rules for examining what we read can be helpful.

One of the things I like about Orwell is that he was thoughtful in criticizing his own side, and applied his standards to himself too. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Orwell was a Social Democrat, with plenty of criticism of people on the Left - even of people who substantially agree with him. I don't see that in Prager, his is framed in terms of the mainstream media, which he positions as the enemy. Here is his list as he phrased it:

  • Lesson No. 1: When the mainstream media write or say that a conservative “suggested” something that sounds outrageous, it usually means the conservative never actually said it.
  • Lesson No. 2: When used by the mainstream media, the words “divisive” or “contentious” simply mean “leftists disagree with.”
  • Lesson No. 3: Contrary evidence is omitted.
  • Lesson No. 4: Subjects are covered in line with left-wing ideology.

This really isn't a list that helps you read an article to decide if it's accurate, like the lists that Temp and I remember. To do that, I think you would have to remove the terms that say it's only relevant for one side.

Let me try to reword this to make it relevant to both sides. I don't think the first two are exactly rules, but things to be understand about most writing across the spectrum:

  • Lesson No. 1: Quotations that are not in quotation marks are "indirect quotes", and do not preserve the original wording exactly. See Quotation Marks: Rules How to Use Them Correctly. Example from Prager's article:
    I have never in my life written or said that “liberalism is a cancer.” What I did write recently is that “leftism is a terminal cancer in the American bloodstream.”

    And it might be worth adding a note that people don't always mean the same thing by words like "liberalism", "leftism", "conservatism", etc., which can lead to confusion - Orwell mentioned that in one of the quotes in the OP.
  • Lesson No. 2: The words “divisive” or “contentious” simply mean “there is strong disagreement about this.”
    Examples from the Daily Caller site: contentious, divisive

The second two point to rules worth keeping in mind:

  • Lesson No. 3: Has all of the most relevant information been included? Have all the major people involved in the story been given a fair chance to express their views?
  • Lesson No. 4: Does the article seem to be forcing the story into an ideological narrative, rather than letting the story itself drive the narrative?

What other rules are useful, assuming "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander"?
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby Bootstrap » Mon Sep 04, 2017 1:25 pm

In case anyone is still listening on this thread ... I found some letters Orwell wrote to explain the meaning of 1984 and Animal farm in George Beadle's George Orwell and the American Conservatives. I thought I would complete this thought by writing down some things I've been reading about before dropping the subject.

I like this introduction, which says the way we interpret Orwell and his books depends a lot on our current political leanings:

The enduring relevance of Orwell's warning and the almost universal fear of Big Brother no doubt reflect our growing fear that we may no longer be in control of the advanced technology we have created. Yet we never seem to locate Big Brother, and the manner in which we interpret, misinterpret, and reinterpret 1984 nearly always reflects the ebb and flow of the American political climate. This accounts for the strange fact that there are several politically incompatible American George Orwells. There is the usually ignored socialist George Orwell, and there is George Orwell, the cult figure of the liberal anti-Communist Left. And, only in America, there is the conservative or neoconservative George Orwell.


Some of this was already happening during Orwell's lifetime, which prompted him to write some letters to clarify what he meant. He explains why here:

In a letter to Vernon Richards, dated 22 June 1949, he observed with annoyance that "I am afraid some of the U.S. Republican papers have tried to use 1984 as propaganda against the Labour Party, but I have issued a sort of dementi which I hope will be printed.' '


One place he clarified was in this letter to the UAW:

Orwell wrote:My recent novel is NOT intended as an attack on socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter) but as a show-up of the perversions to which a centralised economy is liable and which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism. I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily WILL arrive, but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is satire) that something resembling it COULD arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences. The scene of the book is laid in Britain in order to emphasize that English-speaking races are not innately better than anyone else and that totalitarianism, IF NOT FOUGHT AGAINST, could triumph anywhere.


So it's important to realize that Orwell did not think of his work as a prophecy, but as a warning about things that could happen if not guarded against. He saw both centralized economies and totalitarianism as important dangers to be resisted.

Shortly after his letter to Richards, he wrote the following press release:

Orwell wrote:It has been suggestedby some ofthe reviewers of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR that it is the author's view that this, or something lzke this, is what wzil happen inside the next forty years in the Western world. This is not correct. I think that, allowing for the book being after all a parody, something like NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR could happen. This is the direction in which the world is going at the present time, and the trend lies deep in the political, social and economic foundations of the contemporary world situation.

Specifically the danger lies in the structure imposed on Socialist and on Liberalcapitalist communities by the necessity to prepare for total war with the U.S.S.R. and the new weapons, of which of course the atomic bomb is the most powerful and the most publicized. But the danger lies also in the acceptance of a totalitarian outlook by intellectuals of all colours. The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don't let it happen. It depends on you. George Orwell assumes that if such societies as he describes in NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR come into being there will be several super states. This is fully dealt with in the relevant chapters of NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. It is also discussed from a different angle by James Burnham in THE MANAGERIAL REVOLUTION. These super states will naturally be in opposition to each other or (a novel point) will pretend to be much more in opposition than in fact they are.

Two of the principal superstates will obviously be the Anglo-Amen·can world and Eurasia. If these two great blocks line up as mortal enemies it is obvious that the Anglo-Americans will not take the name of their opposition and will not dramatize themselves on the scene of history as Communists. Thus they will have to find a new name for themselves. The name suggested, in NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR is of course Ingsoc, but in practice a wide range of choices is open. In the U.S.A. the phrase ''Americanism ' ' or ''hundred percent Americanism'' is suitable and the qualifying adjective is as totalitarian as anyone could wish.

If there is failure of nerve and the Labour Party breaks down in its attempt to deal with the hard problems with which it which be faced, tougher types than the present Labour leaders will inevitably take over, drawn probably from the ranks of the Left, but not sharing the Liberal aspirations of those now in power. Members of the present British government, from Mr. Attlee to Sir Stafford Cripps down to Aneurin Bevan, will never willingly sell the pass to the enemy, and in general the older men, nurtured in a Liberal tradition, are safe, but the younger generation is suspect and the seeds of totalitarian thought are probably widespread among them. It is invidious to mention names, but everyone could without difficulty think for himself of prominent English and American personalities whom the cap would fit.
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haithabu
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby haithabu » Mon Sep 04, 2017 5:52 pm

Thanks for taking the time to dig that up, Boot. Btw when I referred to Orwell as being a sort of prophet it was in the sense of being a forthteller, which he was.

The statement of Orwell which resonates the most with me is one of these last ones:

...but the younger generation is suspect and the seeds of totalitarianism are probably widespread among them.


I think of various polls which suggest that freedom of speech is losing ground among Millenials as an important value relative to politically correct expression. To me the essence of totalitarianism is a drive toward uniformity of thought and expression at the expense of individual freedoms, and this is what we are seeing taking form in our culture.

This is a cultural danger before it is a political one. Animal Farm described Orwell's take on an existing totalitarian state; 1984 was his description of a possible future one, but all of the quotes I referenced at the top of this thread were his concerns about trends within a society which was still free and democratic.
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Bootstrap
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby Bootstrap » Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:37 am

haithabu wrote:Thanks for taking the time to dig that up, Boot. Btw when I referred to Orwell as being a sort of prophet it was in the sense of being a forthteller, which he was.


I think he was very aware of how totalitarianism works, and told us the kinds of things we need to watch out for. For a long time, democracy and freedom seemed to be growing pretty much everywhere - in fact, after the fall of the wall, Fukiyama wrote a book called The End of HIstory where he claimed this:

Fukiyama wrote:What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.


Of course, Karl Marx predicted Communism would win out the same way, but we haven't seen new Communist governments for a very long time, and most of the existing ones toppled in the 1980s and 1990s. So Fukiyama's claim seemed plausible to many at the time. And Orwell fell out of fashion.

But Orwell is back in fashion now.

haithabu wrote:The statement of Orwell which resonates the most with me is one of these last ones:

...but the younger generation is suspect and the seeds of totalitarianism are probably widespread among them.


I think of various polls which suggest that freedom of speech is losing ground among Millenials as an important value relative to politically correct expression. To me the essence of totalitarianism is a drive toward uniformity of thought and expression at the expense of individual freedoms, and this is what we are seeing taking form in our culture.


Uniformity within each tribe, I suspect. Each tribe has its own political correctness, and we often seem to be losing the ability to listen and talk across tribal boundaries.

But I don't think you can separate the political tribes from political leaders, and I don't think everything grows from the bottom up. What leaders say and do resonates in the culture and changes the culture, and they say and do things that find resonate in their tribe. It's a little like the relationship between a preacher and his congregation.

Cultural movements that cannot find political representation lose their power.
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby haithabu » Tue Sep 05, 2017 4:53 pm

Uniformity within each tribe, yes, but that means nothing as long as people are free to switch tribes and it is understood that both tribes may coexist within the same society. Polarization, dangerous as it is, in itself is not totalitarian nor a precursor to totalitarianism.

But when there is a drive toward the control of discourse outside of the boundaries of the tribe, not just an attempt to expand a tribe's influence through debate but an attempt to gain a monopoly through the shutting down of debate, to declare debate itself to be off limits - that is where totalitarianism begins.
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby Bootstrap » Wed Sep 06, 2017 9:55 am

haithabu wrote:Uniformity within each tribe, yes, but that means nothing as long as people are free to switch tribes and it is understood that both tribes may coexist within the same society. Polarization, dangerous as it is, in itself is not totalitarian nor a precursor to totalitarianism.


By itself, uniformity is not a danger. But hostility and fear are, and I think we are dealing with a very toxic kind of polarization that is really quite different from what I remember most of my life. If the two tribes can only coexist because they don't talk to each other, or don't even try to talk about things they consider really important because they know it will just turn into an argument, things start to fall apart because we lose the things that hold the society together.

And when we start seeing rival armed militias associated with the tribes, that reminds me a great deal of Germany in the early days of Hitler or Russia in the early days of the Communist revolution. Or perhaps we're just heading back to the 1960s style of disruption in the United States.

haithabu wrote:But when there is a drive toward the control of discourse outside of the boundaries of the tribe, not just an attempt to expand a tribe's influence through debate but an attempt to gain a monopoly through the shutting down of debate, to declare debate itself to be off limits - that is where totalitarianism begins.


We agree that this is important - and keep agreeing on this - but we also seem to be talking past each other. Can you say more? We may be defining this in different ways, or we may be seeing it happen in different places.

I see a lot of that happening via propaganda techniques that create toxic silos of information. You dare not listen to the other side of the argument because that other person out there is only trying to deceive and indoctrinate you, so anything they say is suspect, let me just tell you the absolute truth that all good people in our tribe believe. They don't actually tell you to hate and fear the other side, but it's not exactly subtle. Often, if you take an article and just remove all the obvious propaganda, there just isn't much left. If you have enough people who have red pilled on this kind of thing on both sides, there's less and less room for a shared peaceful society. That's one of the things Orwell warned about. And there's less room for having a grip on reality - so people can make up stories that are almost entirely fake and get everyone up in arms.

I like to look for places where many points of view are discussed with enough detail to evaluate the truth of what they are saying. And often, I find that most in places that are being loudly denounced: universities, scientific associations, the free press (consumed with your eyes open, of course), fact checkers, and other places where you can find information outside the monopoly of various sides side, carefully evaluated in a way that considers multiple views and lets you trace them back to the underlying facts. I get very nervous when almost every reliable source of fact is treated as the enemy.

Are we mostly on the same page? Am I missing something? Can you identify where we are talking past each other?
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby haithabu » Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:09 pm

I began to be concerned about the way things were going after President Obama's second election. At that time there seemed to be a kind of triumphalism arising in the progressive movement, a sense that the future belonged to progressives or at least the Democrats and that there were no longer any compromises which needed to be made.

And then we started seeing the defenestrations, whereby various people in the media, entertainment, business and/or public employment were removed from their positions as a result of a series of Twitter mobs, over very trivial infractions against the progressive party line.

This was something which would never have happened previous to then and it seemed to happened without any pushback on the Democratic side and indeed with the acquiescence of many Republicans. And I thought, if so much change can happen so quickly, almost overnight, and if an issue such as transgenderism can go from being an unfortunate personal choice to something which must be applauded on the pain of career suicide, then what boundaries are left either culturally or in terms of personal rights and freedoms?

And I saw the tone with which progressive values were advocated. It became hardly possible to hold a discussion on any website or comments thread without being called a hater. I saw that there was and is a real spirit of fanaticism abroad over these issues.

I saw a lot of light is dark and dark is light language manipulation. Gender is just a social construct, except if you are a man who believes that he is a woman, in which case your female gender is carved in stone. There are an infinite number of genders, except for biological male and female because we have moved beyond binary gender and they don't count. These are absurdities and everyone knows that they are, yet no one dares to publicly question them any more than anyone dared to question the ideological cant put out by Stalin's regime.

I saw that we were in the midst of a revolution, and that it was not merely a revolution of someone else's freedom to choose but it was something that was being extended to control the way we educate our children and grandchildren. And that if no one dared to push back, then this revolution would certainly prevail to the detriment of our societies and our own families.

It was in this context that the 2016 election was held. It seemed that during the primaries and during the campaign itself people were going crazy. On one side a party bent on suppressing or silencing any voice in favour of natural morality or godliness, and on the other an apparently amoral blowhard.

I was horrified at Trump's winning of the nomination. It was so surreal that at times I wondered if he was a Democratic mole and his campaign was an elaborate troll. And yet when he won I was glad because with all his faults I still considered him better than the alternative.

I know this doesn't directly answer your question, but it's leading up to it and I have run out of time for the moment. I'll add more later.
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby Bootstrap » Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:10 pm

haithabu wrote:I know this doesn't directly answer your question, but it's leading up to it and I have run out of time for the moment. I'll add more later.


Yes, this is constructive and helpful - I'm very interested in what you have to say next.

haithabu wrote:It was in this context that the 2016 election was held. It seemed that during the primaries and during the campaign itself people were going crazy. On one side a party bent on suppressing or silencing any voice in favour of natural morality or godliness, and on the other an apparently amoral blowhard.

I was horrified at Trump's winning of the nomination. It was so surreal that at times I wondered if he was a Democratic mole and his campaign was an elaborate troll. And yet when he won I was glad because with all his faults I still considered him better than the alternative.


Like you, I was alarmed by both sides of the 2016 election, and it really did seem surreal. I wish the Republicans had chosen a better candidate, I would have voted for most of their candidates over Clinton. I definitely agree with you on sexuality and gender issues. I also agree with you about character assassination and trolling on the Internet.

I see a lot of common ground, but also some places where I interpret things differently. I'll respond more after your next post, I want to hear you out first.
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby haithabu » Wed Oct 11, 2017 2:51 pm

Hi Boot, sorry for the delay in continuing this. My wife and I were in England for most of September and I've been in catch up mode at work ever since.

I think where we sometimes differ is the relative weighting and interpretations we give to different facts.

Sex and gender issues aside, I see many conservatives and progressives as not so much having different values as living in different worlds. Values such as truth, fairness, justice are part of Americans' common cultural inheritance no matter where they stand. Just because one side employs a rhetoric of justice or tolerance doesn't mean that they hold the franchise on such values. (A little acknowledgment of that would go a long way BTW.) But we seem to be working with different understandings of the fact situations in society.

In one world, police hunt young black men or at least hold a reckless disregard for their lives; in the other any police shooting of a civilian in murky circumstances is problematic but no more so for one race over another.

In one world, adverse outcomes for a certain population within American society are entirely due to racism; in the other, while racism is acknowledged to exist, there are other, unaddressed factors at play which make those outcomes much worse than they need to be.

In one world, Trump's election victory unleashed an outpouring of hate crimes and assaults against various minorities. In the other, many or most of such reports were hoaxes, over reporting of relatively trivial occurrences or false flag incidents.

And finally, regarding Charlottesville which seems to have engaged most of our recent discussion, to those who live in one world the racial taunts and threats by the demonstrators are representative of the views of a large segment of American society and are therefore a clear and present danger; while in the other world they are a fringe element and have always been for Americans of the current generation.

What it comes down to is that Americans seem to be going to different sources for their facts. Given that, it's not surprising that they are living in two different Americas. It's easy to point out click bait-y sites as examples of irresponsible reporting, but I think the underlying problem is that there is no longer a media establishment which enjoys the trust of both sides. I mean, I have always noticed that main stream sources tend to be slanted leftward, but still understood that they operated within some parameters of objectivity and professionalism. Since the election, that no longer seems to be the case, and so Americans are led by default to seek out their own sources. By openly embracing a role of counter Trump advocacy, MSM organs such as NYT and WaPo have created additional space for polarization to grow.

For me as an individual the solution is to maintain a varied diet in terms of my sources, but most people don't have the time or inclination or sometimes even the ability to sort out opposing views. So they go to the sources they trust, which not surprisingly tends to be the sources which reinforce what they already believe.

But I don't automatically exclude a site because I think it is biased any more than I would disregard any lawyer's argument in court. Of course he's biased; that's his job. But so is the other guy, and by listening to both you can get information from each which the other would rather not disclose.
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Re: The Orwell Thread

Postby PetrChelcicky » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:14 pm

haithabu -
" I think the underlying problem is that there is no longer a media establishment which enjoys the trust of both sides."
Do you really believe that there was ever in history a media establishment which deserved the trust of both sides?
It was in 1971 when Edith Efron wrote her groundbreaking work about "the news-twisters", and she heavily relied on her experience with the demonizing of Barry Goldwater then already seven years ago. And this was not the start, of course.

The rescue is not a trustable elite, but no elite at all.
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