February 19, 2007

Updating Orwell for Presidents' Day:


"They say the next big thing is here,
that the revolution's near,
but to me it seems quite clear
that it's all just a little bit of history repeating."

Reading through George Orwell's essay of 1941, The Lion and the Unicorn, I came across the passage quoted below. Updating it was a simple matter of "Search and Replace" commands for a few words, deleting 8 and adding 12. Other than that, it reads like it was written yesterday on any one of 15, 365,763 conservative blogs. (I omit this blog because, to paraphrase Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia:

Officer: Lawrence, you're conservative, I shall put you under arrest.
Lawrence: It's my manner.
Officer: Your what?
Lawrence: My manner. It looks conservative,but it isn't.
Disclaimer done, I turn to Orwell writing from the depths of the Second World War in 1941. As I said, only lightly touched with Search and Replace.

The mentality of the American left-wing intelligentsia can be studied in half a dozen weekly and monthly surviving newspapers, five cable channels, and 15,365,764 blogs. The immediately striking thing about all these info-dumps is their

generally negative, querulous attitude, their complete lack at all times of any constructive suggestion. There is little in them except the irresponsible carping of people who have never been and never expect to be in a position of power.

Another marked characteristic is the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and have little contact with physical reality. Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 2001, shrieked for war against Islam in the years 2001-2, and then promptly cooled off when the Iraq war started. It is broadly though not precisely true that the people who were most 'anti-Fascist' during the Bosnian Civil War are most defeatist now. And underlying this is the really important fact about so many of the American intelligentsia—their severance from the common culture of the country.

In intention, at any rate, the American intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from The New York Times.

In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island off the coast of New Jersey of dissident thought. America is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an American and that it is a duty to snigger at every American institution, from Nascar to Wal*Mart.

It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any American intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during 'The Star Spangled Banner' than hiring an illegal alien to do their laundry at $3.00 an hour.

All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at American morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Muslim, but always anti-Bush.

It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some.

If the American people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they were 'decadent' and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible. Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times cried out against the Iraq War, but even they had done something to make it possible. Five years of systematic Bush-baiting affected even the Bushs themselves and made it harder than it had been before to get intelligent young men to enter the armed forces. Given the spiritual stagnation of the country, the military middle class must have decayed in any case, but the spread of a shallow Leftism hastened the process.

It is clear that the special position of the American intellectuals during the past five years, as purely negative creatures, mere anti-Bushs, was a by-product of ruling-class stupidity.

Society could not use them, and they had not got it in them to see that devotion to one's country implies 'for better, for worse'. Both Republicans and Democrats in the ruling circles took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you read Fox News and publicly thanked God that you were 'not brainy'. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the stars and stripes and regarded physical courage as barbarous.

It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. The post-sixties boomer highbrow, with his mechanical snigger, is as out-of-date as the career Pentagon desk jockey. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again. It is the fact that we are fighting a war, and a very peculiar kind of war, that may make this possible.

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Posted by Vanderleun at February 19, 2007 8:33 AM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Chilling, Gerard. And some say history doesn't repeat itself.

So, was 9/11 the same as Hitler's takeover of Sudetenland? A warning of things to come, but not enough to truly mobilize us.

When will Pearl Harbor, the impetus for mobilizing this country for war, occur? And how bad must it be before we become a unified force for our self defense?

Posted by: Jimmy J. at February 19, 2007 10:36 AM

Well said, Jim.
My sentiments exactly.

Posted by: Ben USN (Ret) at February 19, 2007 6:13 PM

This is the first time I've visited your website, but after reading this marvelously insightful piece, I can assure you it won't be the last! Bravo!

Posted by: Johnny at February 19, 2007 6:33 PM

i am a 75yo, kind of hesitant to call myself a veteran, for only serving 2yrs as a draftee,,but am convinced this nation is not the same one i so proudly served..today you have no values, or purpose...after the last two elections,,you have put people in power,,that dont give a dam about god or country, their only ambition is to destroy one man..i am sorry to say,,i am ashamed of my country, & what it has become......tw

Posted by: t. whatley at February 19, 2007 7:32 PM

Would you please update this passage:

"Until the Churchill Government called some sort of halt to the process, they have done the wrong thing with an unerring instinct ever since 1931. They helped Franco to overthrow the Spanish Government, although anyone not an imbecile could have told them that a Fascist Spain would be hostile to England. They fed Italy with war materials all through the winter of 1939-40, although it was obvious to the whole world that the Italians were going to attack us in the spring."

Posted by: Clyde at February 19, 2007 10:02 PM

Would you please update this passage:

"Until the Churchill Government called some sort of halt to the process, they have done the wrong thing with an unerring instinct ever since 1931. They helped Franco to overthrow the Spanish Government, although anyone not an imbecile could have told them that a Fascist Spain would be hostile to England. They fed Italy with war materials all through the winter of 1939-40, although it was obvious to the whole world that the Italians were going to attack us in the spring."

Posted by: Clyde at February 19, 2007 10:03 PM

Good stuff.

Posted by: koreavet49 at February 19, 2007 11:26 PM

Whilst re-reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", I came upon a footnote where William Shirer describes a speech in 1940 where Charles Lindbergh chastized the countries that had succumbed to the Germans (up to that time Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France) for not simply surrendering without a fight. Germany would have gone easier on them if they'd just played ball. A classic blame the victim mentality.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by: JC at February 19, 2007 11:27 PM

t. whatley:

I feel your pain but take heart! There are young men and women who are not craven cowards. We see them standing at the edges of civilization guarding us day and night...any Country that can bring forth such people is not lost yet!


Posted by: Pierre at February 20, 2007 12:02 AM

Orwell had the gift of seeing the essential truth in what people said and did and somehow expressed his conclusions in simple clear prose easily understood by ordinary people. As long as people make the same mistakes his observations will be relevant, even if a bit of updating helps.

Posted by: sfw at February 20, 2007 1:38 AM

If Bush is so hot, why did he invade Iraq instead of finding Bin Laden? It's a pretty simple question.

Posted by: Guest at February 20, 2007 1:45 AM

{delurk}Just to say, T.Whatley, never be ashamed of your wonderful country. No, it's not what it was, but it's also not dead yet.

Just in a bit of a slump.

And never say you served for "only" two years. That is still many more than the traitors would even consider serving.

God bless you, sir, and stand proud.

Bless all others who served and are still serving, too.

And keep up the amazing work, Mr Vanderluen.

Posted by: Nilk at February 20, 2007 3:46 AM

Not all jobs are for soldiers.

Why are you sitting on your butt here, when there is work you could be doing in the Green Zone?

We need everyones help if we are to win this war!

Posted by: jerry at February 20, 2007 4:09 AM

When the American Constitution was being signed at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin remarked that he had often wondered whether the rays of the sun painted in the chair of the president of the convention signified a sunrise or sunset for the new country.
There are no sides of right or wrong to be had in this great effort on which we as American’s have had thrust upon us. Perhaps some would say, in our misunderstanding of other cultures, we asked for it. Others intone, we should have been ready. The crisis is clear, it is not the words, meaning or lack there of at which you battle with. Death. Death has come, for that is the crisis. The pen it is said may be mightier than the sword and yet those who do not life by the sword can still die by it. No, not a threat just a sad irony of the age we have awaken. Continue your protests, your marches and by all means express your constitutional rights. Death will wait for both the hawk and the dove. I have just nearly spent all my tears on the fallen. So many are gone and such a loss of our innocence. I gape at the void left behind. My attention averted only by the disillusionment of a civilization grasping for a solution.

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.
It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence:
from bondage to spiritual faith,
from spiritual faith to great courage,
from courage to liberty,
from liberty to abundance,
from abundance to selfishness,
from selfishness to complacency,
from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency,
from dependency back to bondage.
Alexander Tyler 1747-1813

Posted by: Bruce Campbell at February 20, 2007 5:06 AM

Well Congratulations on striving for "not brainy". It is always refreshing to see people reach their goals. Is there any profit in pointing out that in 2001 only the racists were screaming for "war against Islam"? The rest of us just wanted the dogs who committed the act brought to justice.

Racism does not equal Patriotism.

Posted by: owlbear1 at February 20, 2007 5:08 AM

I am a 58 year old, proud to call myself a retired Chief Petty Officer (Submarines) and a veteran of the Southeast Asia War Games ('67-'69). I am convinced this nation is the same one I so proudly served. And I will not tell you that "you have no values," nor will I tell you that "you have put people in power," because I voted, too. I could have worked harder for my party, could have made more noise before the election. We get the government we deserve.
I'm not ashamed of my country - on the contrary, I can look at the prattling fools we have put into power as canaries in the coal mine of our republic. As long as they are free to play the fool, and spout their claptrap, our nation will survive. It is when a fool - or a wise man - cannot speak out, that I will get worried. No, Mr. Whatley, I'm proud to be an American, and I have faith that the pendulum will continue to swing, as it has since 1620.

Posted by: MichigammeDave at February 20, 2007 5:19 AM


Although I am only a casual Orwell reader I do love most of what I've read. "Down and Out in London and Paris" could have been the model for Tony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential". I digress.

The bright and shining lie will win over drab truth because the mob only wants unnuanced simplistic answers and never, ever, any responsibiility.

Posted by: democommie at February 20, 2007 5:35 AM

During WWII we were afraid of Germany and Japan. That fear hasn't been seen by the American public since. However, I think we are close to seeing a fear of radical Muslims that can suddenly mobilize the populace. It is well to remember that this is a country with a huge patriotic population that is well armed. I don't think the looney left can maintain their influence in the face of a strong opposition demanding the recall of politicians and an organized effort to forcefully return to policies driven by common sense. Things can change.

Posted by: A. Hokanson at February 20, 2007 5:59 AM

Oh great yet another bed wetting "9-12" conservative blames the mythological 'Left' for not clapping loud enough for der Chimpenfuher.

Orwell(a dedicated socialist, BTW) is spinning in his grave.

Posted by: Christian at February 20, 2007 7:37 AM

Wow, how original.

Reflexive lambasting of the "left-wing intelligentsia" - check
Comparisons to the French - check
Attacks on the patriotism of liberals - check, check, and check
Display clear hatred of the NY Times - check plus
Random illegal immigrant bashing - check
Unreadable prose - check ^ infinity

Congratulations, you are a successful right-wing pundit. Throw in something about "cappucino-drinking brie-eating surrender monkeys" and you can preparing for your ascension to FNC.

One serious note - "Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 2001, shrieked for war against Islam in the years 2001-2, and then promptly cooled off when the Iraq war started." I believe everyone in America was "flabbily pacifist" up to 2001 (the most flabby and pacifist of all being the conservatives who passed resolutions condemning the war in Bosnia and other "nation-building" exercises). Nearly everyone shrieked for war against Afghanistan in 2001-2 (I believe only idiots wished for war w/Islam, see Coulter, Ann and Hitchens, Christopher). While many (though not even a majority) on the left recognized some of the flaws with before the Iraq war started. If these are signs of a lack of patriotism or bad judgement in your eyes, you should really have your vision checked.

Posted by: Crusty Dem at February 20, 2007 8:26 AM

Perhaps, but not any longer to the Left.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at February 20, 2007 8:28 AM

sfw, christian - thanks for reinforcing the entire thesis stated herein.

quite educational.

Posted by: Dr. Laszlo at February 20, 2007 8:36 AM

Talk about reading with a jaundiced selective purpose in mind. If you read Orwell's entire essay, it is clear that he is blaming traditional stodgy conservatives for England's predicament, and is singling out hard-lefties in the modified quote for secondary criticism. His lesser point about lefties was that they are largely ineffectual and meaningless. His larger point about conservatives was that they were so stupid that they would do deals with fascists, and imperil the nation. Kind of like Bush kissing Saudis while they fund murderers of Americans.

Yes, history is repeating itself -- with another generation of idiotic conservatives leading a country into doom. They are so witless that they would cite as support an essay soundly critical of their way of thinking.

Posted by: dmbeaster at February 20, 2007 9:05 AM

"Is there any profit in pointing out that in 2001 only the racists were screaming for "war against Islam"?"
--owlbear1, above

Islam is not a "race." It is an ideology. And like it or not, that ideology has been at war with us for some time--certainly since the Carter years, and arguably since Sirhan Sirhan murdered RFK.

"Orwell(a dedicated socialist, BTW) is spinning in his grave."
--christian, above

Possibly; if so, it is because he sees what "socialism" has become, and that it has fulfilled every worst expectation that he had about it.

Leftists and liberals of all stripes insist on ignoring that Orwell, from his military service in Spain onwards, was steadfastly opposed to the Communists, and the Communist Party line--the PC of his day. "Homage to Catalonia" is a scathing indictment of the Stalinist destruction of the Loyalist cause; "1984" and "Animal Farm" both target the Communists. Most of Orwell's essays express deeply conservative and patriotic values, and savage the pieties of the Left--pieties which are still being recycled by the Left today.

Posted by: buzzsawmonkey at February 20, 2007 9:32 AM

So it's the fault of the left that conservatives won't join the military to fight wars they support?

I'm sorry this can't be a serious post. There is just to much insanity like that for any to really believe this.

Posted by: klyed at February 20, 2007 10:05 AM

"conservatives won't join the military to fight wars they support"

Last time I checked in with actual members of the armed forces it seemed to me that liberals were in the minority. Not absent but in the minority.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at February 20, 2007 12:24 PM

To those of you [idiots] who claim Orwell was a leftist - here's an excerpt from Second Thoughts on James Burnham (1946) by ... George Orwell.

The English intelligentsia, on the whole, were more defeatist than the mass of the people—and some of them went on being defeatist at a time when the war was quite plainly won—partly because they were better able to visualise the dreary years of warfare that lay ahead. Their morale was worse because their imaginations were stronger. The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it, and if one finds the prospect of a long war intolerable, it is natural to disbelieve in the possibility of victory. But there was more to it than that. There was also the disaffection of large numbers of intellectuals, which made it difficult for them not to side with any country hostile to Britain. And deepest of all, there was admiration—though only in a very few cases conscious admiration—for the power, energy, and cruelty of the Nazi régime. ...

And if one studied the reactions of the English intelligentsia towards the USSR, there, too, one would find genuinely progressive impulses mixed up with admiration for power and cruelty. It would be grossly unfair to suggest that power worship is the only motive for russophile feeling, but it is one motive, and among intellectuals it is probably the strongest one.

Posted by: RKV at February 20, 2007 12:54 PM

What's funny, RKV, is that you seem to think those quoted words support your first sentence.

And I do wish Gerard would take up Clyde's challenge.

Posted by: sj at February 20, 2007 4:53 PM

Liberals are poor souls who were emotionally damaged at an early age by their parents. The insecurity that developed as a result transmogrified into an unspeakable simmering rage. Rage that should have been confronted with their parents in therapy sessions became misdirected instead. By focusing their rage against entities more powerful and significant than their parents, such as corporations or Republicans, their rage becomes more powerful and significant. This also legitimizes their struggle to avoid the personally difficult and painful self examination of why deep down inside they feel insecure with themselves. This personal lie that Liberals tell to themselves a thousand times a day explains why they willingly embrace any other lie that will not contradict their emotional house of cards.

Posted by: Just a guy at February 20, 2007 9:39 PM

sj, Your statement in no way proves your assertion, since it lacks evidence or logical argument. Here's another one from GO -

Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me." Partisan Review, 1942

Posted by: RKV at February 21, 2007 4:34 AM

Jesus' General does this so much better than you".

Posted by: L.G.F. at February 21, 2007 3:50 PM

I assume my comment is in moderation, but just in case there was a glitch, I'll repost...

Jesus' General does this so much better than you".

Posted by: L.G.F. at February 21, 2007 3:55 PM

Funny you cherry pick from The Lion and the Unicorn to try and support your myopic views. Try this one on for size:

"In the short run, equality of sacrifice, 'war-Communism', is even more important than radical economic changes. It is very necessary that industry should be nationalized, but it is more urgently necessary that such monstrosities as butlers and 'private incomes' should disappear forthwith."

Followed shortly by:

"At some point or another you have got to deal with the man who says can you give him -- that is, what answer that you can expect him to listen to -- while common soldiers risk their lives for two and sixpence a day, and fat women ride about in Rolls-Royce cars, nursing pekineses?"

Oh, snap! You see, if you quote Orwell, you have to take the good with the bad. Oh, I could quote that true pacifism (in regards to the Blitz to put it in context) had very few followers.

Now I know these two quotes bring up class warfare, seeing that our country has supported a huge tax cut during a time of "war", but it can hardly be ignored.

So who truly is cutting our soldiers off at the knees?

Posted by: tb at February 21, 2007 4:30 PM

"You see, if you quote Orwell, you have to take the good with the bad."

Actually, you don't.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at February 21, 2007 5:02 PM

tb, Good point that you bring up, namely - "who truly is cutting our soldiers off at the knees?" It would seem to me that during wartime, expenses which are of lower priority should be cut to fund military expenditures. Perhaps those who insist that PBS, farm subsisdies (for not growing crops), the National Endowments (Arts and Humanities), etc. should back off? How do you describe a Congress which cannot make these trade offs in time of war? How about the Department of Education (which clearly doesn't correlate to any enumerated power delegated to the Federal government? Surely it is low on the list of priorities? As it stands now, some 40% of our GDP is given to the government, how much is enough? Or is socialism your goal? In which case - GO TO HELL!

Posted by: RKV at February 21, 2007 5:12 PM

RKV, you slay me. Honestly. How about not cutting taxes first? Did that even cross your mind? If you read the Lion and the Unicorn, which I seriously doubt you did, Orwell points out many, many times that industry should be nationalized. In fact, you would've gotten that point from the single quote I brought up. Try it. Reading is fun!

Okay, say that this Orwellian passage you took and conveniently switch a few words around is sadly missing something. Who are the fascists? I don't think that the fascists you mention are the types of people who disdain America. I'm pretty sure they're not fascist at all, but rather ideologues. In fact, who exactly are we fighting? Are we at war with a country? No, not really, yet every day we are told we are at war. Well, which is it?

Orwell also wrote: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

I think your essay does exactly that.

Posted by: tb at February 21, 2007 9:51 PM

Sounds like Karl Popper's comment fits you to a "t."

I've read quite a bit of Orwell and The Lion and the Unicorn wasn't the only thing he ever wrote. You seem to think so. Nor was he a particularly sound economist, however strong his moral sense was. Hopefully, since his time, we have seen how socialist economics performs in the real word (i.e. poorly, and better economists than Orwell have thankfully prevailed). Commenting on Hayak's The Road to Serfdom he says "In the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth. ...that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of." In any event, Orwell did bring stone tablets down from Sinai. Do note the tenor of his last writings - Animal Farm and 1984. Or do you think he was saying the life under Ingsoc was great? In 1949, , Orwell gave the British government a list of 37 writers and artists he considered to be unsuitable authors because of their pro-communist leanings. The list, not published until 2003, consists mainly of journalists (among them the editor of the New Statesman, Kingsley Martin) but also includes the actors Michael Redgrave and Charlie Chaplin. So much for comradely solidarity, I think.

Posted by: RKV at February 22, 2007 10:30 AM

I think you're all wrong about Orwell. He was a complex figure and I don't think anyone can claim him, but especially not Iraq Armageddon Hawks.


Posted by: John Emerson at February 23, 2007 11:00 AM

Damn stupid Liberals - don't they know the Conservatives' Three Rules of Everything?

1) America is always right.
2) When America is wrong, see Rule 1.
3) WE are America - and YOU are not, so STFU.

Posted by: xaxnar at February 24, 2007 9:01 AM

WTF???? is this guy serious? american left wingers are the problem?

I see a different problem- a war machine that cannot be stopped (please see eisenhower's farewell address from 1961).

So long as we are investing in weapons rather than education, this country will remain stagnant in a pool of orwellian soup.

pro-life is somehow pro-war.
jesus freaks calling for blood.
happiness can be found in aisle 9.

yeah, this is one royally FUCKED UP society. only those who are too scared to face the truth are still defending the american empire.

have a great day,

Posted by: zappa at March 4, 2007 5:58 PM

The dichotomy described - between the intellectuals as antiAmeican, and the middle class as patriotic doers - is slightly askew. It is the truly intelligent person who is patriotic. Only he has the capacity to see the sham perpetrated by the "I-am-too-smarter-than-you" pseudo-intellectuals who, if not the ruling class, certainly are whiney and repetitive enough to veer the ruling class off a course which will save this nation. These pseudo-intellectuals are viperous enough to take more than their share off the top, and then slap the next hand, insisting that next guy give his share to the poor! The pseudo-intellectual complains, points fingers, slows the political-medical-educational-environmental-scientific processes to a near halt, bargaining their individual greed against the welfare of mankind. The pseudo-intellectual doesn't bother with research because he already knows everything. There are self-serving fools aplenty to follow the idle greedy, and faithful doers to follow the wise. I'm just afraid the former outnumbers the latter. If I believed in an apocalyptic end, it would be because of the fifth horseman [the really big one}: Mr. Stupid Greedy. More realistically frightening is, commenters responding on Feb 21, 22, 23, 24, Mar 4 all are allowed to VOTE. [And, Karl, your're right...most people are unintelliible.] seymour*

Posted by: Terry Avton at April 18, 2007 4:12 PM
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