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Detractors Promote "What Orwell Didn't Know"

kazakhnomad
Nov 30, 2008, 1:08 AM 0

A blog reader commented that I should read the latest book “What Orwell Didn’t Know: Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics.” George Soros, George Lakoff and others contributed to this diatribe.  I’m surprised that Noam Chomsky is not included in this book, too many Georges in this first paragraph.  

I will respectfully counter the recommendation with the following about what George Orwell (aka Eric Blair) DID know, a lot more than this recent pseudo-research from the left.  Orwell was very popular from 1945 when his post-war book of Animal Farm was published to his death in 1950. Somehow, and obviously Orwell as a journalist DID know what was happening in Ukraine and other regions of the former Soviet Union.  Read the following from Orwell’s Appendix of Animal Farm concerning the freedom of the press.

 

At present, not only is serious criticism of the USSR considered reprehensible, but even the fact of the existence of such criticism is kept secret in some cases.  For example, shortly before his death [murder] Trotsky had written a biography of Stalin.  One may assume that it was not an altogether unbiased book, but obviously it was saleable.  An American publisher had arranged to issue it and the book was in print—I believe the review copies had been sent out – when the USSR entered the war.  The book was immediately withdrawn.  Not a word about this has ever appeared in the British press, though clearly the existence of such a book, and its suppression, was a news item worth a few paragraphs.

 

I’ve seen some of the “Why We Fight” series masterfully done by film director Frank Capra which was supposedly a documentary and a propaganda piece for Americans to NOT be isolationist and get involved with the World War II.  In fact, Stalin loved the Capra’s film series so much he insisted movie theaters throughout the Soviet Union show it to the populace with a Russian translator.  Yes, Americans had sacrificed much on foreign shores with the First World War, they weren’t ready to do it again 30 years later.  The Soviet Union needed the Allies help to combat the Nazi Germans.

 

According to Orwell, he wrote the following about what journalists back in the 1940s felt pressured to do:

Stalin is sacrosanct and certain aspects of his policy must not be seriously discussed.  This rule has been almost universally observed since 1941, but it had operated, to a greater extent than is sometimes realized, for ten years earlier than that.  Throughout that time, criticism of the Soviet regime from the left could only obtain a hearing with difficulty…The English intelligentsia, or a great part of it, had developed a nationalistic loyalty towards the USSR, and in their hearts they felt that to cast any doubt on the wisdom of Stalin was a kind of blasphemy.  Events in Russia and events elsewhere were to be judged by different standards.  The endless executions in the purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment, and it was considered equally proper to publicise famine when they happened in India and to conceal them when they happened in the Ukraine.  And if this was true before the war, the intellectual atmosphere is certainly no better now.

 

The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular—however foolish, even—entitled to a hearing?  Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say ‘Yes.’ But give it a concrete shape, and ask, ‘How about an attack on Stalin? Is THAT entitled to a hearing?’ and the answer more often than not will be ‘No.’  In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses.

 

One of the peculiar phenomena of our time is the renegade Liberal.  Over and above the familiar Marxist claim that ‘bourgeois liberty’ is an illusion, there is now a widespread tendency to argue that one can only defend democracy by totalitarian methods.  If one loves democracy, the argument runs, one must crust its enemies by no matter what means.  And who are its enemies?  It always appears that they are not only those who attack it openly and consciously, but those who ‘objectively’ endanger it by spreading mistaken doctrines.  In other words, defending democracy involves destroying all independence of thought.  This argument was used, for instance, to justify the Russian purges.

 

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