Friday, June 21, 2013
Repost of "On Appeals to Orwell"
About three years ago, I did a series of posts under the title "On Appeals to Orwell," based in part on what I thought was a serious -- and likely deliberate -- misapprehension of Orwell's thoughts and politics among a cadre of Libertarians and their fellow travelers who had adopted him as One of Their Own. The triggering issue was what I saw as the misuse of the term "tribalism" to refer to "mindless loyalty" which was being justified by reference to Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism" -- which never mentions tribalism, and in my view is not meant in any way to confuse tribalism with nationalism.
However, there is much more to Orwell and his perspectives as expressed in his writing, including his dismay at the march of totalitarian nationalism in his lifetime, including the many elements of it found in supposed western democracies. He was anti-imperial, anti-totalitarian, anti-surveillance, and anti-conformity. Yet he was, he said, politically a Democratic Socialist, far from the Libertarian Hero he's been made out to be.
He came to his highly negative views of totalitarianism and nationalism and their march throughout the western world, including Britain, from his grim personal experience in British Imperial Service in Burmah, and as a propagandist with the BBC during World War II, among many other experiences in his life.
I initially wrote this series of posts in response to what I saw as the misuse of his legacy as a means to promote ideas and an ideology that were quite contrary to his point of view. But looking over them again, I see they may have some utility again as we realize just how comprehensive the American -- and by extension, global -- surveillance state has become, something we might say Orwell was in on the ground floor of developing and implementing, and which he came to reject utterly.
So. Here are links to the series. Make of them what you will. I am quite fond of the early BBC kinescope of "1984" that is embedded in one of them!