Thursday, February 08, 2007

Reclaiming Orwell's name

Some self-serving jackassery by a minor actor provoked Ned Beauman to go off on the use and abuse of a certain theme from Orwell's classic novel, 1984. His case, in part:

[E]ven within Nineteen Eighty-Four, the material on surveillance is not nearly so interesting as the material on the falsification of history.

But you wouldn't know that from the way Orwell's name is invoked today. You can now buy bumper stickers that say simply "Orwell was right". (About what, exactly? That you should never use a long word where a short one will do?) Just as his name is being debased to the level of a Che Guevara poster on a student's wall, his entire corpus is being diminished to a single truism: that the closer a government edges towards totalitarianism, the more control it will demand over the lives of its citizens, by technological means if necessary.

We did not need Nineteen Eighty-Four to tell us this, and it is not a great novel merely because it does so. And Orwell would have had no patience for anyone who tried to disguise an appeal to authority as a real argument. That's why I will not be ending this article, as would normally be almost obligatory, with a pithy aphorism from the man himself. George Orwell's name must be reclaimed.

Read the entire argument.

--Marshal Zeringue