The New York Times proudly lapses into pure Animal Farm

It may be one of the most famous quotations in the English language:  “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Orwell wrote Animal Farm as an allegory about the Soviet Union.  His point with that quotation was that all totalitarian states, no matter their original intentions, eventually start discriminating against disfavored groups, making a mockery of the whole notion of equality.  He could equally well have said (pun intended), although in a much less interesting way, that “favoritism-based equality is an oxymoron.”

Keep Orwell firmly in mind as you read the New York Times’ home page description for this article about the Supreme Court’s coming term:

Four blockbuster cases before the Supreme Court highlight the tension between formal equality and a more dynamic kind of equality that takes account of historical injustices.  (Emphasis added.)

The article itself is less crudely Orwellian, but also seeks to redefine equality:

The extraordinary run of blockbuster rulings due in the space of a single week will also reshape the meaning of legal equality and help define for decades to come one of the Constitution’s grandest commands: “the equal protection of the laws.”

If those words require only equal treatment from the government, the rulings are likely to be a mixed bag that will delight and disappoint liberals and conservatives in equal measure. Under that approach, same-sex couples who want to marry would be better off at the end of the term, while blacks and Hispanics could find it harder to get into college and to vote.

But a tension runs through the cases, one based on different conceptions of equality. Some justices are committed to formal equality. Others say the Constitution requires a more dynamic kind of equality, one that takes account of the weight of history and of modern disparities.

The four major cases yet to be decided concern same-sex marriage, affirmative action in higher education and the fate of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which places special burdens on states with a history of racial discrimination.

Formal equality would require that gay couples be treated just like straight couples when it comes to marriage, white students just like black students when it comes to admissions decisions and Southern states just like Northern ones when it comes to federal oversight of voting. The effect would be to help gay couples, and hurt blacks and Latinos.

With regard to gay marriage, the article implies that all “couples” are equal, cheerfully lumping same-sex couples in with traditional heterosexual couples.  They’re not the same at all, because nature has designed the matched set to be AB, not AA or BB. Pretending that all three formulations are identical is sophistry.  This isn’t to say that one cannot make an argument to the effect that a couple equals any pair of human beings, regardless of biological gender reality.  It’s just to say that it’s strikingly dishonest to pretend that such pairings are the only possible “equal” pairings.

Orwell, was not just a former ardent communist “democratic socialist,” whose love of true equality and freedom turned him away from an ideology he realized was inherently corrupt.  He was also someone who loved the English language with passion and ferocity.  It was he who understand best that the truth can only set you free if there if the language is sufficiently uncorrupted to enable one to speak truth — and the first thing that totalitarians do is to corrupt language to destroy truth.

Orwellian double think enters the gun grab debate

Second Amendment

George Orwell understood that good language clarifies and bad language corrupts.  He’d moved amongst Communists, so he understood how controlling people requires controlling language.  One cannot fully erase ideas if the language to express them still exists — so one changes the language.  In 1984, Orwell envisioned an Auschwitz-like world (“arbeit macht frei”) that takes old words and perverts their meaning so much that they become meaningless. He called this linguistic world “double think”:

“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”

The three most famous examples of double think from 1984 are, of course, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

Democrat Joe Manchin has flung himself with total abandonment into the world of double think.  In an interview on Fox News, Manchin vows to continue the fight to put limits on Americans’ rights to possess and use guns.  During that interview, he collapses into an Orwellian double think heap:

This not only protects your Second Amendment rights, it expands your Second Amendment rights.

Think about that for a moment.  The Second Amendment, as most recently interpreted by the Supreme Court, gives an un-infringeable right to bear arms, one that is predicated on a well-regulated militia as understood in the 18th century — a people’s army, not a standing army.  In other words, every American is a potential militia member and therefore has an absolute right to bear arms.

How in the world, then, can any legislation expand up on that absolute right that is inherent in every American?  By definition, our right to bear arms cannot be expanded because it is predicated upon 100% gun saturation.  That means that any legislation can only leave the right unchanged, in which case the legislation is unnecessary, or it can limit that right, in which case the legislation is unconstitutional.

Faced with this logical conundrum, Manchin does the only thing left to do, which is to pervert language:  By limiting your right to bear arms we will expand your right to bear arms.

George Orwell knew the Left and he knew how the Left thinks.  There are no surprises.  The only “surprises” that occur are when we let down our guard.

Something to get your Friday off to a good start — and a riff about bad movies and bad education

Actually, two things to get your Friday off to a good start (or, if you’re not on the West Coast, to brighten whatever part of the day or night you’re currently enjoying).

The first riffs off of the “So God made a farmer” Super Bowl commercial:

And the second, which requires about 25 minutes of your time, is an absolutely wonderful, enjoyable, brilliant, talk that Dr. Benjamin Carson gave at the National Prayer Breakfast:

The irony is that, because he starts the talk with four Biblical quotations, and because he refers to God and prayers once during the speech, there is no way that this marvelous talk will ever see the light of day in public schools. Oh, well. It probably doesn’t matter, because the kids are spending way too much classroom time watching such “important” films as “V for Vendetta.”

Yup, you heard that right. As part of reading Orwell’s timeless attack on totalitarianism, local high school kids got to watch “V for Vendetta.” Certainly “V for Vendetta” was marketed as a movie about individuals fighting government totalitarianism, something Orwell would have appreciated.  In fact, though, that movie was pure Leftist crap or, as one reviewer said,

Instead of producing a faithful adaptation that might appeal broadly to audiences, the Wachowski Clan used the libertarian message as a bait and switch to hide a disgustingly crude anti-Christian, pro-Lenin, neo-multiculturalist, anti-Republican, pro-homosexual, anti-Bush lard train that makes up the duration of the picture.

Plundering an original story for box office cash is low enough, yet the greater Wachowski crime is their inability (formerly witnessed in Matrix Reloaded) to construct a story with present—albeit subtle–political bias that is still interesting to watch. What V for Vendetta becomes then, is simply a Democratic Party propaganda poster for the 2006 elections rather than a useful commentary on personal freedom in today’s polarized era.

Besides the film’s obvious attempts to malign Christianity by placing crosses in the Norsefire flag and including a High Priest who enjoys raping young girls with the support of the party, Vendetta manages to incorporate two rather pointless swipes against Western values to fit its role as a spin flick for the Marxist Left. For one, main character Evie’s uncle is a firm anti-conservative activist who keeps a copy of the Qu’ran in his basement for its “artistry.” At the same time, Norsefire chancellor Adam Sutler is a radical Bible-thumper who rules Britain as an unapologetic fascist assisted by frays of Dick Cheney-esque lackeys and anti-terrorist inspectors. No one is denying that Christian theocrats can exist, but should Islam be given a free pass on this one? Because Iran’s Ayatollah must surely oppress women only because it is Islamic “artistry,” correct?

Then the audience experiences the LGBT campaign’s cameo (actually more like Act III of the picture). Arrested for treason and thrown into a concentration camp, Evie discovers the correspondences of two lesbians, apparently helpless victims of Norsefire’s religious extremism. Just in case gay men or transsexuals become offended, the filmmakers also imply that anarchist V is a homosexual and/or a cross dresser.

Yeah.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I found the movie simultaneously offensive and, even worse, stupid.  But this is what they feed our children, while things such as Dr. Carson’s speech never penetrate those school walls.

 

Great moments in Leftist oratory

George Orwell, 1984:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Nancy Pelosi, on the unreasonableness of the democratic legislature process:

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.

Barack Obama, on the occasion of his 2nd inauguration:

Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

Mommy! I’m scared!

Experts push for Orwellian maintenance over Americans’ health

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the best and most important books ever written. This is not hyperbole. It’s as close as one can ever get to an objective statement about a novel.  In addition to Orwell’s lean, elegant prose, it is impossible to imagine a more insightful or prescient book about the nature of a truly socialist government.  Except for failing to include mass starvation, Orwell accurately predicated just about every aspect of North Korea.

One of the powerful imagines George Orwell created was a sense of being under constant scrutiny and control.  Poor Winston Smith, doing his government-mandated physical exercises in front of his government-mandated two-way television, was stridently scolded for failing to implement properly his government-mandated “jerks.”  (I’ve never quite known what those “jerks” were, but I assume that they were push-ups or jumping jacks.)

Two-way television, of course, was an unheard of idea in 1948.  Now every iPhone has it, and every computer can have it.  The future is the present.  Oh, and the bit about having the government modern every individual’s lifestyle and health choices?  We knew that was coming down the pike when the government passed ObamaCare.  The government that controls your health care controls you.

One aspect of health care, of course, is weight.  Despite the fact that studies show that “obese” people can be perfectly healthy, our betters and wisers in the worlds of academia and politics want to slim the government health care budget by slimming you — and they think that coercive government force is a good way to achieve this goal:

Federal agencies should step in if industries that promote high-calorie foods to children do not implement common nutrition standards within two years, the influential Institute of Medicine (IOM) said Tuesday.

The recommendation came as part of a 478-page IOM report on the U.S. obesity epidemic that outlined broad policy changes the panel says are necessary to stave off a healthcare crisis.

The changes are aimed at a complete overhaul of the United States’s “obesogenic” environment, the panel wrote.

“People have heard the advice to eat less and move more for years, and during that time a large number of Americans have become obese,” panelist Shiriki Kumanyika of the University of Pennsylvania said.

[snip]

“The average person cannot maintain a healthy weight in this obesity-promoting environment,” she said.

Strategies like a possible soda tax and new zoning laws to encourage walking and biking are designed to “reinforce one another’s impact to speed our progress,” said panel Chairman Dan Glickman, a former secretary of Agriculture.

The food and beverage industry, as well as its marketers, must cooperate or face possible federal intervention on issues like childhood nutrition standards, the panel warned.

Ace treats this idea with the disdain it deserves, but I’m not sure his voice of reason is being heard outside the Church of Conservative Ideology.

I do wonder, though, if there isn’t a good political campaign to be made of reminding people that Obama’s going to take away their ice cream cones, sodas, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

 

Barbara Boxer’s Orwellian defense of the way in which the new healthcare mandate advances religious freedom *UPDATED*

Barbara Boxer has taken to the pages of the Huffington Post to explain why the administration’s mandate that all insurers provide birth control, including drugs that induce abortion, advances rather than restricts, religious freedom.  If you like Orwell’s Newspeak, Boxer’s writing is a thing of beauty and will certainly be a joy forever as a model of obfuscation and deceit.  I think it deserves a nice fisking, I really do:

When President Obama announced that because of health care reform, birth control would soon be available for free in new insurance plans, you would have expected universal approval.

[Why in the world would there be universal approval for a policy that requires people to underwrite birth control for everyone, including the 1%?  It's not as if birth control was unavailable before ObamaCare.  Nor is birth control expensive.  Condoms will not break anyone's bank and the pill is one of the cheapest products around.  So remind me again why I'm celebrating being forced to pay for other people's personal birth control choices?]

After all, virtually all women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used birth control at some point in their lives and 71 percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support this policy.

[See above.  It's not about who uses birth control, Catholic women included.  It's about who pays for birth control.  Welcome to Boxer's first piece of Orwellian sleight of hand.]

That is why I was stunned to read E.J. Dionne’s column in the Washington Post today denouncing a decision that should instead be lauded, especially by those of us who care about religious freedom, women’s health, and economic fairness.

[Now we get to it:  the policy advances "religious freedom . . . and economic fairness."  I'm completely unclear what's economically fair about a working class Mom or a small business having to fund a policy that will help Paris Hilton get her birth control for free.  But let's get to the real meat.  Let's find out how, in Obama/Orwell land, forcing everyone to pay for birth control and abortion pills advancing religious freedom.]

The truth is, the president’s decision respects the diverse religious views of the American people, who deserve the right to follow their own conscience and choose whether to obtain contraceptives, regardless of where they work. [Uh, Babs -- nobody is banning them from getting contraceptives now.  Last I looked, I could walk into any pharmacy and, for a very affordable price, get myriad over-the-counter contraceptives.  And I can go to my doctor and get a prescription for other affordable contraceptives.  This isn't about access; it's about funding.]  And that is what this policy guarantees — with one carefully drawn exception. This decision respects the deeply-held views of religious institutions. If their mission is primarily religious and the majority of their employees and clients share that faith, religious institutions do not have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.  [Here's where the real double-speak lies, since it overlooks the fact that the only entirely religious institutions are convents and monasteries.  Whether we're talking a vast Catholic educational institution, a soup kitchen, or the local parish, outside of ministering positions, the Catholic Church is required by law to hire people of different religions.  In any event, my understanding is that, again outside of the core religious functionaries, the Church freely hires those who are willing to accommodate its vision and goals.  In other words, the so-called "exception" probably covers six convents and a monastery.]

So, despite what his critics claim, the president’s policy does in fact respect religious freedom. [No, it doesn't, because it aims to prevent any Catholic institutions from competing in the employment marketplace, by intentionally creating a situation in which Catholic institutions can no longer give their employees insurance coverage.]  In addition, opponents of this policy shockingly ignore the facts: that it will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in our country — a goal I thought we all shared.  [Non sequitur.  We're not talking about reducing unintended pregnancies.  We're talking about a government policy that forces a religious organization to fund a practice that is doctrinally abhorrent.]

The president followed the advice of the Institute of Medicine and other independent medical experts who recommended that health plans cover preventive services that women cannot afford to miss, including annual exams, HIV screening and, yes, contraception. These experts know the truth: The best way to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions is to make birth control more accessible to women and men. Period. Without birth control, a couple has an 85 percent chance of having an unintended pregnancy within a year.

[See my last comment, above.  This is mixing Marxist apples with religious oranges.  We have a free country in which women already have access to birth control, sterilization, and abortion.  It's just that, until today, the government hasn't forced religious organizations to sponsor these practices.  It also ignores the fact that the Church believes that the best way to protect women is to teach them to treat sex as a sacred obligation within the bounds of marriage.  In other words, the Church's birth control is to take a stand against a promiscuous, hook-up culture.]

Finally, this decision will help working families by giving them access to free birth control. The cost of birth control can be prohibitive for many women, particularly in these difficult economic times. In fact, 34 percent of women voters report having struggled with the cost of prescription birth control. Surprisingly, Dionne glosses over the crucial issue of cost by recommending that the President simply require plans that won’t cover birth control to tell their employees where else they can buy it. He dismisses it as a “modest cost.” Well, tell that to the woman making minimum wage and struggling to buy groceries for her children — paying an extra $600 a year for birth control pills is a major expense for her, not a “modest cost.”

[Another red herring.  I have a suggestion, Babs.  Rather than making the Church pay for this "modest cost," why don't you tell the President to authorize the Keystone Pipeline?  That will create thousands of jobs and substantially drop the cost of oil.  This latter cost drives up the price of everything.  But it's clear that the President would rather attack the Catholic's core doctrines, than the Gaia worshippers' core doctrines.]

Improving access to affordable birth control is not a controversial issue for the American people, the vast majority of whom support family planning. The president’s decision should bring all sides together because it will help millions of women and their families. Certainly, that is a policy worthy of our praise.

[Doublespeak, doublespeak, doublespeak.  We have complete access in this country to birth control.  We have women who might be struggling to meet the cost because Obama's policies, including the stimulus and the refusal to exploit our energy resources, have made many things more expensive for many people.  Forcing religious institutions to fund practices that are morally abhorrent is not the way to balance out Obama's economic failings.]

Okay, enough with wandering around the cesspool that is Boxer’s brain and moral decency. If you really want to know what’s going on, I recommend Elizabeth Scalia’s article on the opening salvo in Obama’s war against the Catholic Church (and, of course, other religious organizations).

UPDATE:  Welcome, David Hogberg readers!

With the 2012 election heating up, it must be “cry racism” season again

Despite the fact that Republicans are currently busy working the circular firing squad, making outside efforts to destroy them somewhat redundant, the Progressives/Democrats/Media/Usual Suspects aren’t taking any chances about the November 2012 election and have already brought out the big gun:  They’re crying racism.

The racism claim that got the biggest headline this week is the study that purports to show that conservatism, racism and stupidity are a package deal.  If you’re conservative, you must be racist and stupid.  If you’re stupid, you must be racist and conservative.  And if you’re racist, you must be stupid and conservative.

Cedric the Entertainer — well known racist (and idiot and conservative?)

Hold in your mind for a second that last thought:  If you’re racist, you must be stupid and conservative.  Racism, of course, means to hold a negative belief about someone, or to insult someone, based solely upon their race (although I’ll have more on that definition in a minute).  That being the case, how do the usual suspects account for the fact that Cedric the Entertainer, that noted Progressive, launched a foul mouthed attack against a black woman — which focuses solely, and negatively, upon her race, a race that happens to be African American?  And no, as is so often the case when I’m talking about lunacy from the Left, I’m not kidding.  As John Nolte says

Crystal Wright is an accomplished commentator and writer who holds a  Masters from Georgetown. But she just happens to be black and female and Republican, so therefore …. this gets fired out to nearly a quarter of a million people:

African-Americans, especially African-American women, pay a very high price for stepping off the Progressive plantation.

It’s going to get worse, too, before it gets better, and that’s because the Left is now taking the Orwellian position of remove race from racism entirely, so as to ensure that all conservative words or acts can be properly castigated as racist, justifying ostracism, insults and reeducation.  Incidentally, I understand that the preceding sentence makes no sense, but that’s not my fault.  When Newspeak controls the discourse, the issue isn’t sense, but censorship or, more specifically, getting conservatives to shut up:

Color Blind Racism” was the title of a recent article in the Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on-line publication, The Root.  Henry Louis Gates, Jr. last appeared on this blog for his outrageous charge of racism against a policeman for following protocol, and The Root was last mentioned on this blog for its list of blacks whom they would like to see erased from history.  The list was a who’s who of murders, cannibals and despicable people, and included both Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and right wing black politician Alan Keyes.

So what is “color blind racism?”  According to The Root, it is ”a racial ideology that expresses itself in seemingly nonracial terms. As such, it is most practiced by people who never see themselves outside their own myopic worldview. ”  What that means in practice is a redefinition of racism from its actual meaning, a belief that a particular race is inherently inferior, into a wholly new arena, where, mirabile dictu, criticism directed towards blacks, and indeed, the mere mention of any inconvenient fact, is inherently racist.  The “Orwellian term, ‘color blind racism.’” is, as James Taranto at the WSJ describes it, ”the pithiest summation we’ve ever encountered of the absurdity of contemporary left-liberal racial dogma.”

Read the rest here, so that you can fully understand the brave new world in which you are about to live.  George Orwell wouldn’t have been proud — since what he feared has come to pass — but Big Brother would have been very proud indeed.

No more smiles from George Orwell in our Newspeak world

The paradoxical effect of my “liberal” education

I’m having a minor mid-life crisis.  I’ve been a practicing lawyer for almost 23 years now.  I’m quite good at what I do, but I hate it.  And lately, it’s been getting harder and harder to flog myself into getting the work done and meeting the deadlines.  (Although I should assure any current or potential clients reading this post that I do get my work done, and I’ve never missed a deadline in 22.5 years.  I may be bored, but I’m good at what I do and very reliable.)

What I like to do best, of course, is blogging, but that’s not a way to earn a living.  I was speaking with a very wise person about my little career crisis, and he suggested that I write a book.  His first suggestion was that I write a nonfiction book, perhaps an expansion of my “San Francisco in decline” post.  I vetoed the idea, explaining that I’m too much of an intellectual dilettante to put together an entire book on a single subject:  my knowledge base is wide and shallow, and a single subject book needs depth.  Rather than focusing on a single topic, I like to bounce off of things that catch my interest — explaining why blogging is a perfect, albeit financially unprofitable, outlet for me.

My friend pointed out that, while I’m reactive (as opposed to proactive) at a detail level, I do have a fully formed ideology that I apply consistently to every factual scenario that comes my way.  Running with that, he suggested that I write a “novel of ideas.”  I looked at him blankly.  I had absolutely no idea what a “novel of ideas” was.  He explained that Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is the quintessential “novel of ideas.”  Ayn has taken a world view (individualism), and created a fully realized novel centered around the virtue of that ideology.  Her book is not a polemic, filled with wooden characters mouthing political speeches.  Instead, her lead character lives out his political beliefs, for better or worse.  1984, of course, is another example, showing the horrors of the wrong world view.

For the first time since I started hated my work (about 21 years ago), I suddenly though, “Wow, I’ve just heard about something that I really would like to do.”  I have absolutely no idea how to go about writing a novel, since plot and dialog have never been my strong points, but those can be learned.  I can take writing classes or read books on the subject.

My friend suggested that the first thing I should do, even before I start writing, is to start reading.  He told me to ask people I respect what novels helped form their political beliefs.  So, I asked you all that question yesterday.  Your answers stunned me.  First off, they reminded me again of what I already knew:  you are an incredibly intellectual crowd, well-read and thoughtful.  I’m often in great awe of your knowledge and your ability to apply that knowledge to real world scenarios.

The second thing that struck me is how few of the recommended books I’ve read, including any of Ayn Rand’s books.  I can tell you exactly why I’ve read so few of those books:  I had a liberal arts education at very liberal institutions.  The result of this ostensibly liberal education is that I have a strong aversion to vast numbers of writers I’ve read, as well as unreasoning prejudices against writers I’ve only heard of.

The easiest example of the negative effect of my liberal education can be described as “my adventures with Charles Dickens.”  When I was in 9th grade, we read Great Expectations.  When I was in 11th grade, we read Great Expectations.  When I was in my Freshman year at Berkeley, we read Great Expectations. By the third read, I could quote large parts of the book practically by memory and hated it with a passion.  In every class, whether I was 14, 16 or 18, we engaged in two, and only two types of analyses:  we did what I now realize was a Marxist inspired analysis that examined the class system in mid-Victorian England; and we painstakingly went through the book looking for literary symbolism.  At no point did we ever examine the book as Charles Dickens wrote it.  Unlike his Victorian audience, we never got to see a rip-roaring novel about a boy’s life trajectory, the weird characters he meets, the wrong assumptions that guide him, and the decisions he makes and their effect on his life.  In other words, we never looked at why, long before Marxist analysis and symbolic investigations, legions of ordinary Brits anxiously awaited each installment in this exciting cliff hanger.

By the time I was 19, I vowed that I would never again read another word of Charles Dickens.  I hated Dickens.  Dickens was ponderous.  Dickens was preachy.  Dickens was depressing.  Blech.  And then one day, when I was living in England, I found myself quite bored.  Boredom didn’t happen to me often when I lived in England.  I was a student having fun.  I went to parties, and more parties, and still more parties.  But even I couldn’t keep the dancing going forever.  So I asked my roommates (pardon:  “flatmates”), “Do any of you have something good to read?”

Jenny was the only one with an answer (perhaps because she partied less than the rest of us).  “I can loan you David Copperfield.”  It is a measure of my desperation that I even let her put the despised Dickens in my hand.  It was even more shocking that I started to read it — and I fell in love!  Reading the novel as it was meant to be read, as the picaresque adventures of a young man, wending his way through the highly colored, eccentric England of Dickens’ imagination, was absolutely delightful.  It was such a relief not to have to analyze every phrase for its class or symbolic implications.  After David Copperfield, I gobbled Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, and A Christmas Carol.  I was finally able to see Dickens as a first class writer, rather than an intellectual burden.

That pattern, of my hating a writer because of the way he was taught, happened again and again.  Last night, after my husband and I finished watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, my husband turned to me and asked, “Had you read that story?”  I drew back in revulsion, announcing, “I hate Fitzgerald.”  And then I paused.  I realized that I’d actually read only one Fitzgerald book, and that was in an English class.  We read and analyzed The Great Gatsby to death.  As with Great Expectations, we focused obsessively on Marxist class issues and literary symbolism.  Ironically, the one thing we didn’t do was try to look at the novel as it was read in its own era:  as a good story that also described the tension between the controlled 19th Century and the wild Jazz Age.  The kind of close textual analysis we did sucks the life out of everything.  When we were done, I vowed never to read Fitzgerald again, and I’ve kept that youthful vow.  (A vow I’m thinking I might want to abandon now.)

Oscar Wilde got the same treatment.  The only way I can think with any fondness of The Picture of Dorian Grey is to remember the student in my class who, in a desperate bid to impress the teacher with his grasp of symbolism, announced that “Wilde repeatedly describes flowers in the book because he wants to remind the readers of the phallic symbolism of the female sexual organs.”  We can now cross Wilde off the list of writers I ever want to read again.

In addition to turning me defiantly against the classics, the liberal arts institutions in which I found myself kept up a constant drumbeat of negativity about many of the books that you all recommend.  Rand was a boring fanatic, Huxley’s book was a fantasy, Clancy was a right wing techno wacko.  Indeed, it’s amazing to me, looking back, that George Orwell’s books were (and are) still part of the educational canon.  Thinking about it, the only reason I may like Orwell’s books is because their defiant anti-Leftism meant that the teachers couldn’t subject them to a Marxist analysis, and their straightforward writing defied any in-depth symbolic exegesis.  In other words, the teacher’s couldn’t turn them into deconstructionist gobbledygook.

These snarky views about anti-Leftist books even infected popular culture that surrounded me when I was young.  As an example, I was a big fan of Dirty Dancing when it came out.  I was in my early 20s, and Patrick Swayze was so beautiful.  Who wouldn’t be impressed?  So I paid attention to the story — and I certainly didn’t miss the fact that Swayze’s arch nemesis, the swaggering, dishonest stud, Robbie Gould, justified his immorality by informing Baby, and the viewing audience, that he lived his life according to Ayn Rand:

Robbie Gould: I didn’t blow a summer hauling toasted bagels just to bail out some little chick who probably balled every guy in the place.
[Baby is pouring water into glasses for him]
Robbie Gould: A little precision please, Baby. Some people count and some people don’t.
[Brings out a copy of The Fountainhead from his pocket]
Robbie Gould: Read it. I think it’s a book you’ll enjoy, but make sure you return it; I have notes in the margin.
Baby: You make me sick. Stay away from me, stay away from my sister or I’ll have you fired.
[Baby pours the jug of water on his crotch]

Clearly, Ayn’s writing makes people evil and immoral.  You may as well read Mein Kampf, since it will have the same poisonous effect on your soul.

So here I am, the product of a fairly high level liberal arts education, and I hate the books I’ve read, and won’t read the books people recommend.  The process of reading and studying so many of those books was such agony, it was always impossible to imagine that there might be a simple pleasure associated with the actual story the author was telling.  I shied away from those books just as I shy away from certain foods I associate with food poisoning.  (Don’t ever bother trying to feed me scallops.)  And as for many of the writers I might have found interesting, the ones who directly or indirectly articulated anti-Marxist sentiments, I was ordered away from those books, assured by professors and pop culture alike that they had the potential to corrupt my brain and my soul beyond redemption.

I think I’m going to have a lot of reading to do in the next few months, not my ordinary diet of fascinating nonfiction and painfully innocuous fiction, but serious stuff — the heavy intellectual stuff that will help develop my thinking as I contemplate creating a literary world in which my own political ideas can flourish.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Democrats work to impose Newspeak

Orwell understood the totalitarian mindset.  That’s why he invented Newspeak, a language with the specific goal of making anti-governmental thought impossible.  The Wikipedia article on the subject sums it up nicely:

Newspeak is a fictional language in George Orwell‘s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, it is described as being “the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year”. Orwell included an essay about it in the form of an appendix[1] in which the basic principles of the language are explained. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suits the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim is to make any alternative thinking — “thoughtcrime“, or “crimethink” in the newest edition of Newspeak — impossible by removing any words or possible constructs which describe the ideas of freedom, rebellion and so on. One character says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Hold that thought tightly in mind as you read this story,* which has a Democratically controlled government committee dictating to Republicans the phrases and thoughts they can, and cannot, use in describing to constituents the health care plans currently being trotted out in the Democratically controlled House and Senate:

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), the secretary of the House Republican Conference and a former District Court Judge, is having his messages to constituents censored by Democrats on the Franking Commission.  Republicans are no longer allowed to use the words “government run health care” in the communications to their constituents.

Carter received an email from the Franking Commission informing him of the censorship.

“It came to me from the Franking Commission and I have the email from the Franking Commission here if you’d like to see it,” Carter said.  “We held a telephone town-hall… When you hold telephone town-halls you have a recorded message that introduces the town-hall and the subject matter you’re going to be talking about.  You have to now submit that language to the Franking Commission.

“What we proposed as language was as follows, ‘House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan,’” Carter said.  “Our response from Franking was, ‘You cannot use that language.  You must use, ‘The House majority unveiled a public option health care plan,’ which is Pelosi-speak or ‘just last week the House majority unveiled a health care plan which I believe will cost taxpayers…’”

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*One caveat:  currently, the link I provided is the only source for this story.  I recognize the possibility that it may prove to be a false or confused report.  Right now, though, since it is sourced to a named House member, I’m assuming it’s true, and blogging as if it is.

Hat tip:  Elanamama