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“The lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience”*…

 

In 1949, George Orwell received a curious letter from his former high school French teacher.

Orwell had just published his groundbreaking book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which received glowing reviews from just about every corner of the English-speaking world. His French teacher, as it happens, was none other than Aldous Huxley who taught at Eton for a spell before writing Brave New World (1931), the other great 20th century dystopian novel.

Huxley starts off the letter praising the book, describing it as “profoundly important.” He continues, “The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it.”

Then Huxley switches gears and criticizes the book, writing, “Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World.”…

Read the letter in full at “Huxley to Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours.”

See also Neil Postman’s and Alan Moore’s agreement.

* Aldous Huxley, in his letter to George Orwell

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As we question authority, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966, the date that LSD was declared illegal, that The Love Pageant Rally was held in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  The first big free concert of it’s sort in the park, it was organized by Allen Cohen and artist Michael Bowen, the creators of the San Francisco Oracle, which first hit the streets in September 1966, to mark the banning of the drug– which effectively created a neighborhood of outlaws in the Haight, where acid was a staple of community culture.  Music was provided by the Grateful Dead and by Big Brother and the Holding Company; Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were on hand.

 source

 

Written by LW

October 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

Brave New 1984…

Readers may well have seen this photo, which has been making its way across the web:

If the irony seems too perfect, it’s because it is… It is a crop of this photo:

… one of Steve Ullathorne‘s “Restyles of the Dead and Famous,” a collection of subtly– and pointedly– altered photos.

So, if the image isn’t, after all, an “actual” evocation of Orwell’s Oceania, it is a pretty powerful portrait of “Big Brother”…

Still, it may be that Orwell’s worries, while all-too-prescient, were less valent than Huxley’s– that our challenge isn’t so much the fear-infected world of 1984 as it is the soma-laced, desire-driven future of Brave New World:

Orwell was almost exactly wrong in a strange way. He thought the world would end with Big Brother watching us, but it ended with us watching Big Brother.

– Alan Moore

 

As we practice our newspeak, we might recall that it was on this date in 1943 that the “White Rose,” a student protest group, painted “Freedom” and “Down with Hitler” on the walls of the University of Munich. The leaders of the group were arrested two days later, and beheaded on February 22.

 Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst- leaders of the White Rose (source)

Written by LW

February 16, 2012 at 1:01 am

“First Impressions”…

… was the tentative title with which Jane Austen worked before she settled on Pride and Prejudice.

source

 

George Orwell’s publisher convinced him that “The Last Man in Europe” simply wasn’t going to send copies flying off booksellers’ shelves, convincing Orwell to switch to his back-up title, 1984.

source

 

Discover more literary “might-have-beens,” featuring F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Heller, Bram Stoker, and others– at Mentalfloss.

As we think again about our vanity plate orders, we might recall that it was on this date in 1943 that then-26-year-old poet Robert Lowell, scion of an old Boston family that had included a President of Harvard, an ambassador to the Court of St. James, and the ecclesiastic who founded St. Marks School, was sentenced to jail for a year for evading the draft.  An ardent pacifist, Lowell refused his service in objection to saturation bombing in Europe.  He served his time in New York’s West Street jail.

Lowell (left) in 1941, with (his then wife) novelist Jean Stafford, and their friend, novelist and short-story writer Peter Taylor, at Kenyon College, where they studied with John Crowe Ranson (source)

 

 

Nouvelle Vague for the New Millennium…

Click here to download Jean-Luc Godard’s latest (and last?) film, Film Socialisme, in its entirety (and entirely legally).  Quoth novelist James Greer (repeating Howard Rodman), it’s “kind of like David Foster Wallace’s cruise ship essay, but in French, and with a lot of quotations thrown in. Win/win/win!”

As we try to remember which one is Jim, and which one Jules, we might recall that it was on this date in 1949 that George Orwell published his masterpiece of dystopian literature, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and introduced terms like “Big Brother,” “doublethink,” “thoughtcrime,” “Newspeak,” and “Memory hole” into the vernacular.

Cover of the first British edition

Ignorance is strength…

From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

– George Orwell, 1984

China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO), an arm of the Central Propaganda Department, operates an “Internet Affairs Bureau” to oversee all web sites that publish news, both the official sites of news organizations and independents.

This Internet Affairs Bureau sends very specific instructions to all large news web sites,  often multiple times per day. Sometimes these instructions ban contents outright, but often they instruct web sites to highlight or suppress certain type of opinions or information– in a very detailed manner.  Consider these directives (issued March 23, 2010; translated by the China Digital Times):

(The link to “China’s princelings” goes here.)

On the subject of Google’s exit from China (well, to Hong Kong; excellent background piece from PRI’s The World here), the Bureau had very specific instructions (again, translated by the CDT):

But technology marches on…  these government directives are meant to be confidential.  But while they are not showing up on web sites per se in China, some of their recipients– the web editors at whom they are aimed– are using Twitter, Sinaweibo (Sina’s popular micro-blogging service), and other social media to slip them into cyberspace.  To wit, the CDT coverage.

It should come as no surprise then that the SCIO is expanding:  an “Internet Affairs Bureau 2” is being established to control social media and other Web 2.0 services driven by user-generated content.  (More background on Chinese “management of web content” here.)

As we remark that a vigorous independent media is the infrastructure of democracy, and that it is an issue of some valence not just in China, but essentially everywhere in the world,* we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a German referendum ratified Deutschland’s armed occupation of the Rhineland earlier that month, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.  Hitler acted when he did for a variety of reasons, main among them that France, the most directly-affected/threatened other nation, was in internal political and financial disarray, and that Germany was in the midst of an economic crisis of its own, from which the Fuhrer needed a foreign policy distraction…  the Chancellor’s timing was good: France’s response was limited to a strongly-worded condemnation, and 99% of the votes cast in the German referendum (44.5 million votes out of 45.5 million registered voters), were in support.

Fuhrer and Chancellor

* For peeks at two very different examples of action that can matter, check out The Censorship Research Center and The Media Development Loan Fund

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