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July 28, 2002
11:54 AM   Subscribe

"Granted, we're a long way from resembling the kind of authoritarian state Orwell depicted, but some of the similarities are starting to get a bit eerie."
posted by jjg (54 comments total)

 
If I didn't know better, I could swear that the author of this piece gathered all of his evidence from MetaFilter threads. Every one of his points has already been discussed here, thoroughly, and this article only serves as a summary of what has already been dispelled as wishful, or unwishful thinking, depending upon your perspective. IMHO, 1984 has now become nothing more than the Left's version of the word "terrorist". Sad, because the book itself was quite intelligent.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:02 PM on July 28, 2002


"!984" is the new Godwin's law.
posted by evanizer at 12:07 PM on July 28, 2002


Poor Orwell, he's being ground into a now almost ignorable cliche.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:07 PM on July 28, 2002


Not that I disagree with a lot of the points the author is making, we are definitely becoming more of a police state, but still, "cliche!"
posted by insomnyuk at 12:09 PM on July 28, 2002


How many case-in-points does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
posted by crasspastor at 12:36 PM on July 28, 2002


I think that the article was pretty scary. However, Daniel Kurtzman uses some pretty vague examples and general language to make his point.

For example:

Attorney General John Ashcroft answered critics of his anti-terrorism measures, saying that opponents of the administration "only aid terrorists" and "give ammunition to America's enemies. "

and

Said Fleischer, "There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."

Both of these statements seemed pretty off the cuff and not the part of any official Bush Administration policy or agenda. And, both of them boil down to a statement of "Press please don't say bad things about us." Hasn't every administration that has ever existed complained about the press and people saying bad things about its policies? Also, both of the above statements really pissed people off and the Bush administration took some heat.

Further, Ashcroft's statement was taken out of context. The context was in front of a Senate committee hearing where Senators were firing questions at Ashcroft. Ashcroft's response was out of the anger and frustration of being grilled. Ashcroft also seemed to say it to act tough in the face of several irate Senators. In other words, Ashcroft and the Senators were involved in a prick waving fest. Ashcroft was saying, "You can't push me around!" So he called them a bunch of names. Does Ashcroft really feel if you’re against him your for the “terrorists"? I'd likely say “yes,” but Kurtzman's elimination of the context makes the statement more menacing that it really was.

we are definitely becoming more of a police state

By what standard are you measuring this? Compared to one year ago in the US the answer is, perhaps, yes. Compared to the rest of the world the freedoms we enjoy are still pretty extensive. For example, in Zimbabwe you can be jailed for criticizing the president. In Italy, it is against the law to "insult" any head of state. I think we're approaching the realm of a Western European Democracy type country. For example, as the Kurtzman noted, public video surveillance is increasing. This practice is common in London (I assume that it may be more widespread) and in the Netherlands. Also, the police in the UK have an extreme amount of power and discretion to detain and hold people with charging them with a crime if the detained is a suspected "terrorist."

Overall Kurtzman's article is good to jolt you into thinking about what is going on, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
posted by Bag Man at 12:40 PM on July 28, 2002


sorry about the control characters...I've been having issues with them lately.
posted by Bag Man at 12:41 PM on July 28, 2002


Ashcroft's statement was taken out of context.

I cannot imagine any context that justifies the Attorney General of the United States equating asking questions about government policy with acts of treason.
posted by jjg at 12:49 PM on July 28, 2002


BagMan: Did you see the reaction to Al Gore's Iraq comments the other day on metafilter? The immediate ones were along the lines of, "Why doesn't he go back into his hole?" Then there was a member of Congress quoted as calling his comments "irresponsible." For what? We're at war with Iraq already?

Sure, the member of Congress may have been speaking off-the-cuff and not for all of Congress and the 1st Amendment may not be in immediate danger. But the amendment has lasted this long by a refusal in certain quarters to act blase about such things, y'know? (And I've seen 1984 and other Orwell writings used across the ideological or political board. Why? Because his writing wasn't about an attack on the right or left or center or the average non-ideological persons or the apathetic or whatnot, but about threats to human freedom and of course human nature, the human condition, etc.)
posted by raysmj at 12:58 PM on July 28, 2002


I cannot imagine any context that justifies the Attorney General of the United States equating asking questions about government policy with acts of treason.

I am not asserting that the comment was justifiable. However, the way in which Kurtzman's uses it to support his point is weakened by the circumstances in which the Ashcroft made the statement. Ashcroft was pissed off and he lashed out. He made the statement in the heat of the moment and not as a cold calculated move. So, that leads to think it was made with out regard to a policy, but as a personal attack against the Senators. If Ashcroft’s statement was an attack on the Senators, than the statement seems much less insidious as Kurtzman claims it to be.

Was Ashcroft’s statement proper for high-level official: No. Does Kurtzman manipulate perceptions and Ashcroft's statement to suit the point of the article: Yes. Kurtzman seems a little guilty of the things he has railed against in the article

My point: Read Kurtzman’s article needs to be read with a critical eye and taken it with a gain of salt.

Did you see the reaction to Al Gore's Iraq comments the other day on metafilter? The immediate ones were along the lines of, "Why doesn't he go back into his hole?" Then there was a member of Congress quoted as calling his comments "irresponsible."

I can't really comment because I don't hear Gore nor did I take note of the reaction. But, my gut tells me even those who disagree with us/me have a right to say what they want.

But the amendment has lasted this long by a refusal in certain quarters to act blase about such things

I disagree; it's lasted this long because the American people and the court system had fought to keep it around. That’s something we forget, the Constitution is not at the whim of any single president, administration, Congress or even Supreme Court. These are complex issues with are informed by the county as a whole.
posted by Bag Man at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2002


one would think that with all the obvious parallels between 1984 and our current administration, people would realize what a frighteningly poor leader he is.
posted by mcsweetie at 1:17 PM on July 28, 2002


At this point, Bush could kill a man on live TV and still get at least 30% approval ratings. That's the benefit of extremist supporters, after all.

Fortunately, the squishy middle is increasingly seeing reason to question some of the weak parts in this administration. His numbers will be based more on merit and less on "the war" over time; whether that means they will go up or down, I'm not sure.
posted by jragon at 1:39 PM on July 28, 2002


Just for a point of comparison: There have been real-life police states and 1984-type societies within the lifetimes of most MeFiers. They were called the USSR, GDR, China, and the whole rest of the Communist bloc. And the United States is so far from resembling any of these states and any respect whatsoever that it's laughable. John Ashcroft said that people who criticize the administration aid the enemy. Well, that's his opinion, and heaven knows the press hasn't let him get away with it. The day he says "People who criticize the administration are aiding the enemy -- so we're going to arrest them," that'll be a different story.
posted by Faze at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2002


BagMan: Are you itching to disagree with people, even when you don't? What's your point with the last paragraph? You disagree with what I say, even while basically saying you do? Or are you just desperately trying to be the contrarian?

Or is the emphasis on "American people." The American people as a whole? What, is everyone consulted at every moment? Polls have contradicted what you just said time and again anyhow. People would, I have no doubt, get rid of the 1st Amendment if the time was right, and there was enough of an elite consensus for getting rid of it or for gutting it.
posted by raysmj at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2002


Foundations are in place for martial law in the US.
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on July 28, 2002


I know, alarmist and very unlikely, but this today's paranoia thread and I had to contribute something...
posted by homunculus at 1:47 PM on July 28, 2002


BagMan: Are you itching to disagree with people, even when you don't? What's your point with the last paragraph? You disagree with what I say, even while basically saying you do? Or are you just desperately trying to be the contrarian?

Wow, that's out of left field! I'm, just saying that that Kurtzman's article stands on less than solid ground because he over generalizes, makes broad sweeping statements and takes things out of context. His overall point is well taken, but the evidence he presents and thr way inwhich he presents it is somewhat suspect. I provided one example.

I may agree with your underlying ideology (Bush is bad and I don’t agree with what he has been done in name of national security), but I do disagree with the way in which you have read Kurtzman's article.

On your first amendment point, I don't agree with your statement that that forces could suspend the Constitution at a whim. I also don't agree that at the only reason that the first amendment still exists is because some higher power has chosen not to take it away.
posted by Bag Man at 1:57 PM on July 28, 2002


Compared to the rest of the world the freedoms we enjoy are still pretty extensive

In Ireland, the persons charged with catering to Irelands defence needs, and catering to state functions similar to the Secretary of State position are all elected. I don't think they are in the US, right? Also, our president does not run the country - our prime minister does, and the president can disolve his power or refuse to pass legislation passed by the prime minister if it is deemed to be unconstutional. The US doesn't have this safeguard.

Also, the police in the UK have an extreme amount of power and discretion to detain and hold people with charging them with a crime if the detained is a suspected "terrorist."

While I don't live in England and am not English, I'm under the impression that when this occurs, it occurs because the person is suspected of being a member of an organisation that is deemed to be illegal, like the IRA. People are not picked willy nilly off the streets, like two Irish people were in Chicago on July 4th for "speaking in code", when in fact all they were speaking was Irish. And when it happens, the person can be held for a number of days and then they must be released if there is no evidence. I don't hear of the same thing happening in the US. I seem to hear that people are held indefinitely.

public video surveillance is increasing. This practice is common in London

When it comes down to fundamentals, I feel America is not as democratic as it could be, and I believe that it is more likely to become a dictatorship than Ireland at the present time. In Europe, the Bush administration is mainly seen as dangerous and in light of proposals such as TIPS or the military being given police power, slipping alarmingly into something that can be compared to the former East Germany - when you consider TIPS etc etc - are such comparisons really that wrong?
posted by tomcosgrave at 1:59 PM on July 28, 2002


I left a bit of my post out - in relation to -

public video surveillance is increasing. This practice is common in London

It's there to be used in case of a crime, not to monitor people night and day. If a crime is comitted, the footage is accessed. And as far as I know, that's it - that is the case with such cameras here in Ireland.
posted by tomcosgrave at 2:01 PM on July 28, 2002


We need to ask these questions. The war against totalitarianism requires eternal vigilance.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:03 PM on July 28, 2002


Why Orwell was wrong about 1984. [link via daily grail]

Faze, I get the strong impression from many of your posts (not just in this thread), that you see the US as a best of all possible worlds scenario. That obviously the USSR, China and their ilk were way worse than anything the US has done.

The problem is, there have been many times in the past where the US government, in the name of stopping Communism, has went out of its way to discredit people through the FBI (Cointelpro), to over investigate and harass any one that struck J. Edgar Hoover the wrong way (check out "Alien Ink" by Natalie Robbins for examples) and our own government has helped bolster leaders who have committed crimes against humanity (Pinochet(?)).

I'm not pointing these examples out to say for certain that the US has ever been a Police state, or that it is becoming one, but that the US has committed many ill-advised acts that could be interpreted as signs of a Police State.

To consistently say that the US has the best system in the world is disingenious as the possiblity exists that there are freer nations that you haven't lived under or experienced yet.

As for "1984" being a cliche of the left, It's been used as much by the Left and the Right to describe tactics that they disagreed with. For example, Rush Limbaugh would often attack "PC" as being very "1984."

Oddly enough, people often overlook "Brave New World" as a description of the future we may be falling into.
posted by drezdn at 2:15 PM on July 28, 2002


Also, our president does not run the country - our prime minister does, and the president can disolve his power or refuse to pass legislation passed by the prime minister if it is deemed to be unconstutional. The US doesn't have this safeguard.

Pick up a history or government book sometime. We have these things called The House of Representatives, The Senate, The Supreme Court. If push comes to shove they can impeach the president as well (see Clinton, Bill).

As far as the 1984 comparisons go, a lot of Really Dumb Stuff has been proposed by the Bush admin but little to none of it has been implemented. The TIPS program has been roundly criticized and in actual implementation will probably be DOA. The 1984 and SS comparisons people like to throw around remind me of another story: Chicken Little, or maybe The Boy Who Cried Wolf
posted by owillis at 2:15 PM on July 28, 2002


BagMan: I didn't say anything about people changing the Constitution at a whim. I said it could change if there's enough of elite consensus to change it, which is a very different story. An elite consensus on anything is not going to happen overnight, except under extreme circumstances. It's a slow build-up to one, so people remaining vigilant is a good thing. You said you "disagreed" with me on that. Then you said people (or "the people" or people who aren't bothered too much, or something) caring about the amendment is what has kept it around. Whatever.

Also, what did I say about Kurtzman's article, exactly? I was only responding to your comments regarding this article. If you want to know, though, I'd say the posted piece a flawed piece of journalism, mainly because it might sound too partisan, whether he intended such or not. But the general attitude toward toward dissent right now is pretty troublesome, especially almost a year after Sept. 11.
posted by raysmj at 2:17 PM on July 28, 2002


Also, our president does not run the country - our prime minister does, and the president can dissolve his power or refuse to pass legislation passed by the prime minister if it is deemed to be unconstutional. The US doesn't have this safeguard.

Well the president does not "run" the US either. The US functions as the interplay between the Executive Branch (headed by the president), the Legislative Branch (the House and Senate) and the Judicial Branch (head by the Federal and state Supreme Court(s)). The Legislative Branch creates law, the Judicial Branch applies the law and the Executive Branch enforces the law. No one branch "runs" the US. In fact, more times that not, the Judicial and Legislative Branch gets its way over the president.

It's there to be used in case of a crime, not to monitor people night and day.

As far as I know, that is the only way surveillance cameras used here. As far as I know of, the "government" uses surveillance cameras quite sparingly (i.e. those that are mounted in police cars or for security in government buildings). I live in Chicago and I’ve never seen any public surveillance cameras. The only ones I’ve head about, but yet to see, are public surveillance cameras in New York City. I have visited NYC many times and never seen any evidence of them being used to “to monitor people night and day.” Where do you get your evidence? Your statements are overly broad and without any support.

Private land and shop owners use cameras to stop stealing. But, that's not a government use.

Also, what did I say about Kurtzman's article, exactly?

Just making my overall point clear.
posted by Bag Man at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2002


BagMan: Again, whatever. But one correction. It was the RNC chair who called Gore's comments irresponsible, not a member of Congress. But that's sort of like having the comment come from the White House, only in a back-door fashion. No excuse for it either way.
posted by raysmj at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2002


Yeah, "whatever"... we've always been at war with Eurasia.
posted by muppetboy at 3:22 PM on July 28, 2002


Owillis-
Pick up a history or government book sometime. We have these things called The House of Representatives, The Senate, The Supreme Court. If push comes to shove they can impeach the president as well (see Clinton, Bill).

I know The House of Representatives, The Senate and The Supreme Court exist, the point I was trying to make is that the President of the US can appoint people to the positions I mentioned and the people will have had no decisions in saying that these people should be in power. Here, the people in those positions are appointed by the prime minister, but they have to be elected to parliament by the people beforehand to be in the position to be appointed. In the US that is not the case.

Bagman-
Where do you get your evidence? Your statements are overly broad and without any support.

Such cameras have not been set up for very long - they were set up by the police and the government as a response to street crime which has been getting high here, mostly due to consumption of alcohol and narcotics. The cameras are designed to deter people from getting crazy and to deter drug dealers from dealing in the open. It was the subject of a lot of media attention at the time.
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:29 PM on July 28, 2002


drezdn,
Thanks for your comments. I certainly don't disagree with you that our people in charge do ill-advised things, which if taken to their extreme limit, would probably lead us into a Police State. However, I do believe that Bush and Ashcroft, even though they come from a different political culture than I do, are persons of good will, and are not a threat to our freedoms. Rather much experience with the world does lead me to believe that the U.S. today is the best of all possible worlds, and its people have the greatest opportunity for happiness. And thanks for bringing up "Brave New World." We may very well have something like that books' soma in today's Prozac-type drugs.
posted by Faze at 4:12 PM on July 28, 2002


So have we agreed that the European Union is 'Big Brother' of 1984 fame, will swallow up the little guys like Ireland and Portugal (sorry Tom & Miguel), strip them of their unique identity while forcing them to raise armies for the war against Eurasia? With the proposed memberships stretching further East every year who are they going to use those 100,000 troops against, reluctant member states? Since this thread has moved on to comparitive government I propose the EU as the most realistic and most likely candidate for next big dictatorship.
posted by Mack Twain at 4:22 PM on July 28, 2002


tomcosgrave,
Electing the secretary of defense, secretary of state, etc. would make those positions even more political than they already are. If people think one of them is doing a terrible enough job congress will call for a resignation or the president will lose his reelection. It's a package deal, so they are elected by proxy.
posted by owillis at 4:23 PM on July 28, 2002


Such cameras have not been set up for very long - they were set up by the police and the government as a response to street crime which has been getting high here, mostly due to consumption of alcohol and narcotics. The cameras are designed to deter people from getting crazy and to deter drug dealers from dealing in the open. It was the subject of a lot of media attention at the time.

What's your point? Are you talking about the cameras in Ireland? Or the ones you don't seem to know about in the US? I was talking about how surveillance Cameras in the US are being used. They are not used the by the police to just watch people. Also, what’s to stop the government and police in Ireland from using surveillance camera in way you claim they are used in the US? (Wwhich is not true)

people will have had no decisions in saying that these people should be in power.

We do elect our president who makes the appointments and we also elect the House of Reps. and Senate who approve of the presidential appointments. If you don’t like their decisions, guess what? You can vote them out of office.

BagMan: Again, whatever.

I'm glad MIFIers are critical thinks with a head for nuance and not just people who make glib remarks.

But that's sort of like having the comment come from the White House, only in a back-door fashion. No excuse for it either way

So, only those who agree with you and I are allowed an opinion. The Prez and his party are allowed to defend their agenda no matter how crazy it may be.
posted by Bag Man at 4:54 PM on July 28, 2002


It's strange that the only comparison we have to what free is is either the worst examples of fascism or a fictional novel. We Know what freedom is by what it's not. I'd say we're far too sure of our ability to navigate this obstacle course.

There was a point, that feels like only months ago, where we refused to even begin the journey toward tyranny. Any similarity between dictatorship, fascism or Orwells 1984 and America was enough to get people screaming for a new course. Now that it seems we are well on our way we don't fear the police state as much as we are thankful we're not there yet.

Personally - I don't want any war. I don't want anything removed from public record regardless of how it might make the president look. I don't want a single police camera anywhere in my country. I don't trust any of these people to use this power responsibly, not because they will want to abuse it but because it can't be used for anything other then abuse.

1984 or not America is becoming a scary place.
posted by ex.pr.ni at 5:12 PM on July 28, 2002


Bag Man: The comment the RNC chair made was disrespectful of Gore's right to free speech. The prez is the nation's highest elected official and as such the most powerful individual in American government. Gore is, at this point, a private citizen. That's why it's inexcusable. Ever heard of the "heckler's veto," which is not allowed under Constitutional law? That is, shouting a public speaker down? Same concept at work here, only it's not a matter of law, but ethics and basic decency.
posted by raysmj at 6:06 PM on July 28, 2002


It's conveniently simpleminded to just call '1984', isn't it? I mean, using that as shorthand, and giving folks the opportunity to say 'Well, hyuck, America shore ain't like that 1984 book, so ah guess thangs're just fine' and throw in a couple of 'USA! USA!' fist pumps, is reassuring and all.

But it is simpleminded, and dangerous. Using poorly-understood shorthand in an attempt to pigeonhole and then discard an argument is the mark of intellectual cowardice. Using that same shorthand to try and make a point is a mark of intellectual laziness. Keep your eyes on the ball, folks.

I won't bother quoting Jefferson about vigilance.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:00 PM on July 28, 2002


Bag Man: The comment the RNC chair made was disrespectful of Gore's right to free speech. The prez is the nation's highest elected official and as such the most powerful individual in American government. Gore is, at this point, a private citizen. That's why it's inexcusable. Ever heard of the "heckler's veto," which is not allowed under Constitutional law?

Disrespect and abrogation or prevention are two different things. Here's an example (NYtimes) of an abrogation of free speech, it's far from transpired between Gore and the RN Chair. I know it's and extreme, but I do it make a point. The RNC chair’s comment was in no way an affirmative act to “heckle” Gore. It again boils down to RNC chair saying, "I think Mr. Gore was out of line because I don't agree with his salvo at the president." The RNC chair took no affinitive act to silence Gore or restrict any of Gore legally protected rights. The RNC chair made no threats, do not harass Gore nor did the RNC Chair doing anything, but voice another opinion.

Using poorly-understood shorthand in an attempt to pigeonhole and then discard an argument is the mark of intellectual cowardice. Using that same shorthand to try and make a point is a mark of intellectual laziness. Keep your eyes on the ball, folks.

stavrosthewonderchicken, very excellent point. In case your comment was direct in my general direction (which I suspect is was), I'm not asserting that Kurtzman’s argument is invalid, but I think the examples that Kurtzman uses to support his argument are vague, too broad and sometime out of meaningful context. Kurtzman undermines his argument and making his point have much less impact than it should.

I won't bother making a comment about the complete lack of nuance on MIFI. Oh wait, I just did...silly me.
posted by Bag Man at 7:52 PM on July 28, 2002


The RNC chair took no affinitive act to silence Gore or restrict any of Gore legally protected rights. The RNC chair made no threats, do not harass Gore nor did the RNC Chair doing anything, but voice another opinion.

Mr. Nuance, I didn't say he made threats (which would be illegal), or restrict any of Gore's legally protected rights. In fact, I said the RNC chair didn't do anything illegal, just unethical. The wording was clearly of the "any questioning is an attack" variety, Consequently, it's irresponsible to question the president and especially so "at this time." I think the question people are asking, and why it was so darned easy to pull out 1984, is, "When it will ever be time, exactly?"
posted by raysmj at 8:06 PM on July 28, 2002


rather than comparing the US today to fascist regimes of the past and present, I think it is more to the point to compare the US today with the US yesterday (any and every yesterday) and with our ideals.

it doesn't matter how wonderful we are in comparison with the worst examples we can find. it matters how we compare to ourselves at our worst, ourselves at our best, and our imagined best self.

then we can get a sense of whether we have strayed off course, and if so, by how much.
posted by rebeccablood at 8:59 PM on July 28, 2002


I think that the problem regarding Kurtzman's article, assuming anyone here is still interested in talking about it, is that it goes to too great a length to pidgeonhole its arguments regarding the erosion of liberties in the US as resembling the situation in Orwell's book. The amount of generalisation and oversimplification needed to make the Current Situation match that of the book weakens these arguments, while there is plenty to discuss which is not analogous to 1984. Comparisons to fascist dictatorships of the past are equally irrelevant, as our nation should only improve, and not be content to say, "Well, we are not (yet) as bad as these other guys."
posted by donkeymon at 9:09 PM on July 28, 2002


Poor Orwell, he's being ground into a now almost ignorable cliche.

Not that I disagree with a lot of the points the author is making, we are definitely becoming more of a police state, but still, "cliche!"


Yea, that's great, but what part of the article did you find inaccurate? I mean, to casually dismiss so ugly a charge with the word 'cliche', there must be something obviously wrong with the argument. One guy's opinion, anyway.
posted by holycola at 11:17 PM on July 28, 2002


raysmj: I would be very surprised if there were ever an action taken by the RNC chairman that you deemed ethical. It was a dumb political statement by a no-talent-ass-clown politician, which we've seen many times before, not some harbinger of a police state. The WH was smart not to comment, even unofficially. As much as you'd like to pin this on them, you can't, OK?

In any case, Clinton's interview (see other thread) shows that he instinctively knows better than Gore how to tweak the current administration.

I suspect Kurtzman's column says more about Kurtzman than it does about the US. And can we stop listening to Ritt Goldstein, already? The man's practically got a plate in his head. Or a radio in his teeth.
posted by dhartung at 4:49 AM on July 29, 2002


The exile knew all this 2 and a half years ago, while another current article is in agreement.
In other matters, I am in constant amazement as to how Americans take it for granted that they live in the best democracy in the world... aside from the fact that this evaluation requires a knowledge of the quality of all sorts of other democracies out there, it conveniently forgets that a democracy cannot function properly without citizen participation and judging by the number of people that don't bother to even vote in the US, the US has a lot of catching up to do in this department...
To be fair: I am similarly pessimistic about democracy's prospects all over the world.
posted by talos at 5:57 AM on July 29, 2002


Not voting does not necessarily point to indifference, talos; I couldn't tell you the last time I did, because, frankly, I can't remember the last time I could support either candidate foistered on us in the ballot. It doesn't make me disinterested in the political system or the actions of the government. I think my posting history would attest to that.
posted by Perigee at 6:35 AM on July 29, 2002


(It may also be apropos to mention that - especially in a two-party system like ours - there's a reason why referees aren't members of the game teams....)
posted by Perigee at 6:38 AM on July 29, 2002


Yea, that's great, but what part of the article did you find inaccurate? I mean, to casually dismiss so ugly a charge with the word 'cliche', there must be something obviously wrong with the argument. One guy's opinion, anyway.

I didn't dismiss his statements, but it's all ground that MeFi has already well-tread. I'm simply objecting to the use of Orwell's name every time the police statification of the U.S. is brought up. You give away the point of your whole article, and the reader automatically knows your biases before you lay out your arguments. Of course the Left uses it, but so do some on the Right (at least some paleo-libertarians).

I'm just sick of hearing Orwell's name so-overused. People start to ignore something when it is repeated too often. Orwell's book plumbed the depths of how authoritarian a Communist state could become with the help of technology. Orwell was a socialist, but he saw first-hand the Communists purge the POUM in Spain (with the blessing of the USSR). I think he was writing from experience by putting a futuristic spin on events that had already happened.

Folks think invoking Orwell lends their arguments instant credibility.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:45 AM on July 29, 2002


Great article. I don't think invoking 1984 is cliche at all. That book scared the shit out of me and so does the Patriot Act.
posted by uftheory at 6:52 AM on July 29, 2002


Perigee, while I see your point, I really do think that voting percentages are an indicator (though of course not the *only* indicator) of political participation. I could also point out that although it is true that the US is basically a two party system, there do exist other parties that simply no one bothers to vote for. Nader seemed like an decent choice for those to the left of the Democrats and I assume that Buchanan could similarly be considered as a plausible candidate for the- beyond the Republican Party- right. Count the Libertarian, Socialist Worker etc. parties and all that added up to what? 4% of the vote? Not to mention that ideally in a democracy if enough people don't like existing choices they can try to create others. I do recognize that for a lot of people not voting is a political stance in itself, but how large do you think that percentage is among the 50% of those that don't vote? BTW I don't think that the US is an exception- there is a general trend of political passivity in the West- it's just that in the US it seems much more pronounced.
posted by talos at 7:01 AM on July 29, 2002


Rebeccablood and Stavros, I heard you. Great points.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:07 AM on July 29, 2002


The amount of generalisation and oversimplification needed to make the Current Situation match that of the book weakens these arguments

My point all along. Thanks donkeymon.
posted by Bag Man at 9:44 AM on July 29, 2002


And can we stop listening to Ritt Goldstein, already? The man's practically got a plate in his head.

That's just what THEY want us to believe! Who do you really work for dhartung? ;)
posted by homunculus at 11:47 AM on July 29, 2002


The amount of generalisation and oversimplification needed to make the Current Situation match that of the book weakens these arguments

And the deceptions -- e.g., saying that the Ohio State students, during Bush's commencement address, were ordered to give him a "thunderous ovation," and they did. Which turned out not to be true, despite initial reports.

The overall trend Kurtzman describes, to the extent that it is accurate, is indeed disturbing. But it's worth noting that not only is Kurtzman's (and the Chronicle's) freedom to publish it maintained, it is unquestioned. The act of publishing an article attacking the state itself undermines the argument that the state is somehow controlling us. It's a necessary irony, but an irony nonetheless.
posted by mattpfeff at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2002


What's more scary is that Orwell's prediction that the state would feed the proles cheap music in order to keep them quiet has come true. Yes, he predicted Pop Stars and Pop Idol. Genius.
posted by Summer at 12:22 PM on July 29, 2002


The state is responsible for Pop Idol? I think this might be our fault. Nobody has to watch that awfulness.
posted by Skot at 12:32 PM on July 29, 2002


Which turned out not to be true, despite initial reports.

Source that, would you? Because one thing that is rather 1984-ish (though not Orwellian, which is another thing entirely) is the rather effective capacity of Bush's media machine to rewrite history, especially when you have such a willing bunch of Little Sir Echoes.

The act of publishing an article attacking the state itself undermines the argument that the state is somehow controlling us. It's a necessary irony, but an irony nonetheless.

Or not. Or at least, an irony of an irony. Given that it prompts threads like this in which certain people are quick with the old denouncing stick. And if we're talking 1984, then remember that Winston got to read The Book.

Orwell's book plumbed the depths of how authoritarian a Communist state could become with the help of technology.

Um, not quite. Or at least, that's a simplistic reading. Technology is peripheral to the novel; ultimately, people betray people, not the telescreens and microphones. Technology is insufficient because it 'can't get inside you'. That's the point of the final section, in and after the Ministry of Truth, and the anecdotes on Parsons' children. And the ideological colour of the state has little directly to do with this, except in its saturation of the individual.

Oh, and on preview: Summer, don't forget the Lottery. 'It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive.'
posted by riviera at 12:32 PM on July 29, 2002


Source that, would you?

I thought I'd read something more conclusive than this, but this AP release described it this way: immediately before class members filed into the giant football stadium, an announcer instructed the crowd that all the university's speakers deserve to be treated with respect and that anyone demonstrating or heckling could be subject to expulsion and arrest. The announcer urged a "thunderous" ovation for outgoing university President William Kirwan. Bush, too, was heavily applauded.

The version offered by the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch is consistent with the AP's (and quotes an Ohio State University spokeswoman as saying that there was indeed a protest during the ceremony, and the protesters were not prosecuted), but it's not exactly conclusive, I admit -- I may have been mistaken.
posted by mattpfeff at 1:21 PM on July 29, 2002


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