We still live in the land of double-think

Posted by Tory Historian Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tory Historian has written admiringly of George Orwell before (here and here), despite expressing a certain amount of disagreement with some of his pronouncements and writings. But there is nothing more annoying than watching people reduce this hard-headed and strong-minded writer to mush.

The guilty party in this case is the National Film Theatre, an institution Tory Historian is very ambivalent about. It shows many good films from the past and that is good; it also provides notes of unsurpassed silliness that are examples of soggy-left and thoughtless political consensus.

Tory Historian has lost track of the number of times some American producer, director or actor who had a highly successful career in Britain, on the Continent or, even, back in the United States has been described as being a blameless, liberal victim of “McCarthyite witch hunts”, with complete disregard of the difference between the Senate enquiry that was not in the slightest interested in Hollywood and the House Un-American Activity Committee (HUAC) and equally complete disregard of the fact that most of those “innocent” victims were, in fact, Communists who had preferred to lie on orders from the Party.

Now it is Orwell’s turn to be dragged into this morass of half-truths and double-think. (He would have understood it very well and railed against the sogginess and dishonesty.)

In April the NFT will be marking the 60th anniversary of the publication of “1984” with films about Orwell, as well as a showing of the famous 1956 version with Edmond O’Brien, the less well-known 1954 TV play with Peter Cushing and the 1984 film with John Hurt.

Fine. But what do the notes in the recently sent out programme say? [They are not yet on the website.]

2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s classic dystopian vision of Britain.
In Orwell’s re-imagining of British life in the year 1984 the nation has become Airstrip One, a subsidiary of Oceania, one of three global superstates engaged in relentless warfare against one another. London is a fetid, near-derelict metropolis dominated by the monolithic buildings of the ruling Party, its slums battered by rockets fired from enemy states. The collective memory of life before the wars has been all but obliterated by the Party which shapes and monitors the lives of its workers while keeping the disorderly ‘proles’ in a state of controlled ignorance.
Dystopian vision? Re-imagining of British life? Is there not a word missing here, one beginning with the letter “c”? Orwell was not writing a dystopian vision and, while he was re-imagining life in Britain, he was describing a very precise society.

The shortages, the denunciations, the Inner and Outer Party, the re-writing of history and throwing articles about unpersons into the memory hole, the biographies of imaginary shock workers and, above all, the permanent enemy Emmanuel Goldstein, obviously the figure of Trotsky – these are all aspects of Soviet society, of Communism. Clearly, as far as the NFT and its meandering, never-stepping-out-of-the-box programme organizers, Communism is just one of those unpleasant episodes that have to be thrown down the memory hole. Otherwise the left-wing vision of the world might be polluted.


  1. HM Stanley Says:
  2. On a sligtly related note, I was again, contrary to my better judgement, watching the atrociously smug, self-satisfied left of center echo chamber of a BBC programme, Dateline, where Gavin Essler discusses the events of the week with four of his closest, foreign correspondent friends, all of who pretty much agree with each other. They all decided that Palestinian-Israeli politics is being held hostage by the right-wings on both sides, apparently Likud, et al and Hamas!! Hamas is now right wing...I wondered. Or is right-wing merely whatever these nice lefties find offensive?

  3. (Emmanuel Goldstein, not Golber.)

    Sadly, Communism hasn't been tossed down the memory hole. It keeps getting resurrected with ever friendlier packaging, because its proponents believe Communism's greatest failure is that hasn't been tried by the right people yet.

    "Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me."

  4. Goldstein, of course. Another silent edit is on its way.

    The thing is that by renaming and prettifying Communism we do chuck it down the memory hole and re-write the whole of the twentieth century's history. We do exactly what Winston Smith and his colleagues were doing at MiniTruth.

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