Orwellian, he ain’t!

And don’t even start calling things ‘Bushian’

SN&R Photo Illustration By David Jayne

Mark Drolette is a Sacramento writerand occasional contributor to SN&R

I’m sick of lefties snidely comparing the grim totalitarian society of George Orwell’s 1984 to today’s freedom-spewing United States, a country few Americans would dare call dystopian, even if they could define it. In fact, careful comparison of the totalitarian state Orwell imagined and the corporatarian state BushCo has devised shows we’re nothing like Oceania.

Well, almost nothing like it.

Speak no sense; think no sense. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” These are the best-known examples of 1984’s “doublespeak,” the intentional misuse of deceptive language. Some may proffer President George W. Bush’s frequent misstatements and malapropisms as examples of “doublespeak,” but I say no. His unique linguistic approach comes naturally—there’s nothing intentional about it.

Then there’s Orwell’s “doublethink”: the ability to hold two opposing thoughts simultaneously. The president has done that one better by mastering “nothink,” a concept characterized by being completely devoid of any thought whatsoever. Unpatriotic types (those showoffs who consider intelligence desirable) may disparage “nothink,” but this trick allows our brave decider more freedom to tell the bloody truth, as demonstrated at a February press conference when he boldly pronounced, “money trumps peace.”

Big Brother is watching you. In 1984, everyone’s under constant surveillance. Or are they? It doesn’t matter: It’s the thought that counts. Thinking you’re being watched chills your very core—sort of the way you blanched the morning when, following yet another spirited night of porn-surfing, it appeared your computer’s history had been searched by your (now-ex) wife.

It’s preposterous, however, to suggest that Americans would ever allow impingement of their constitutionally protected right to privacy. Courageous, magnet-affixing patriots that we are, we’d rabidly fight outrages like cameras at every corner, bio-chipped passports, a national ID card or no-warrant searches. We’d never allow the FBI to investigate our borrowing of A Marxist History at the library. Then again, maybe the local field agent should discover why acolytes consider Harpo the funniest of the bunch.

Two plus two makes five. I’m sure my long-suffering high-school algebra teacher was convinced this was my motto. Nevertheless, once I finally comprehended basic addition, I knew Orwell, by having sinister Inner Party member O’Brien inform Smith that two plus two makes five if the state says it does, was averring that with enough coercion—that’s torture, for the uninitiated—the government can make us believe even the most absurd notion.

Clearly, no such inane mathematical assertions have emanated from the Bush administration, which had its number of office-holders reduced by half recently when Dick Cheney declared the vice presidency isn’t part of the executive branch. The vice president is a member of Congress, apparently. Or the Rotary Club. Or something.

That’s sensible new-world-order math: Two minus one equals Bush. I’m sorry, check that: a big fat zero.

Never-ending war. In 1984, Oceania is always at war. Oceania’s rulers redirect the public’s potentially dangerous resentment by creating a perennial national foe. Actually, they fashion two: Eastasia and Eurasia. One is labeled a mortal enemy and the other an ally before suddenly reversing the roles, thereby keeping the proletariat further off-balance. The similar-sounding names produce additional confusion.

Obviously, no comparable situation exists here. We know exactly where the enemy lies: in Iraq.

Or is it Iran?

Room 101. In dreaded Room 101, Oceania’s nascent rebels (that is, independent thinkers—so we can be sure that most Americans would never see the place) are shattered via the ultimate torture: being forced to face the “worst thing in the world.” Smith experiences this literally when a cage strapped to his head allows access to his face by his greatest fear: rats.

You’d never see such shenanigans in America. PETA would howl.

Besides, everyone knows torture doesn’t work. A brutalized person admits to anything, true or not, to stop the pain. Threaten any American with credit card (or American Idol) cancellation and just wait for the babbling.

Yes, indeed, torture is distinctly un-American—even though the Geneva Conventions forbidding it are, as Alberto Gonzalez said in 2002, “quaint” and “obsolete.” No matter. Bush saved the day by forcefully putting his foot down when he stated: “America will never torture, arbitrarily imprison, kidnap, rape, murder people or take their stuff even.” Didn’t he?

Down the memory hole. In 1984, Smith rewrites history at the Orwellian-named Ministry of Truth, revising old newspaper articles and then slipping the incriminating evidence down a slot leading to an incinerator where old facts go to fry. Incredibly, some folks claim our government does the same thing! A Web site called the Memory Hole (how’s that for coincidence?) showcases materials it implies prove public information is regularly removed or doctored, à la 1984.

So it was interesting to compare the headline over a May 2003 screen shot from the White House Web site of Bush on a carrier that read “President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended” with one from October of that year only to see that the word “major” had been inserted before “combat.” America-haters would likely say there’s nothing like a pesky insurgency to make you eat your words (or add one).

But, honestly, who could’ve known before the invasion Iraq didn’t really endanger our beloved country? I mean, besides the millions of protesters proclaiming before the invasion that Iraq didn’t endanger our beloved country.

Personally, I don’t need government assistance to help me forget things. Why, just this morning I—

Uh … what was I saying?

Never mind. I’ve already proved my point, whatever it was.