Orwell as an enemy of the people ?

Jurriaan Bendien J.Bendien at wolmail.nl
Thu Nov 28 15:35:11 MST 2002

I don't really know why you people are so anti-Orwell, I can only guess -
honing up the revolutionary spirit ? - having read Deutscher's "The
mysticism of cruelty" and so on. But really you know, Orwell is the least of
our worries, there are far more pernicious authors to attack. And actually
Orwell is still very readable today, you don't have to be Chrissy Hitchens
to recognise that.

How about this passage from 1984:

"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston ?"
"I don't know. I don't know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four,
five, six - in all honesty, I don't know."
"Better", said O'Brien.
A needle slid into Winston's arm. Almost in the same instant a blissful,
healing warmth spread all through his body. The pain was already half
forgotten. he opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O'Brien. At sight
of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to
turn over. if he could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and
laid it on O'Brien's arm. He had never loved him so deeply as at this
moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain. (...)
"Do you know where you are, Winston ?", he said.
"I don't know. I can guess. In the Ministry of Love."
"Do you know how long you have been here ?"
"I don't know. days, weeks, months - I think it is months."
"And why do you imagine that we bring people to this place ?"
"To make them confess."
"No, that is not the reason. Try again."
"To punish them."
"No !", exclaimed O'Brien. His voice had changed extraordinarily, and his
face had suddenly become both stern and animated. "No ! Not merely to
extract your confession, not to punish you. Shall I tell you why we have
brought you here ? To cure you ! To make you sane ! Will you understand,
Winston, that no one whom we bring to this place ever leaves our hands
uncured ? We are not interested in these stupid crimes that you have
committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all
we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them. Do you
understand what I mean by that ?".

Now this kind of thing has a pretty contemporary ring to it, don't you think
? But I reckon that a more apposite target of critical inquiry would be the
Dutch reality TV programme "Big Brother" which is also being marketed in
other countries these days.


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