Monday, June 24, 2013

Orwell Everywhere

Thanks to Eric Snowdon and the NSC, Orwell's back! 

Morten Hoi Jensen reminded us on Salon.com that it isn't Orwell's depiction in 1984 of a totalitarian state that makes him relevant to today, but his commentary on the abuse of language by people in power, about how they can use words to hide intentions even as they create an air of legitimacy: 
This isn’t meant to suggest that Orwell is not relevant to the current debate about the politics of electronic surveillance. ... (but) When NSA director James Clapper said he’d responded “in the least untruthful way” to Congress in March by telling them that the NSA does not intentionally collect any data of American citizens, Orwell’s famous definition of political language—that it is “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”— seemed particularly apt.
Jason Slotkin points out the irony of Orwellian becoming a hackneyed adjective thrown around in political discourse today.

Orwell crusaded against clichés like few public figures have before or since. As he said in his widely cited 1946 writing treatise Politics and the English Language: "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print."
... The fact his name is used so fluidly in a political context, to describe things Orwell supposedly wouldn't like, only heightens the sad irony of its rhetorical fate. As an essayist, Orwell railed against and lampooned the tropes of contemporary political writing. 
We also have articles from the Daily Beast telling us why we aren't living in Oceania, and one from the Washington Times telling us why we are.

And back in April, Geoffrey Pullum accused Orwell of "intellectual dishonesty," a term that neither Orwell nor Oliver Strunk would particularly approve of. (What's intellectual dishonesty? Is it different from physical dishonesty? Spiritual dishonesty? Gastroenterological? Someone is either honest or dishonest.)