America’s Orwellian Liberalism
By: Dr. Marvin Folkertsma
The ink was barely dry on the asterisk in Jimmy Hoffa Jr.â€™s rant about taking out those â€œsons-of-b*tchesâ€â€”referring to Tea Party membersâ€”when the vice president made his own contribution at a Labor Day rally. â€œThis is a fight for the existence of organized labor,â€ the veep shouted. â€œYou are the only ones who can stop the barbarians at the gate!â€ And the diatribes have continued, with the establishment of a website designed to track unfair comments made by those who, in President Obamaâ€™s words, want to â€œcrippleâ€ America. Congresswoman Maxine Watersâ€™ snippet about telling the Tea Party to â€œGo to H*ll!â€ (that pesky asterisk again) added a nice sentimental touch, and some Wall Street protesters are denouncing free enterprise with words snatched from Robespierreâ€™s rich vocabulary.
This is pretty harsh stuff applied to a menagerie of mostly gentle souls whose views of constitutional government differ from those of President Obama & Company, but such perfervid comments take on a clearer meaning when viewed in a more appropriate context: George Orwellâ€™s â€œ1984.â€ That is, somehow certain voices of liberalism today sound less like traditional partisan pep-talks and resemble more Oceaniaâ€™s â€œTwo-Minute Hateâ€ sessions, where party members screamed at a giant tele-screen filled with the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, one of Big Brotherâ€™s objective enemies. The purpose was to deflect rage against miserable social conditions by directing it to a foreign source; siphon off the hatred by venting against Big Brotherâ€™s enemies.
The parallels go beyond hurling epithets at that massive Leon Trotsky look-alike in one of the most memorable scenes in â€œ1984.â€ Consider the three slogans of The Party applied to todayâ€™s Orwellian liberalism: â€œWar is Peace,â€ â€œFreedom is Slavery,â€ and â€œIgnorance is Strength.â€ As explained in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, â€œthe bookâ€ within the book, the purpose of war was to preserve the domestic power structure. As applied to today, Orwellian liberalismâ€™s increasingly vicious attacks against the Tea Party and Republicans perform the same function, which is to preserve the current liberal power structure by blaming others for its failures. High unemployment, failed foreign policies, high energy prices, horrible housing markets, disastrous federal deficitsâ€”theyâ€™re all the fault of liberalismâ€™s enemies. Republicans and Tea Party membersâ€”you, like Emmanuel Goldstein of 1984â€”are being blamed and are being used a distraction.
â€œFreedom is Slaveryâ€ offers a host of villains in civil society to whom the American public is â€œenslavedâ€ under the guise of being free, and could be seen as similar to what Orwell had in mind. Thus, freedom to choose oneâ€™s own healthcare plan or no healthcare plan at all is slavery to the insurance companies; Americans â€œaddictedâ€ to oil to drive gas guzzlers is slavery to Exxon and its partners; freedom to eat French fries is slavery to McDonaldâ€™s clever advertising campaigns; and freedom to make your own investment decisions is slavery to Wall Street. In fact, Orwellian liberalism assumes that citizensâ€™ own decisions to live their lives pretty much as they please constitutes slavery to someone or another in a so-called â€œfree country,â€
Which leaves us with what is likely the most important slogan of Orwellian Liberalism, â€œIgnorance is Strength,â€ which means in this context that ignorant citizens constitute the foundation of the liberal establishment. President Obama could not get away with statements about â€œmillionaires and billionaires not paying their fair shareâ€ of the income tax without the silent collusion of Americansâ€™ ignorance about how much the upper two percent actually pay in taxes. Similarly, the countryâ€™s energy shortages could not conceivably exist with an informed citizenry that is aware of how well-connected environmental activists have prevented production in resources where North America dominates, such as coal, natural gas, and shale oil. Further, the propaganda campaign centering on an alleged â€œconsensusâ€ over anthropogenic global warming could not possibly succeed with an attentive public.
In short, â€œIgnorance is Strengthâ€ for Orwellian Liberals; pierce it, and the whole century-old liberal-progressive project collapses in a heap of prevarications and pretense.
If this happens, liberalsâ€™ presumption to govern on the basis of the other two slogans, as well as a thick vocabulary of Orwellian Double Speak, will collapse as well. The question is whether this situation can endure indefinitely, as it did in â€œ1984.â€ The answer depends on Americansâ€™ determination to reclaim control of their government.
â€” Dr. Marvin Folkertsma is a professor of political science and fellow for American studies with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The author of several books, his latest release is a high-energy novel titled “The Thirteenth Commandment.”