George Orwell, Call Your Office

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One of the problems that Orwell had in his classic 1984 is that of a disjunct between the inhabitants of the world he was describing and the inhabitants of the world in which people were reading his book. In other words, while Big Brother held everyone in thrall with propaganda that was believable to them, Orwell did not make the compelling nature of this propaganda obvious to the reader of the book. The reader does not feel any seductive tug or lure — rather, the sensation is one of being repelled and appalled.

I say all this with the Democratic National Convention fresh on my mind. My samples sizes are small because frankly I cannot abide those hypocrites, and so I can only take the bloviating in small doses. But nothing is more apparent than the fact that normal people, with drivers’ licenses and everything, eat this stuff up. All they have to do is throw in everything in that is so persuasive to the modern political mind, things like falling balloons, and the deal is sealed. Then there is the animal excitement of large crowds, and docudramatic falsified Vietnam footage (taken by Kerry himself in Vietnam with his future in politics in mind), and you have reached what I would describe as the utter frozen limit.

Just as in 1984, the image is what counts, and substance can go down the memory hole. Only we don’t need a memory hole, because everyone acknowledges that the bullets in the water were an added Hollywood feature. The substance just lies on the floor, and nobody cares anymore. It doesn’t have to be hidden, because the image is so much more fun. And this is the feature that Orwell missed (and Huxley grasped obliquely). It is fun being lied to.

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