Monday, December 27, 2010

George Orwell Redux!--- Gene Lyons, nationally-syndicated columnist, from "Fox in the Henhouse" (12-26-10) Recently, I reread Orwell's "Looking Back at the Spanish War." The 1943 essay summarizes what he learned as a volunteer militiaman fighting for Spain's Socialist government against Franco's fascist-backed rebels - a bitterly disillusioning experience that inspired his three greatest books: "Homage to Catalonia," "1984" and "Animal Farm." In it, Orwell describes the corrosive effect of politicized mass media. In Spain, he wrote, "I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed...I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various 'party lines'."


  1. You might venture over and read Chris Hedges' article on a dystopian America.

    Good thought, here!

  2. I'm shocked by the vitriol being spouted in the comments below the article! Not one was doing anything except yell the party line whilst bashing their opponents as often as they could. Very unedifying!

    The article on the other hand was interesting and thought provoking.

  3. Oh, and just for information, our recently elected government is proposing to 'liberalise' media laws to allow control of most (by a huge margin) of our media outlets to be owned by Murdoch! I see Fox News UK in my future!

  4. I think this only goes to amplify the message that if its in the corporate media it probably isn't true, a maxim that provides me with endless comfort Doug.

    In the article Gene Lyons makes the point that the closest comparison to what Fox does daily would be the party-line propaganda sheets of the far left and extreme right that made Orwell worry "that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world."

    Personally I don't think Orwell was particularly referring to the 'propaganda sheets of the far left or extreme right' but rather to the media sources hitherto deemed relatively 'reliable' the present context not so much Fox News as CNN and the BBC.

    I think the risk that publicly acclaimed and established journalists like George Orwell run when they denounce disinformation (doublethink or whatever we call it) is to ignore their own role in its production and dissemination. That seems to me to be a demon Orwell constantly wrestled with and finally lost out to toward the end of his life.

    Orwell befriended fellow old Etonian David Astor, owner and editor of the Observer, and worked on a number of assignments for him. Orwell also met in Paris the philosopher (and another fellow old Etonian) A.J. ‘Freddie’ Ayer, who was in Paris for the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) which was particularly concerned about the danger of a communist coup.

    I have also raised similar concerns recently about John Pilger on my own site Doug.....

    Not that I think he or Michael Moore works for any intelligence agencies directly, their job is rather to set the boundaries of dissent and to marshall the 'opposition' within preset parameters.

    How willingly they do that is anybodies guess, but I don't think it really matters very much anyway.

    The so-called 'Fifth Estate' of bloggers and internet observation posters are not in that set of arrangements I don't think, although of course this entire region of cyberspace more resembles Tangier in 1940 than it does London or New York then or now, I think.

    Radical scepticism in my opinion is the only safe option, founded upon a conviction that the entire propaganda model of 'news' production, is a cultural construct with only a very tangential relationship to demonstrable 'fact'.

    The quote opens a Pandora's Box of claims and counter claims I think Doug and for that reason it is very interesting, so thanks for posting it and opening up further discussion of the fascinating world of information, misinformation and disinformation to which we are exposed daily.

  5. That's one of the reasons commenting on those anonymous news sites, Jim. Everybody is laying for everybody else with little to add but insults and the "bravado" that people who are afraid to think beyond the "pack" of their choice.

    Glad you liked Mr. Lyons article.

  6. That sounds very unedifying Jim.

    "Liberalization" of the American media since the 1990's and the death of "Equal Time Laws" has meant much the same thing: "freedom of speech" goes to the highest bidder and Uncle Rupert has bastardized the whole concept of balance in presenting opinion and facts in the mas media! May your government not pass such a "reform".

  7. It's likely that major and respected news agencies do indeed fudgethe truth and report along the lines of their editorial boards and theownership that stands behind them...we have a good example in the way that "Newsweek", "The NY Times" and "The Washington Post" handled the run-up to the Second Iraq War--a bended knee affirmation of the neo-con agenda at Bush's White House.

    Orwell's remark about national leaders starting a war by invariably stating "we" are up against a force of great evils couldn't be more precient!

    You raise an interesting dilemma for any paid journalist in how he or she reports events with one eye on what they leave in and leave out for the sake of ideology or personal or institutional bias. It is certainly easier to se the bias in an outfit like Fox News, a heavy-handed outlet that has little appeal beyond a certain mindset. It's the more prestigious disseminators that I agree we must also be weary of, precisely because they are more subtle and can slip and skew thecoverage of "facts" in ways more diasterous to the "thinking public". Framing an important event like the outbreak of war or the unraveling of economic life on innocent people requires constant questioning and many sources.

    Thanks for including the link to Peeble's insightful article, AA. It's a welcome addition to this brief note, as are all the comments below.