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Saturday, April 05, 2008


I have “plagiarized” the theme and title of this posting from an essay written for London’s Tribune by George Orwell in 1946. In that essay, Orwell writes of a “manner of thinking” which resembles “schizophrenia”, namely “the power of holding simultaneously two beliefs which cancel out.” “Closely allied to it,” Orwell continues, “is the power of ignoring facts which are obvious and unalterable.”

Although politics is, today especially, largely the business of managing change – whether or not “change” happens to be a campaign slogan – some things remain constant. And the discussion in Social Issues on Paltalk is often a virtual study in the kind of thinking Orwell describes. All sides are guilty of it, and to not fall into it requires great effort and honesty. The only way to avoid it is constantly to criticize one’s own views, and to be vigilant against making arguments of convenience.

Listed below are some of the more common and flagrant examples of the thinking to which I refer:

John McCain, Liberal or Warmonger? Liberals haven lately taken gleefully to pointing out that “John McCain is a liberal” as a way of sticking it to Republicans to whom the very word “liberal” is as holy water to a vampire. There is a grain of truth to that assertion, but the way it is put is far too glib. It is true that John McCain’s pro-life and anti-immigration credentials are something less than impeccable, and that he has not marched in lockstep with the GOP on every issue. However, that hardly makes him “liberal” in the sense most people understand that word.

John McCain is an economic anti-interventionist; a fiscal conservative just like any good Republican. More than half of the economic plan on his website is devoted to cutting taxes, and most of the rest discusses reducing social spending and lowering “barriers to trade”. There are two sentences on reforming healthcare “by harnessing market competition.” On foreign policy, McCain is advised by a combination of paleo-realists like Henry Kissinger and neoconservatives such as William Kristol. Neoconservatism and Kissinger’s brand of realism are two schools of thought that are methodologically at odds, to be sure, but neither of them can be well accused of liberalism. McCain has consistently called for “more boots on the ground” as the solution to the debacle in Iraq and hasn’t made the slightest of noises about withdrawing therefrom. And we’re all familiar with his unfortunate Beach Boys’ rendition.

So please, authentic liberals, be serious (though that may be too much to ask of the likes of FlushBush). You don’t get to call McCain a war monger and a liberal at the same time. Go ahead and jeer about how he has supported the “murder” of fetuses and “amnesty” for illegal immigrants – the Kool Aid guzzlers hate that – but be specific about it. McCain is not a liberal and you know it. Here’s a thought: Why don’t you just completely deny reality and your political principles and declare that you would be content with a McCain Presidency? It would be more consistent.

Republicans Lie, Except about Hillary Clinton. Since the hated Hillary Clinton is running for the highest office in the land, the anti-Clinton smears of the 1990s have enjoyed a revival. It is unsurprising that this slime should be regurgitated by the Republicans who lapped it up with such relish to begin with, but I have on many occasions heard Democrats and other left-wingers suggest that the Clintons had Vince Foster murdered or that Bill Clinton is a rapist. Such attacks are foul and false and of the same nature as the Swift Boat ads. They have been admitted to be false by their main purveyor David Brock, reformed hit-man for the “vast right-wing conspiracy” and proprietor of the media watchdog, If you buy into them, you have zero credibility to attack the shameful tactics of Karl Rove and Fox News. Indeed, you should be ashamed of yourself.

But there’s no need for such shenanigans, for there is plenty that is true about Hillary Clinton to criticize. She lies fairly often, she’s hawkish on war and pro-business on the economy, and she shows near complete disregard for the interests of the Democratic Party, even praising the Republican candidate when it serves her interest. In fact, she behaves very much like a Republican herself. Why follow her example?

The “Lib-Belly” Congress and Bush’s Veto. Since the Republicans were defeated in the 2006 midterm elections, President Bush has discovered his power to veto and been exercising it liberally. And when Bush doesn’t veto a bill, he arrogates to himself the power of the judiciary by issuing a “signing statement” along with his signature delineating how he, the executive, will interpret the law. Accordingly, liberals in Congress have been unable to enforce the people’s demands and hence have grown less and less popular with the American public which, sadly, has little understanding of the way our government functions.

Conservatives, for instance tommyjohnson44, take this as evidence that the “lib-belly” Congress is incompetent and that its approval rating reflects people’s opinion of liberalism itself. Hogwash. The ’06 midterms were a referendum on the performance of Republicans in power; on conservatism. The current Congress is unpopular mostly because – due precisely to Bush’s unprecedented recalcitrance – it has been unable to take steps to undo the terrible mistakes he and the formerly Republican-controlled Congress have made. People are unhappy with Congress because Congress has not been liberal enough.

If you must gloat, then, conservatives, please be honest and gloat over the fact that you have at least temporarily foisted authoritarian control on an unsuspecting public now unable to break free of it despite its wishes. Attributing the low approval rating of Congress to the moral bankruptcy of liberalism in the eyes of the majority is surely a clever way of denying reality, but the fact remains that the Bush Administration defies the will of the public, no matter how much your Dear Leader mouths the word “liberty” or “democracy.” “Freedom is Slavery” indeed. Orwell must smile sadly at us from his grave.

There are a great many more examples of this self-deluding style of thought. For instance; the accusation of Hillary Clinton supporters that the Obama campaign is nasty and divisive when the opposite is clearly true and most of the divisiveness has come from the Hillary camp, the belief that all Presidential candidates are always the same combined with an especial hatred of George W. Bush, racists of all colors who are righteously indignant at the slightest perception of racism in the hated race, and so forth.

To think in that way is to be intellectually mercenary. It is to accept things as true simply because it would be convenient if they were true. It is an offence against the idea of truth. People who think like that are clay for the totalitarian sculptor. The world of 1984 may not yet be upon us, but Big Brother is certainly watching. And he is always waiting for opportunities to lead those who can be convinced of the proposition that two and two equal five if it meets some emotional need. So wake up, sleepwalkers. It may take a little effort, but if you don’t you will remain prone to being led by the nose by forces which you will never, in your blindness, see.