We Shouldn't Abuse Orwell's Writing When Discussing the NSA Scandal, Especially on His Birthday

Credit: Branch of the National Union of Journalists (BNUJ)Credit: Branch of the National Union of Journalists (BNUJ)On this day in 1903 Eric Blair, who would come to be better known by his pen-name George Orwell, was born in India.

Orwell is perhaps best known for his objections to totalitarianism, which were not only displayed in his novels and essays but also in his decision to fight with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.

It was Orwell who coined the term “Big Brother” in his classic dystopian novel 1984. Looking through some of Orwell’s better-known quotes there are a couple that now seem especially timely.

  • From the essay "Politics and the English Language": "Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
  • From the essay "The Freedom of the Press": "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Since the Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance sales of 1984 have, perhaps unsurprisingly, skyrocketed. While some of Orwell's writings may seem especially timely now we should be wary of casually drawing too many comparisons between the some of Orwell's fiction and the current state of affairsMichael Moynihan, cultural news editor at The Daily Beast and contributing editor to Reason, has rightly pointed out that it would be wrong to think that the contemporary U.S. is anything like the dystopia described in 1984, saying that, “The rule here is simple: If you are invoking 1984 in a country in which 1984 is available for purchase and can be freely deployed as a rhetorical device, you likely don’t understand the point of 1984.”

While it might be easy to flippantly deploy Orwell’s writing or to mistakenly say that we we are somehow living in the world described in 1984 it is remarkable that more than 50 years after Orwell’s death politicians and commentators continue to use the word “Orwellian” as a derogatory term.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You know who else's name we regularly toss around to make a point about fascism?

  • ||

    BOOOOSH!

  • Ted S.||

    Shreeky?

  • Tonio||

    Sir Oswald Mosely?

  • Brett L||

    Bloomberg?

  • Bardas Phocas||

    Grand Moff Tarkin?

  • ||

    Chuck Schumer?

  • DK||

  • sloopyinca||

    Beldar?

  • Almanian!||

    The Koch Brothers™?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Certainly, aspects of 1984 are creeping into our government and our way of life. And we may continue to have some hallmarks of freedom well after the government has completely stopped having any limits on it at all. We'll likely fail to realize for some time when we've crossed that magic line between a free society and a tyranny.

  • mr simple||

    Right, we don't need to wait until we are in a full blown 1984 world before we can compare our situation to what occured in the book. That's like saying, "You're not on fire. Only your shoe is on fire. Don't be hyperbolic."

  • Pro Libertate||

    We're walking straight towards a full-blown tyranny. We can either bitch about it and try to change directions, or we can quietly let it happen. A little hyperbole seems in order, to me.

  • AlexInCT||

    What we have going on is the "throw the frog in boiling water or put it in the pot and turn up the heat" parable at play.

  • Marginal||

    You know what helps ward off tyranny? Posting snark on a libertarian comment board. It's like garlic to vampires.

    I am more guilty of slacktivism than anyone, so everyone can hold off on putting me in the 'hyprocisy' stockades.

  • Marginal||

    "stocks," not stockades. Or "pillory," if you prefer.

  • Robert||

    Better being hyperbolic than hypergolic. Then you would be on fire.

  • sloopyinca||

    Both are better than being hypoglycemic. At least that's what The First Lady told me.

  • Xenocles||

    And if you would turn out like SF, anything is better than being hyperglycemic.

  • Brett L||

    We'll likely fail to realize for some time when we've crossed that magic line between a free society and a tyranny.

    We already have. You're not free to question the King's men without consequence, so now its just about whether water to boil the frog is heated quickly or slowly.

  • Pro Libertate||

    In some respects, I think you're right, though I think we retain at least the inertia of a freer society. I do suspect that we're not quite dead yet, in the sense that the government still fears that a slumbering population might awaken to what's been happening.

    After all, most of us are descended from (or are) people who came here to be freer than wherever they came from. It may be buried deep or lost to many, but individual rights are the hallmark to being an American.

  • sarcasmic||

    Just because today's Americans are descended from people who valued liberty and individual rights doesn't mean they're not domesticated and tamed. Pugs are descended from wolves. That doesn't make them any less willing to please their masters.

  • Robert||

    But they're so cute, it was worth it.

  • pmains||

    People aren't exactly storming the capitol building over the NSA revelations. Yes, there's some grumbling, but, basically, any abuse of civil liberties is going to be greeted with a shrug.

    I suppose that we'll know for sure that the transformation from free citizens to denizens of Pleasure Island has taken place when Premier Obama starts hosting his weekly TV Show, "Snap a Puppy's Neck and Shoot an Innocent Grandmother in Cold Blood".

  • Pro Libertate||

    Our tolerance for abuse is far greater than it once was. Some of our predecessors would've have shot government officials over the tax burden alone. Just that.

  • sarcasmic||

    In the past communities looked out for each other. Government assholes could only get away with so much before neighbors would start backing each other up.

    Now it is common to live in a neighborhood and not be acquainted with a single soul. Parents are afraid to let their children play outside because the believe there's a creeper around every corner. Every stranger is not a fellow member of society, but a potential criminal.

    When communities don't trust each other, it makes it easy for government assholes to get away with anything they want, because no one will question them.

    I don't believe this is an accident either.

  • Gordilocks||

    +1

  • Gray Ghost||

    ...Shoot an Innocent Grandmother in Cold Blood".

    These days, isn't that the plot to The First 48?

    Per ProL's point, I can't see my kamikaze-facing granddad putting up with some near-minimum wage, polyester-clad goon sticking her hands all over my grandma. Yet we do. Buckley had his famous essay, "Why Don't We Complain?" back in 1961, so perhaps they weren't immune either. Most people don't give a shit. Why they don't, is an interesting question.

    As it is though, we all have roofs over our heads, we get to eat, and crime is at an all time low. Things will have to get quite a bit worse before it changes, if it does.

  • some guy||

    Now we're overusing that boiled frog parable. For the record, frogs won't willing let you boil them no matter how slowly you raise the temperature.

    Of course, if the frog has no way out...

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's still a good parable. Where it breaks down when used as a metaphor for our political system is that we know the temperature is going up. It's not a secret at all.

  • Almanian!||

    Where it breaks down is that I'M NOT A FROG! SHEESH!

    *returns to watching "Boardwalk Empire" and reading Salon*

  • PapayaSF||

    "Obama's approval rating dropped eight points in just one month. He vows to win those people back by tracking them down through their phone calls and emails." —Jay Leno

    "President Obama will meet with regular Americans to hear their concerns about the White House electronic surveillance program. Or more accurately, RE-hear them." —Jimmy Fallon

  • Ronny Paulino||

    I'm generally not a Leno fan but based on what I've read he's had a ton of good Obama jokes lately.

  • PapayaSF||

    The best one I heard was: "The IRS hasn't yet figured out the tax bill for the Florida women who won the Powerball lottery, because they don't know if she's a Republican or a Democrat."

  • Pro Libertate||

    She's a local. I hope she follows Hit & Run and wants to reward me obscenely for my comments. Ten or twenty million, whatever she can afford.

  • ||

    Just think how much reason swag you'll be able to get with that sizable a donation, ProL!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, indeed. That is a remote possibility if she gives me the money. Who knows what I might do?

  • ||

    "I don't think President Obama is here tonight, but I'm sure he's listening in." --Mick Jaggar at a concert in DC last night.

  • Pro Libertate||

    When you've lost the Stones. . . .

  • PapayaSF||

    Apparently Jagger is a Tory and was a fan of Thatcher.

  • JW||

    IIRC, members of the Stones were UK tax refugees in the 70s.

  • BakedPenguin||

    They basically had no choice. The UK tax laws were so insane at that point, they were being charged something like 105% of every pound they made.

  • John||

    They owed so much in back taxes and the taxes on their future earnings were so high, there was no way to ever pay the back taxes if they stayed.

  • some guy||

    It's all in good fun when you're on the same TEAM.

  • John||

    Jagger is one of the greatest marketers of the 20th Century. If anyone knows which way the wind is blowing, he does. If Mick Jagger thinks it is a good idea to make fun of you in public, the winds of popular culture have most certainly turned against you.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    "President Obama got some good news today. The IRS ruled he can write off the first half of his second term as a total loss." - Jay Leno

  • Libertymike||

    "creeping into"?

    Yes, when you were a kid and you observed another kid put his hands on the stove, you asked him, "warm, huh?"

  • Zeb||

    I think creeping into is reasonable. The world of 1984 is one of total surveillance and control of all aspects of production, employment and information. We certainly have elements of all of those things today, but nothing vaguely close to the totality of control depicted in 1984. It is certainly terrible that we are creeping towards a creepy totalitarianism, but you can still pretty much say or do as you wish in your own home, you can call the president an asshole on the internet all day long. Barrack Obama is a sheep fucker. If you don't see me here tomorrow, maybe you are right.
    Let's put it this way, mike: if we were rushing into 1984, we'd all probably be locked up or dead.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I doubt seriously that American totalitarianism will be that overt. In fact, we may very well be allowed to keep the window dressing of freedom while, in effect, having very little.

  • mr simple||

    My fellow Earthicans, we enjoy so much freedom, it's almost sickening.We're free to choose which hand our sex-monitoring chip is implanted in.If we don't want to pay our taxes, why, we're free to spend a weekend with the Pain Monster.

  • ||

    Read The Plot Against America for a good example of what soft-peddled American totalitarianism might look like.

  • ||

    I was going to say Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg was pretty good, as well. Plus it starts out with a great George Carlin (I think it was Carlin) quote about how the American jackboots won't look anything like the German jackboots.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    I doubt seriously that American totalitarianism will be that overt. In fact, we may very well be allowed to keep the window dressing of freedom while, in effect, having very little.

    Yep,

    Our fascist masters realize that letting people vent doesn't actually change a goddamn thing and it keeps most people from going postal on their asses.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's not a new thing. Augustus started off his one-man rule by "restoring the Republic." And he really did, in the sense that he restored the facade of Republican institutions.

  • Calidissident||

    If you remember, in 1984 the government was not as oppressive towards the proles as the members of the Outer Party. It allowed them a veneer of freedom.

  • Fluffy||

    The rule here is simple: If you are invoking 1984 in a country in which 1984 is available for purchase and can be freely deployed as a rhetorical device, you likely don’t understand the point of 1984.

    The dystopia of Oceania was physically terrifying, sure, but the physical terror was employed (ultimately) in the service of an epistemological goal.

    The Party wanted to control what it was even theoretically possible to think by totally controlling language (and with it, conceptualization) and by totally controlling the historical record. Everything else the Party did was in the service of those two things.

    So I think Moynihan is the one who didn't get 1984. If you think that it's necessary to be an Epcot walkthrough re-enactment of a Stalinist state to qualify as Orwellian, it's because you're far too literal-minded.

  • SugarFree||

    "It can't be Kafka-esque. No one's turn into a gigantic incest yet."

  • Irish||

    "It can't be Kafka-esque. No one's turn into a gigantic incest yet."

    Yeah. You put it much more succinctly than I did.

  • ||

    No one's turn into a gigantic incest yet.

    Ummmm...

  • SugarFree||

    Err. Um. Totally a typo, you guys.

  • ||

    No one's turn into a gigantic incest yet.

    You couldn't even get the participle right!

  • SugarFree||

    It's just all falling apart today.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    One could almost describe the savage beating Sugarfree is taking over this to be a form of hatred -- one that lasts for two minutes, even.

  • SugarFree||

    If I didn't exist they'd have to make me up.

  • Almanian!||

    That's our SugarFree!

    *audience applauds riotously*

  • ||

    You know that was a Freudian Slip.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It doesn't get more Freudian than that.

  • ||

    Tell me about your mother, ProL.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Let me tell you about my mother.

    [Pro Lib shoots Episiarch with a gun he had pulled out under the table]

  • PapayaSF||

    John had a better one on the Hillary thread today, when he said she has the feminist vote sowed up. LOL

  • Pro Libertate||

    Ooh, good one. I was just about to say that John makes the best errors.

  • Brett L||

    I just assumed that was something that spontaneously happened at family reunions in Kentucky.

  • Brandybuck||

    The family that lays together stays together

  • mr simple||

    It always comes back to incest with you, doesn't it?

  • Irish||

    It always comes back to incest with you, doesn't it?

    Well, he gets reminded of it every time he looks at his parents' wedding pictures.

  • Irish||

    I would also argue that 1984 is meant to take real world totalitarianism and bring it to an extreme. Newspeak wouldn't actually be possible as it's presented in the book, but you can see the logic behind Newspeak in the way that PC academics think and talk.

    1984 isn't meant to be taken literally. It exaggerates the bad things government does for effect. The government definitely attempts to stifle opposing views and the current administration has shown no qualms about demonizing and attacking political opponents, often with the full force of government agencies. I don't know how anyone can claim this isn't 'Orwellian' even if it isn't exactly like 1984.

  • LynchPin1477||

    1984 isn't meant to be taken literally

    That may be true, but after I read it for the first time I studied up a fair amount on North Korea. It's amazing how closely they do manage to resemble the world of 1984. It was a real eye opener for me.

  • ||

    but you can see the logic behind Newspeak in the way that PC academics think and talk.

    *cough* George Lakoff *cough*

  • PapayaSF||

    You are just too trapped in the heteronormative rape culture to see the truth!

  • MJGreen||

    While some aspects of 1984 are conceivable, I agree that it's wrong to take it literally. It is a novel, everything is heightened for dramatic effect.

    But you can and should draw the parallels and see if the underlying logic is at work in the real world. An oft-neglected insight of the book is the explanation of "War is Peace." You don't need three global superpowers engaged in constant warfare to warn about how the logic behind 'perpetual war' manifests itself in modern politics.

  • Gray Ghost||

    ...but you can see the logic behind Newspeak in the way that PC academics think and talk.

    Or economists.

    "How can we be broke? We're still issuing bonds, aren't we?"

  • kinnath||

    I was a mere teenager when I read 1984 in the middle 70s. While many of the specifics of Orwell's world have not appeared in our world, the fundamental intrusion of the state into individual lives for the sole purpose of enabling a bigger, stronger state has been ongoing and accelerating through out my adult life.

    WAR IS PEACE
    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

  • Tony||

    CLEAR SKIES INITIATIVE

  • SugarFree||

    Fuck off, sockpuppet.

  • kinnath||

    If you take the cross product of 1984 and Idiocracy, you get Tony.

  • AlexInCT||

    He's been drinking that toilet water I bet...

  • SugarFree||

    Slamming the toilet lid down on his head is the #1 killer of Tonys nation-wide. The CDC is funding a multi-year study.

  • PapayaSF||

    AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

  • Calidissident||

    Because everyone here loves Bush

  • Calidissident||

    To expand on this thought, it really is amazing how Tony has the nerve to use Bush to bash libertarians, when Bush was/is far closer in his political views to Obama and the Democratic Party than he is to libertarians, across-the-board on almost every major issue

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Michael Moynihan, cultural news editor at The Daily Beast and contributing editor to Reason, has rightly pointed out that it would be wrong to think that the contemporary U.S. is anything like the dystopia described in 1984

    Not for lack of trying on the part of politicians. Obama and his bipartisan friends on Capitol Hill don't get credit for the system of freedom that we have, especially when they are working so hard to dismantle that system.

  • Irish||

    It's more like Kafka anyway, as Tony has made clear.

    After all, the argument of people who are opposed to Snowden often amounts to this:

    "We should have Democracy. Therefore we should get to vote on whether the NSA should be allowed to have this information. However, since Snowden informed the terrorists about this without us being able to vote he denied us Democracy. We should have voted about something none of us knew existed."

    If that isn't logic straight out of The Castle, I don't know what is.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    But, but, we're still at war with Eurasia.

  • ||

    The incredible police efficiency of Big Brother and the ThoughtPol is impossible.

    So the next best thing is to simply convince the people that they are acting virtuously and punishing transgressors when they give the state authority to target the bad people. That's why they left loves the class warfare schtick, it's easy to drum up support to get those evil rich capitalist bastards even at the expense of liberty.

  • PapayaSF||

    Not to mention the mob-delusional persecution of thoughtcrime by all and sundry. "That kid made a pistol from a Pop Tart or with his fingers! Kick him out of school and given him counseling!"

  • ||

    1984 is a novelization of "Politics and the English Language". That is, the whole point of the novel is that the Party literally controlled people's thoughts by controlling language. To say that we can't live in an Orwellian nightmare until we're drinking Victory gin and rats are eating our faces is missing the point.

  • ||

    And I see Fluffy already made my point. Well, fuck you, Fluffy. You're ugly.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I didn't see anything. You posted first. In fact, there's no one here named Fluffy. There never was.

  • sarcasmic||

    When someone like Mary gets tossed down the Reason memory hole, the orphaned posts are disconcerting.

  • sarcasmic||

    When the unintended or unseen consequences of shitty legislation and regulation result not in repeal, but in more shitty legislation and regulation, the logical conclusion is a totalitarian state where every nuance of life is governed with rules backed with violence.

    So it's only a matter of time.

  • SugarFree||

    Speaking of Kafka-esque: First Daughter appears in public and people have the AUDICITY to take a PHOTOGRAPH and PUBLISH it. We don't treat princesses this way. I hope Barry The Choomer demands his eyes in recompense.

  • ||

    What the fuck kind of father allows his henchmen to allow his goons to allow his daughter out in public like that?

  • SugarFree||

    It was just SOHO. I don't see why they didn't just cordon off the whole area and evacuate it. No discomforts the commoners experience could possibly match the disgust the princess must endure upon having to interact with them. If the stores complain, isn't that what the IRS is for?

  • Warrren||

    The Male Glaze!

  • Zeb||

    If you don't want your kids to be the subject of public scrutiny and gossip columns, don't become president. Or at least don't use your family as political props. It's just that easy.

  • Doctor Whom||

    “The rule here is simple: If you are invoking 1984 in a country in which 1984 is available for purchase and can be freely deployed as a rhetorical device, you likely don’t understand the point of 1984.”

    I don't think Moynihan understands the point of dystopian literature in general. We don't have to be at the stated destination to see the warning signs.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    “The rule here is simple: If you are invoking 1984 in a country in which 1984 is available for purchase and can be freely deployed as a rhetorical device, you likely don’t understand the point of 1984.”

    Maybe it's Moynihan who doesn't understand the point of 1984. Orwell never meant for 1984 to be a direct prediction of the future, it was satire to show what could happen if totalitarianism was allowed to creep into institutions, and that the west was not immune from that happening. Orwell was a strong supporter of socialism, but deliberately used the name IngSoc (English socialism) to hammer home the point that totalitarianism could, if not resisted, corrupt any ideology, even one he considered to be the opposite of totalitarianism. 1984 was a warning. We should heed it.

  • ||

    Wasn't Orwell a sort of anarchist socialist, though?

  • Irish||

    He fell in with the Anarchists in Barcelona and they were subsequently crushed by the state socialists that were funded by Russia.

    I'm not sure if he bought into the Anarcho-socialist belief system, or if he just ended up working with them by accident.

  • ||

    I keep meaning to read Homage to Catalonia.

  • Zeb||

    I haven't read it for a long time, but as I remember it is interesting and entertaining. And he did seem rather sympathetic to the anarcho-socialists if not a whole-hearted supporter.

  • ||

    His experiences in Barcelona with the various Republican factions kind of soured him on most political ideologies.

  • ||

    My experience with SF's sister/wife soured me on all genetic ideologies.

  • ||

    Dude, don't talk about his mom like that.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    He distrusted collectivism, so in that sense you could say that.

  • sarcasmic||

    I wonder how "marriage" was defined in the Newspeak dictionary.

  • SugarFree||

    Marriages were permitted, but they had to be officially approved and were to be undertaken for the sole purpose of begetting children who would grow up to be responsible Party members.

    Sounds like your definition.

  • sarcasmic||

    Not quite. Nice straw man though. The scarf is a nice touch.

  • SugarFree||

    One man. One Woman. Make straight babies. Marriages aren't about who you want to be with, and desire isn't a factor.

    Where am I wrong? Oh, that's right... you wanted the Newspeak definition to not be your definition. Gay marriage isn't permitted in Ingsoc. Sounds like utopia to you.

  • sarcasmic||

    I only object to the definition being backed with force.

    In my utopia you could call a man and another man a marriage, I could laugh at you, and nothing else would happen.

    Not so in the USSA.

  • SugarFree||

    But you were still wrong about the Newspeak definition, weren't you? Sorry I didn't let you gay-bait in peace.

  • sarcasmic||

    I never said anything about what I thought the Newspeak defintion was.
    You're just killing those straw men! Setting them on fire!

  • SugarFree||

    Someone said yesterday that mainstream journalist hate Greenwald so much because he has a good memory of what they've said in the past.

    Sorry I have a good memory.

  • sarcasmic||

    Oh, and talk about missing the point.

    The point was controlling the people by controlling the language. As in putting force behind the definitions of words, and punishing those who use them improperly.

    You, in wanting to use government force against people like me who believe marriage to mean something other than what you believe it to mean, are the one who would be at home in Orwell's 1984.

  • SugarFree||

    You, in wanting to use government force against people like me who believe marriage to mean something other than what you believe it to mean, are the one who would be at home in Orwell's 1984.

    Yet it's the definition you prefer that they are enforcing. So what's the problem? Oh, yeah. You think enforcing your definition is just fine.

    Words can never mean anything different. They mean the same thing forever and ever.

  • sarcasmic||

    So many straw men, so little time.

    What does it matter which definition is enforced? Putting force behind the definition of a word is the problem. Our fighting over which definition will be backed with violence only gives the government more power.

    Seriously, why are you so emotionally invested in this? So you have a gay sister who wants to get married? For me it's more semantic than anything else.

    Why do you care?

  • sarcasmic||

    *Do* not So

  • Calidissident||

    If it doesn't matter what definition is enforced, then why do you give a shit about gay marriage laws? They don't change anything in that regard. In either case, the government has a definition of marriage.

    I think almost everyone here thinks the government should not be in the business of giving out marriage licenses. Supporting gay marriage as a better alternative to the status quo is not inconsistent with that

  • ||

    Those poor polygamists. They're the beaten, red-headed step-children of marriage. People may not be able to figure out if gay people can be married, but they practically all know that if you marry more than one, you deserve to die.

  • ||

    Mawage(n)
    1:wot bwings us togeder tooday.
    2: That bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Peter Cook was great. We need to bring him back from the dead.

  • ||

    Pro Lib! You did something right!

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    He's all the way dead. You can only bring back people that are mostly dead. Sorry.

  • Ted S.||

    I thought they didn't have marriage any longer, as the only acceptable form of sex was for procreation.

  • SugarFree||

    What I posted is a direct quote. Winston was even married at one point himself.

  • Pro Libertate||

    To himself? That seems odd to me.

  • SugarFree||

    Your autophilia is reaching new depths.

  • Warrren||

    Autopia!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Hey, I'm not the one advocating self-marriage. You are. Why is that?

  • sarcasmic||

    I knew a guy who loudly professed that if he could go down on himself he'd never get out of bed. I recommended yoga. Don't know whatever happened to him.

  • Warrren||

    The yoga worked!

  • sarcasmic||

    I never read anything in the paper about some contorted starved body found in bed with its lips wrapped tightly around its penis, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

  • Warrren||

    Isn't that how Nixon went out?

  • Zeb||

    I bet he'd get over it fast. There are only so many times you can ejaculate in a day before it becomes work, or just impossible.

  • Numeromancer||

    It's not about the destination, it's about the journey.

  • ||

    I'd rather stop the government from gaining totalitarian-like powers before they start abusing them than to wait until we're actually in a totalitarian state to start complaining.

    I'm appalled by the absurd notion that because abuse hasn't happened yet (how would we even know if it had?), that we don't need to be concerned about the government having all the tools available at it's disposal to spy on, blackmail, and control any individual it wants to.

    They aren't just going to declare a dictatorship one day and silence anyone that speaks against it. Oppression will happen in secret long before it becomes overt. The NSA now has all the tools it needs to allow the president to effectively spy on any person the president declares is an enemy combatant, whether they are US citizens in the US or not. And they can use that power to suppress the opposition. Given that all of this is classified, it is only a matter of time before it actually gets used. We will never know what voices are being shut up, because we simply will not hear them.

  • Lord Humungus||

    ^^this^^

    well said.

  • sarcasmic||

    Well said, as usual.

  • SugarFree||

    Her head is very symmetrical for a white girl. (Seriously, read that thread. It's weird.)

  • Irish||

    That's one of the funniest threads I've ever seen. Unfortunately, the picture no longer works. I am therefore unable to tell how symmetrical her head is.

    SugarFree,

    Women don't know how to take compliments that don't scream, 'I want to jump your bones.' That one came from territory with which they are unfamiliar. I went with Cong strategy, and not John Wayne tactics with that one.

    I have to be careful though. One thing I learned years ago, they hate a guy whose manipulations are more subtle than their own.

    Just sounds to me like a girl who doesn't know a compliment when she hears one from a guy with Asperger Syndrome.

    Oh, I will remember that.

    Seriously. What the fuck?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    From that comment I conclude that the real Hazel has been dead for 3 years and her skin now adorns this man's neckerchief.

  • Killazontherun||

    Amazing how skin can keep a lustrous pink after so many years to make a decent neckerchief. You have to be careful though and you can't apply the solvents like you are tanning leather. Water it down, half the solution with grain alcohol does the trick.

  • Killazontherun||

    Yeah what the fuck indeed. Cockblocking Art-Prog. The worst.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Wait wait wait. How did I miss that? Are you telling me that Hazel really is, in fact, a female of the species (to wit, human)?

  • Zeb||

    Whatever happened to Art-POG?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Hear, hear.

  • ||

    As you know, what lies in Room 101 in the Ministry of Love is the worst thing in the world: a person's greatest individual fear.

    So fellow Reasonoids, what would lie in Room 101 for you? The data collected will be completely confidential and in no way shared.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    The Amanda Marcotte/Ezra Klein/Matt Yglesias sex tape.

  • Irish||

    You will burn in hell for that.

  • SugarFree||

    The Human Ouroboros

  • ||

    You get to be the middle piece!

  • SugarFree||

    There is no middle piece. Think about it.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    I think that Joe M already thought about it. Think about it.

  • John||

    Mine is the Yglesias, Klein, Sullivan sex tape.

  • sloopyinca||

    Ooh!

    Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Paul Krugman.

    You're welcome.

  • John||

    The weekly Supreme Court get your freak on.

  • Zeb||

    Yikes. Getting into Bill Hicks territory there.

  • PapayaSF||

    The Amanda Marcotte/Ezra Klein/Matt Yglesias political education course would be worse.

  • MJGreen||

    So, what, Amanda is off to the side fingering herself or something?

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I don't want to give away the twist ending, but it involves a strap-on.

  • Gray Ghost||

    It's a sled.

  • Pro Libertate||

    A life of total luxury without need, want, or pain.

  • ||

    A scene of Uwe Boll and Michael Bay talking together excitedly and gesturing with obvious delight at a script they're both reading.

  • sloopyinca||

    Jimbo! How goes the healing?

  • Lord Humungus||

    Warty.

  • ||

    No, you idiot, I'm the Thing That Should Not Be. I can't be both.

  • sarcasmic||

  • ||

    Laszlo Hollyfeld...in his pajamas.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Warty

  • ||

    Ratbaggers

  • Warrren||

    Rachael Maddow's asshole.

  • MJGreen||

    The BEES!!!

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    BURNING ME WON'T BRING BACK YOUR GODDAMN HONEY

  • Pro Libertate||

    You mean like on Oprah?

  • Doctor Whom||

    Have a panel of evangelical pastors, radical feminists, and my liberal Facebook friends come up with the best thing in the world. That would be the worst thing in the world for me.

  • sloopyinca||

    So fellow Reasonoids, what would lie in Room 101 for you?

    Our inevitable future.

  • ||

    For you I'd imagine it would involve watching a certain Seattle cop abuse his power and then be forced to listen to him lecture you on why he's in the right.

  • sloopyinca||

    I'd do my impersonation of Budd Dwyer before sitting through that.

    But the odds of that are unlikely anyway. He spends more time on medical leave (read: the taxpayer dime) than he does manipulating pharmacists so he can bust kids for conducting voluntary transactions.

  • sloopyinca||

    I understand Feeney's point, but we're entitled to a bit of hyperbole in this case. Think about it: in less than a generation, we went from being ostensibly free to having our entire lives, activities and routines cataloged by the government without our permission or knowledge.

    13 short years, Feeney, to a total technological surveillance state...from a government that isn't afraid to murder its own citizens for little more than exercising their 1A rights in a distasteful manner overseas.

    If that doesn't scare the living fuck out of you, then you're either about as alert as Terry Schiavo or you're a compliant pussy that doesn't mind having his life be an open book to those with the power to erase you at their leisure.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That comment is worse than Mein Kampf.

    Which, oddly, has a 3.8 rating at Amazon. What can that mean? It's not good writing. It's horrific politics.

  • sloopyinca||

    You know who else wrote comments worst than Mein Kampf?

  • ||

    You?

  • sloopyinca||

    Well besides me, you nitwit.

  • ||

    Me?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm more interested in why people gave Hitler's little book 3.8 stars.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    From one of the Amazon reviews:

    When people claim things like "if people in Nazi Germany didn't own Hitler's book, they lost their heads," they NEED TO BACK IT UP WITH FACTUAL EVIDENCE. This is what's wrong with democracy and the media. Popular opinions are almost always based on hearsay and opinion. This is one of the criticisms Hitler had of democracy and obviously he was right. Hitler didn't wake up one day and hate the enemies of Germany. He saw problems with society and devoted his life in Vienna studying history and Marxism and relentlessly questioned the people behind the politics. He learned they were anti-German and transforming Germany/Austria into a multicultural state.

    You know who else thought Germany was... oh, never mind.

  • Irish||

    Hitler, like Napoleon learned what Tony Soprano meant when he told his sister Janice: "Don't f*** with the Russians". Read Marx, then read Hitler. Then look at Wall Street, and the "Tea Party", and our growing militarism and CIA intervention in the affairs of all the countries of the world. You'll soon learn that another Hitler can sprout up at any time.

    Apparently Hitler learned lessons from a T.V. show that didn't exist until 50 years after his death and Wall Street is like the Nazis. You learn many interesting things from Amazon reviews.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Sure, there are wackos. But a 3.8 takes more than a few Illinois Nazis voting.

  • Warrren||

    Jaime Lee Curtis talking about her poopin'?

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's in Mein Kampf? That seems unlikely to me. Unless Hitler sold ad space for yogurt in the book. I've never actually read it.

  • Warrren||

    I'm sorry that was Mein Kacken

  • John||

    Orwell was wrong because he ascribed way too much competence to governments. Orwell was at heart a "if only the top men were in charge" socialist. And where he was wrong in 1984 is in assuming that when the wrong men were in charge they would be competent. They of course are not. People are too cynical, too self interested, too incompetent, and generally too distracted to ever create a state like the one in 1984.

    Actual totalitarianism rarely as evil but always much more surreal and comical. Even at the height of the great terror, the government was completely incompetent. They just rounded random people up. You would think the knock at the door came because they overheard you saying something. The reality was the knock at the door likely came because the commissar was too lazy to go upstairs to get the right guy or he had the right guy and the person who denounced you did it because he wanted your apartment. Orwell missed all of that insanity in his portrayal of the ruthless state.

    Kafka was the one who saw the future. The future is things like The Trial, where they are not even competent enough to know what they are trying your for, or the disconnected soldiers in The Refusal.

  • ||

    Perhaps, but I think you're forgetting about neighbors reporting each other being a big "help" to government agents.

  • sloopyinca||

    See Something
    Say Something

  • Warrren||

    They're doing it to their own bureaucrats:

    http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.....-cold.html

    Which will not work out well for them, I think.

  • MJGreen||

    Good point. And for that matter, why the fuck does no one point out that pigs can't actually talk? Animal Farm is such bullshit.

  • sarcasmic||

    True.

  • ||

    Why does it have to be an either/or thing? Governments are fully capable of being incompetent AND evil. History has proven that both exist.

  • Zeb||

    It's definitely not an either/or. It's just that no government is that competent. There are and have been plenty of evil and incompetent governments. I think John's point is that governments, good or bad, are never as competent as would be required to build the system depicted in 1984.

  • Libertymike||

    But they are damn competent when it comes to mass murder and economic dislocation.

  • Zeb||

    Mass murder maybe. That is one thing that governments can be very good at. I don't think competent is quite the right word for how the economic dislocation is done, though.

  • Libertymike||

    You have questions about government's competence regarding economic dislocation?

    See, generally, Internal Revenue Code.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    Orwell was wrong because he ascribed way too much competence to governments.

    That's pretty much Rand's criticism of technological dystopian novels (I think she referred to We in particular), and is why the world of Anthem is so primitive.

  • John||

    You could have written the exact same article in January of 1933 or in October of 1917. Democracy didn't die in Germany when Hitler became Chancellor. It dies in the 1920s when Nazis were allowed to terrorize their political opponents.

    The fact is that Obama now has the ability to spy on any person in the country and has routinely used federal law enforcement and the IRS to go after his opponents. That is not 1984, true. But the framework is set for it. And if ll of this blows over and in 2017 another Democratic administration settles into office, it is a pretty good bet that using the IRS to harass political enemies and coordinating the campaign with both the NSA and IRS and FBI will be SOP. Why wouldn't it be? Does Freeney think these people are going to get anything other than worse?

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    You think all these agencies will stop and go away if a republican gains office?
    or that they won't abuse these powers as well? Seems unlikely.

  • Gray Ghost||

    You think all these agencies will stop and go away if a republican gains office? Or that they won't abuse these powers as well?

    This. It's a two-sided, ruling class coin. Maybe one side's a bit shinier than the other---I don't think the Tea Party will be quite as gung ho to use the TLAs to harass our people and eat out their substance---but flip it as much as you want and it's still the same damned coin.

  • John||

    There was a time when Democrats used to not do this stuff. They ran something called the Church Commission. You can look it up. Sure they did it all in the 1960s. But after the Republicans got destroyed in the 74 elections, they decided that perhaps it was a bad idea. And Republicans did too until 9-11.

    So you can talk pox on both their houses all you like. Tell you what, lets everyone stay home and boycott the whole thing. Lets have the Democrats not only not lose, but take over the all the branches of government in 14 and 16 as a way of showing our disgust. I am sure the lesson they will learn will be that this stuff is a bad idea. Right? That is the perfect thing to do. Lets reward the Democrats for what Obama has done.

  • Zeb||

    Wha? I don't think that anyone wants to reward the Democrats. But it is unlikely that this shit will be any better under Republicans. The Tea Party and Rand Paul are still not the mainstream of the party. And if the Tea Party were to become so, I suspect they would quickly lose any principles they may have.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I bet you we don't see people saying "Democrats need to be punished" for this sort of thing, though.

  • Gray Ghost||

    John, if you think that a President Jindal or Christie won't be as happy to use these new expanded powers as Obama, you're deluding yourself. (I give a hypothetical President Paul or Cruz credit for maybe not following this model.) Remember who was President when the bulk of the legislation we're bitching about came into effect. And then Clinton before him would have done it, but he didn't have two collapsing skyscrapers to serve as an excuse. It's been a steadily ratcheting, bipartisan effort to expand the powers, and shrink the oversight, of anything affiliated with the Executive Branch, and it's been happening for a long time. When's the last time the trend of expanding Executive's power has gone the other way?

    You can't tell me that W wouldn't have gleefully used the powers Obama's had, if W thought he could get away with it. A big difference is that Congress would have brought in a special prosecutor by now if it were W doing this. Also, the media wouldn't be doing their best Izvestia impersonation. That said, you prosecute people for what they've done, not would they would've done, and it's long since been time to have a Archibald Cox or a Jaworski come in and clean house.

  • Gray Ghost||

    You think all these agencies will stop and go away if a republican gains office? Or that they won't abuse these powers as well?

    This. It's a two-sided, ruling class coin. Maybe one side's a bit shinier than the other---I don't think the Tea Party will be quite as gung ho to use the TLAs to harass our people and eat out their substance---but flip it as much as you want and it's still the same damned coin.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Ah, squirrels.

  • John||

    Way to miss the point. It seems unlikely rewarding Democrats with the Presidency in 2016 is going to stop this. Right now, the Democrats are the ones on the hook for this. If you don't punish them, the precedent is set that it is okay to do this stuff.

    One thing is for sure, the Dems certainly are not going to stop as long as they are winning elections.

  • Zeb||

    I don't think anyone winning elections is likely to stop this shit. It is also important to look at which side will act as a better check to the power of the party which holds the presidency. I don't know the answer to that.

  • crazyfingers||

    Another pathetic blog entry from Reason.

    Last year the director of the CIA publicly bragged about how he was going to spy on American citizens through their dishwasher.

    Should we wait until we all have monitoring chips attached to us to complain?

  • Zeb||

    Who said we shouldn't complain? There are other avenues of complaint besides invoking Orwell.

  • Killazontherun||

    While it might be easy to flippantly deploy Orwell’s writing or to mistakenly say that we we are somehow living in the world described in 1984 it is remarkable that more than 50 years after Orwell’s death politicians and commentators continue to use the word “Orwellian” as a derogatory term.

    Some of you, English majors mostly, are weird. He was a writer, just a writer, not a deity, not a demi-god, not a prophet. His words can't be abused except in the wringing of over stretched gray matter in your sweet little heads.

  • ||

    Lit Crit students are insufferable. They don't even make good waiters.

  • Warrren||

    I'd like to think all these revelations will lead to a rejection of government by a majority of people.

  • crazyfingers||

    I think we'll have to wait for the Baby Boomers to die already. The majority of them are nothing but thinly-disguised fascists.

  • Boisfeuras||

    Orwell is perhaps best known for his objections to totalitarianism, which were not only displayed in his novels and essays but also in his decision to fight with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.

    Because nothing quite says anti-totalitarian like fighting for Communists.

    Or calling for a violent socialist revolution in Britain in 1941.

  • Calidissident||

    The Spanish Republicans were a very eclectic group. Not all, or even most, were communists, though they were a significant portion, and most were leftists regardless. Though their opponents were fascist totalitarians

  • Boisfeuras||

    Orwell fought for the Trotskyist POUM.

  • Azathoth!!||

    “The rule here is simple: If you don't understand that invoking 1984 in a country in which 1984 is available for purchase and can be freely deployed as a rhetorical device is screaming a warning, then you likely don’t understand the point of 1984.”

    FTFY.

    Though, I must admit I am leery of those whose reaction to people pointing to 1984 is to tell us to look someplace else.

  • Libertymike||

    "The rule here is simple:

    If you are invoking 1984 in a country which, inter alia,

    (1) conducts upwards of 100,000 SWAT raids per annum upon its citizens in search of certain drugs,

    (2) prohibits farmers from marketing raw milk,

    (3) absolutely immunizes its judges from liability even in cases where the judge violates the liberties of a litigant,

    (4) absolutely immunizes its prosecutors from liability even in cases where the prosecutor violates the liberties of a criminal defendant,

    (5) has asset forfeiture laws,

    (6) imprisons more people than any other country,

    (7) has confiscatory taxation,

    (8) has military installations in over 100 other countries,

    (9) has killed millions, either by blockade, drone strikes, other military strikes, fomenting internecine strife or starvation, in the last 20 years, and

    (10) spies on all of its citizens,

    and some flack says that you do not understand 1984, beat his fucking ass to death."

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Lighten up, Francis.

  • Libertymike||

    Tom Woods would destroy Moynihan in debate. Just as I would.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Sure thing, crackpot.

  • Libertymike||

    Okay he who changes his handle more often than Liberace changed costumes.

  • Bob S||

    The OP is hilarious.
    The media is gonna be the last ones to tell us that 1984 arrived. In fact it never will, because it can't happen here. Which means it already has in principal.

    No we don't have a total surveillance state, but just exactly where do you think we are headed? Shangri La?

  • Bob S||

    OK Feeney qualifies himself at the end of the article, but Moynihan's comment to say the least, are naive.

  • Libertymike||

    Bob, Moynihan is, at bottom, a statist. He's a devotee of the myth of American exceptionalism.

  • John||

    Moynahan is not a "statist" what the fuck that is. Moynahan is a moron.

    And please stop wiping your ass with the word "statist". It has suffered enough.

  • Libertymike||

    Okay, if the word is love or peace or prosperity or freedom or orgasm or Tebowmania. That would be suffering.

    But, why the sympathy for the word statist?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    To you, everybody except anarchists are statists. It's fucking tiresome.

  • Libertymike||

    Oh, poor anti-intellectual slaver, you just can't stand it.

  • Killazontherun||

    Some believe it to be a nearly freshly minted neologism, but it has been around for a while. Chief Justice Charles Hughes was described by one journal thus so:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Evans_Hughes

    When Hughes left office, a prominent journal remarked "One can distinctly see the coming of a New Statism ... [of which] Gov. Hughes has been a leading prophet and exponent". In 1926, Hughes was appointed by New York Governor Alfred E. Smith to be the chairman of a State Reorganization Commission through which Smith's plan to place the Governor as the head of a rationalized state government, was accomplished, bringing to realization what Hughes himself had envisioned.

  • Warrren||

    Stasist?

  • Marc F Cheney||

    My favorite part of 1984 is where O'Brien is like "how many lights??!?" and Winston is like "there are FOUR LIGHTS", and O'Brien is like "nu'uh!" and Winston is like "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU"

  • sticks||

    I don't see what his birthday has to do with fuck all.

  • DWC||

    Talk about missing the mark. You are free in this country ONLY to the extent that your actions or speech do not threaten the status quo and the powers that be. Does liberty REALLY consist of being able to call Obama an asshat??? Does it consist of being able to criticize the government??? They don't give a serious shit about that. That's harmless. It's a way for people to kid themselves that they are free. But try doing or saying something that has the potential to actually rock the boat and see what happens. This was fucking lame piece. No, there aren't cameras in our bedrooms, but they don't need them or even want them. If it would help them to assure their control of us in ways that matter to them, we would certainly have them.

  • Nicholas D. Rosen||

    Eric Blair was not born in India, according to what I have read. Some sources say that he was born in Burma, but according to a biography, he was actually born in England; the Burma story was based on his sister's recollection of what she had been told, but records actually showed that his parents were in England at the time.

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