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Orwell vs. Huxley

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

– Neil Postman

I fear at some level that both Orwell and Huxley were right, and that while Huxley at the moment seems more prescient, the exercise of Huxley’s contention in fact helps hide the increasing exercise of Orwell’s.

That the Ex-Vice President can literally admit he supported torture, and the Republican leadership can spew nearly any lie without ending their careers, regardless of how insanely ridiculous, and still it gets lost in the din, is a testament to Neil’s and thereby Huxley’s contention here. The torture itself, and the equation of 2 + 2 = 5, by Republicans, supports Orwell’s.

In the end, the free speech of the Internet, including this blog, may turn out to be our downfall, rather than our savior. It is all just more noise to hide the truth that 2 + 2 does in fact equal 4.

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