is a political discussion blog. Please read the annoying legalese on the "About" page.

Orwell on the Spanish Civil-War…

There’s a lot to say about this (via the always excellent Krugman):

It’s easy to see where “1984” came from (and no, surprisingly enough it wasn’t the Communists), but there are a few lines that deserve particular attention:

And the Left intelligentsia made their swing-over from ‘War is hell’ to ‘War is glorious’ not only with no sense of incongruity but almost without any intervening stage.


I have little direct evidence about the atrocities in the Spanish civil war. I know that some were committed by the Republicans, and far more (they are still continuing) by the Fascists. But what impressed me then, and has impressed me ever since, is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side, without ever bothering to examine the evidence.

This I think captures the essence of the conundrum we find ourselves in – that moral outrage spins on the dime of  “who’s side you are on”. In this regard, for the vast majority of humans, even those I consider greatly enlightened, this is true. Left or right, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican. Tell an Obama supporter that “indefinite detention” is just as wrong as it was in the Bush years, and suddenly there will be reason for exceptionalism.

Sad, but patently true.

Moving on to another topic contained therein:

… Simultaneously these people refused utterly to admit the fact of German or Italian intervention at the same time as the Germany and Italian press were openly boasting about the exploits of their’ legionaries’. I have chosen to mention only one point, but in fact the whole of Fascist propaganda about the war was on this level.

This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history … Yet, after all, some kind of history will be written, and after those who actually remember the war are dead, it will be universally accepted. So for all practical purposes the lie will have become truth.


Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as ‘the truth’ exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as ‘Science’. There is only ‘German Science’, ‘Jewish Science’, etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs — and after our experiences of the last few years that is not a frivolous statement.

Again, obviously you can see where “1984” comes from (“two and two are five” is literally in there), but the point remains and unfortunately many understand this today – he who controls the narrative, controls both history and the “truth” (even if it is not objective “truth”).

To quote Suskind on who is now assumed to be Karl Rove:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Add this to the daily dose of what can be described no better than propagandistic lies from Beck and company, and it’s clear that conservatives get it. Then of course they wonder why liberals compare them to fascists (though to note, Obama’s administration as of late has been spreading propagandistic lies to their own ends as well).

Finally I disagree on a partial level with this statement by Orwell:

It is true that the social background from which an army springs will colour its training, tactics and general efficiency, and also that the consciousness of being in the right can bolster up morale, though this affects the civilian population more than the troops.

It is foolish to believe the “enemy” doesn’t see themselves as being just as “right”. We all delude ourselves in this regard, whether it is immediately or by slowly convincing ourselves. In war, there are plenty of slights by whoever your opponent is to give solid fodder for the slow boil of hatred and “justification”, even if when one enters one was a neutral party. If I was fighting in Iraq, I am sure I would see the “insurgency” as being evil, even if I didn’t walk in that way. This is why co-opting the press as “embeds” was such a brilliant tactic by our government (to note, I don’t see the insurgency as being evil, nor good. They are just people fighting for what they believe in, just as we are. In the end, what they do may be evil, but I’m not convinced what we’re doing isn’t necessarily evil either. It just plain sucks – which is why war is to be avoided when at all possible).

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>