What Would Orwell Make of the Guardian in 2015?

He would notice Britain's premier lefty-liberal paper has become expert at doublespeak

Wed, Jun 10, 2015
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For the glory of Oceania!

This article originally appeared at Off Guardian


Back in 2013, a not-too-bad article in the Guardian asked What would George Orwell have made of the world in 2013? The answers provided by various commentators were typically a mix of the absurd,banal and quite insightful.

One person thought – inexplicably – Orwell would be a food writer in 2013. Another thought he’d be a right wing Apologist.

But there were also a few apposite quotes from his most famous book, 1984, that demonstrated the alarming degree of prescience the man seems to possess:

Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means…”

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…wrote Orwell in 1948, anticipating much of our purposely eroded and mass-produced popular media.

The article doesn’t ask what Orwell would make of the Guardian in the 21st Century, which is a shame, as that is a potentially interesting question. Of course, the Guardian in 2015 still aspires to more than “sport, crime and astrology.”. But that other Orwellian concept Doublethink is currently flourishing there.

Look for example at the Graun’s latest bit of “reportage” (quotation marks needed, because it really is little more than a straight re-print of a White House press release) on the recent G7 meeting.

It faithfully – nay fawningly – tells us the G7 (UK, Germany, US, Japan, Canada, Australia and (for some reason) Italy) are taking a “united front” against evil Russia. It reverently reports President Obama’s immortal words on the subject of Putin’s “isolationist approach”:

Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire?

Or does he recognise that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?” the US president said at the close of the intensive discussions in Bavaria.

Not only does it fail to question the sanity of calling Russia “isolated” when it is trading with some of the most productive countries in the world, but it entirely neglects to mention that while Russia’s “greatness” certainly does not depend on violating the territorial integrity of other countries, the USA’s “greatness” most certainly does. With perfect Doublethink it sails past this astounding hypocrisy and moves right along.

It doesn’t remember Obama’s own previous speeches about American Exceptionalism, or America’s determination to be constrained by nothing but its own interests, even to the point of invading other “sovereign territories”:

the USA will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interest demand it…”

It has completely forgotten the illegal invasion of Iraq’s sovereign territory by Exceptional America and its most craven “allies”, the illegal use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium, the illegal invasion of Libya and murder of its head of state, the droning of Yemen and Pakistan and the murder of civilians without any declaration of war, the invasion/occupation of Somalia, the attack on Syria and its elected head of state.

It has no problem condoning by omission these action by the US while condemning Russia for doing no more than allegedly arming some “rebels” in a neighbouring country.

And of course when its own past opinions don’t fit with current thinking – the Guardian simply rewrites them ever so slightly. Changes the headline, snips contentious words enough to change the meaning. Remember the Odessa Massacre? Yes, so do we all. So does the Guardian. Except it wasn’t a massacre any more. It was a “fire”, started by persons unknown (but probably by the people in the building who wanted to burn themselves alive), with “heroism and cruelty” on both sides.

Orwell was very familiar with this, the Memory Hole, as he called it:

As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of ‘The Times’ had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead.

This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance.

Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record…” 1984, Chapter 4

So, how would Orwell have felt about a once avowedly liberal newspaper turning itself into Chief Propagandist for the Empire, no longer speaking Truth to Power, but censoring its own past in order to tell Power exactly what it wants to hear?

Can we have an article about that on the Guardian? Can they promise not to drop it down the Memory Hole?

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