Monday, 3 March 2003

Orwell's Bastards - Lies and Shameless Pretence

We ordinary earthlings, were informed by George Bush Senior in his 1991 State of union Address, are living under a new world order. Over the past decade, from the highway of death between Kuwait and Iraq, in Kosovo, in Jallalabad and the hills of Afghanistan, in the alleys of West bank and cafes of Tel Aviv, and the ruins of the twin towers of New York, the face of this new order has become more and more evident. We are caught in a terrible and twisted Groundhog's day, standing on the eve of yet another war in the Iraqi desert presided over by another George Bush. Pentagon spokespeople assure us that they have prepared a shower of missiles on Baghdad that will rival Hiroshima. The U.N. estimates up to half a million Iraqi civilian casualties will occur, and up to 1.5 million civilians will be rendered refugees, in a war that will 'liberate' them. This is a war that the majority of British, European, Arab, African, Asian and Latin American people are opposed to. There is growing evidence that a remarkable number of U.S. citizens are also opposed to this war about to be fought allegedly for both their security and the 'liberation' of Iraq. As governments take the lead in spinning and counter spinning propaganda and lies with literally mass murderous consequences, this is the hour we desperately needed a clear, searching, analytical voice like that of George Orwell (1903-1950). What we have instead are Orwell's bastards, pretending to offer objective, 'no-bullshit' defence of democracy, sullying instead their master's name with lies and half-truths in feeble parodies of his voice.

How does one recognise Orwell's bastards? Whereas Orwell himself was acutely aware of historical complexities and constantly tested himself with searching criticism (perhaps most painfully in Homage to Catalonia), our new Orwellians deliberately twist facts, maintain selective silences, resort to outright lies, and are generally marked by a shameless pretence of piety and moral high-handedness. Take their chief, Christopher Hitchens's recent rant in the British Daily Mirror against the historic peace march in London (15.2.03) as an example. Lamenting the fact that it did not rain on this parade, Hitchens sees two kinds of people in the largest ever political rally in Britain ­ those belonging to the sinister Marxist-Muslim Fundamentalist cabal (leading), and the generally deluded well meaning middle Englanders (the herd). He says it was a shame that even half this number wouldn't bother to turn up in a rally in favour of the Kurds who have been fighters for democracy in Iraq and basically accuses the peace marchers as fifth columnist appeasers working to keep the Iraqi dictator in power. Hitchens is a self-confessed disciple of Orwell (he has recently published a book on him) and takes pride in his alleged ability to speak unpopular truths to lift the gloom of mass ignorance. What is wrong with this analysis of the current peace movement? In short, everything. Worse, his own position is compromised by his deliberately dishonest interpretation of facts.

First, peace movement is not a political party, there are no leaders who hand down programmes to the led. It is a network. There are organisers who take feedback from the widest coalition in Britain, and help them come together for demonstrations, discussions, rallies and in near future, if need be ­ direct action. Debate, dissent, even open derision of some of the speakers marked the crowd's behaviour in the rally. But all were united in a powerful expression of democratic will ­ enough of this game of death played by Bush-Blair and Bin-Laden/Saddam, purveyors of two kinds of fundamentalist evil that threatens to give us the gift of never-ending war. We will fight them with weapons of peace.

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