Sunday, February 21, 2016

We've always been at war with Eastasia

Our media is surprisingly Orwellian, and it's not always due to government control. People practice "doublethink" at their own volition, without a Thought Police. Social media (Twitter, Facebook) are instituting their own private Thought Police. Online journalism now means that the press is free to edit old articles, to change past reporting to conform to new political realities

Consider the example in the book 1984 regarding the ongoing war between the three superstates of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia (representing English, Russian, and Chinese empires respectively).

At the start of the book, Oceania is at war with Eurasia. They have always been at war with Eurasia. That's the political consensus, and all historic documents agree. However, Winston Smith (the protagonist) remembers a time five years ago when Oceania was instead at war with Eastasia. Winston Smith struggles with philosophical idea of "truth". Which is more true, what everyone knows and what's in the newspapers, or the memories within his head?

Then Ocean's allegiance switched back again. On the sixth day of Hate Week, as crowds gathered to denounce Eurasia, the Party switched enemies to Eastasia. In a particularly rousing speech against their enemy, the speaker was handed a slip of paper, and in mid-sentence, without pause, without change in content or tone, he changed the name of the enemy he was speaking against to Eastasia. Eurasia was now their dearest friends. Those holding banners denouncing their enemy were suddenly embarrassed to discover they had unaccountably written the wrong name, and quickly trampled and destroyed them.

This change meant work for Winston in the Ministry of Truth:
Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, sound-tracks, photographs--all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere.
Last November, the Tsarnaev brothers (the "Boston Bombers") were "refugees". News articles from all the mainstream news outlets agreed, such as The Washington Post, the Atlantic, Time magazine, the UN/VOA, Vanity Fair, the Huffington Post, Nobody disputed that description. Even Wikipedia described them as "refugees".

Then terrorists attacked Paris, killing 129 innocents. A Syrian passport was found, making it look like terrorists inserted one of their own into the stream of refugees flowing into Europe. This created political backlash in America, where the House of Representatives passed a bill to hinder Syrian refugees coming into the country.

The other, pro-refugee side, has fought back, claiming that no refugee in American has ever committed a terrorist act. It's at this point that the Tsarnaev's become an embarrassing counter example, since indeed they committed the worst terrorist attack since 9/11.

To fix this to conform to the new political reality, the Tsarnaev's were reclassified as "asylees" (asylum seekers) rather than "refugees".

To make this reclassification work, history had to be re-written. The Winston Smith's of the world had to...

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