This isn’t exactly a fully baked set of arguments. It’s just some things I woke up thinking about. I had some weird dreams that no doubt influenced this nonsense.
I’ve been thinking about George Orwell’s 1984 a lot lately and how the themes of that book manifest themselves in modern life. It remains so successful because it addresses eternal fears about human government that work no matter where you like the political pendulum to stick.
Leftists frequently point out the state of Total War as something we saw emboldened under George W. Bush. The global caliphate and its terrorist armies make a phenomenal permanent, faceless enemy. When you declare war on a concept, there will always be a chance to make war. Often badly. Just look how well the war on drugs is going.
Where the Right really gets it right these days is on free speech issues. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how bad campus speech codes and calls to set up government sanctioned “real news” agencies can be. If you don’t have freedom of expression, you’re going to have a hard time with freedom of thought.
Of course no one likes to think their group is the villain in 1984. The truth is both parties have slipped into authoritarian territory in their histories and they will do so again and again as it suits the powers behind them.
If there’s one country that exemplifies the terrible state in Orwell’s classic, it’s North Korea. Christopher Hitchens wrote a great piece about visiting this grey dystopia. He opened it by saying he was hoping to avoid the cliche of invoking Orwell, but ultimately, his specter was too appropriate to remain uninvoked. Hitchens said that it was if the North Koreans found their own copy of 1984 and thought, “well this seems like a plan” and went for it.
In North Korea the enemy is everyone else. That makes it easy.
One of the scenes I always focus on when thinking about 1984 is the two minutes of hate. In the novel, if you haven’t read it, “The Two Minutes of Hate is a daily period in which Party members of the society of Oceania must watch a film depicting the Party’s enemies (notably Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers) and express their hatred for them for exactly two minutes.” (Wikipedia)
There’s a lot written about this scene, but most people agree that its purpose is to condition the populace to accept the “other” as an enemy and work hard to defeat them. They consume and work in order to shore up the nation from this insidious threat.
This got me to thinking about tribalism in the United States. It’s pretty much impossible for 330+ million people to be on the same page. We can’t even agree on what to do with obviously worthless people like child molesters (hung from lamp posts until dead is my suggestion). With this division in mind, it would be difficult to imagine an entire population getting behind hating one thing. I can imagine populations of Bay Area activists starting their own Emmanuel Goldstein support groups.
People seem to naturally like hating an enemy. When they turned on the news in the old days, they got one story. So they sort of had one enemy. For example, in the 80s, you’d have to be a pretty severe commie to side with Russia with all the propaganda we absorbed (Red Dawn, etc.). Everyone hated the same shit, so elites were able to manipulate this homogenous hate relatively easily. Just like in North Korea.
Now that everyone has their own boutique grievances, it’s harder for elites to control us that way. Fortunately for them, new media has come up with a solution for getting everyone on the same hateful page: biased news. All you have to do now is tune into your preferred news source, rage at your own curated enemies, and go about your day full of anger and cortisol (a stress hormone released from anger).
Notice I didn’t say “fake news.” The concept of fake news is utter horsehit cooked up by the DNC to explain away their shitty campaign. For the most part, the stories you run across are true (exceptions would be outright lies like the kid dying in Santa Claus’ lap and Harry Reid’s lie about Mitt Romney not paying his taxes). This stuff is usually outed pretty quick, though the Harry Reid story shows how lasting the damage caused by lying can be.
Any given story is going to have a natural bias because of the writer, the org that pays the writer, and finally, each reader will have their own bias. No one can stop this. However, we need to stop elites from conflating the idea of bias and lies. Bias is natural, lies should be punished.
I don’t know what effective punitive measures would look like. However, I do have a hard rule: if you lie about coming under fire in a war zone (I’m looking at you Brian Williams and Hillary Clinton) you can go fuck yourselves. Good people die from actually being in the situations these cretins make up for their own false glory. I can’t believe anyone could possibly employee Williams after that.