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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

In Front of Yoo's Nose:
Glenn Greenwald and George Orwell again

Greenwald writes "as is true for all authoritarians -- indeed, it is one of their defining mental attributes -- there is no bar against holding fundamentally opposite views simultaneously as long as each is used to strengthen the cause and defend the Leader."

Orwell wrote about this frequently. The Newspeak word for it is "blackwhite" (took me a while to figure out that I should just google 4 newspeak words which sent me to the wikipedia).

Finally finding the example, which google says is "In Front of Your Nose" (google can be so rude) I confirm that Orwell followed Shaw his interest in such beliefs

The two utterances do not always come from the same sources, but there must certainly be many people who are capable of holding these totally contradictory ideas in their heads at a single moment.

This is merely one example of a habit of mind which is extremely widespread, and perhaps always has been. Bernard Shaw, in the preface to Androcles and the Lion, cites as another example the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, which starts off by establishing the descent of Joseph, father of Jesus, from Abraham. In the first verse, Jesus is described as ‘the son of David, the son of Abraham’, and the genealogy is then followed up through fifteen verses: then, in the next verse but one, it is explained that as a matter of fact Jesus was not descended from Abraham, since he was not the son of Joseph. This, says Shaw, presents no difficulty to a religious believer, and he names as a parallel case the rioting in the East End of London by the partisans of the Tichborne Claimant, who declared that a British working man was being done out of his rights.

The Tichborne Claimant (silly me I googled the Tichbourne Claimant) was Arthur Orton, an English working man, who claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne (1829–1854) the missing heir to a fortune. Clearly Orton could either be a British working man or someone who had legal rights to the Tichborne fortune, but he couldn't be both.

I had given up on finding the Orwell quotes but something forced me to write this post. Actually Greenwald did when he wrote "War is an inherently dangerous and reprehensible option, even in those extremely rare cases when it is just."

Oh my. Is it really possible for something to be both reprehensible and just ? Horrible and just yes (the allied war effort in World War II was both) but "reprehensible" (I mean the allies did some reprehensible things in the course of the war but they weren't just. Other acts were just but not reprehensible).

It can be confusing. Orwell, for example, was seriously confused about the morality of sector bombing at times. Hmmm anyone ever seen George Orwell and Glenn Greenwald at the same time ?

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