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Posts Tagged ‘“1984’

REWRITING HISTORY FOR SOVIETS AND REPUBLICANS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on January 21, 2022 at 12:10 am

At one time, Americans believed that the wholesale rewriting of history happened only in the Soviet Union.

“The problem with writing about history in the Soviet Union,” went the joke, “is that you never know what’s going to happen yesterday.”  

A classic example of this occurred in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.  

Lavrenti Beria had been head of the NKVD, the dreaded secret police, from 1938 to 1953. In 1953, following the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Beria was arrested and executed on orders of his fellow Communist Party leaders, who feared they were targets of a coming purge.  

Lavrenti Beria

But the Great Soviet Encyclopedia had just gone to press with a long article singing Beria’s praises.  

What to do?  

The editors of the Encyclopedia wrote an equally long article about “the Bering Straits,” which was to be pasted over the article about Beria, and sent this off to its subscribers. An unknown number of them decided it was safer to paste accordingly. 

During the 2016 Presidential election, the Republican party furiously rewrote history in a desperate attempt to win the White House. 

Specifically, its members tried to convince Americans that:

  1. President George W. Bush “kept us safe” (excluding, of course, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, which snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans); and/or
  2. President Bush isn’t to blame for 9/11—it’s his predecessor, Bill Clinton (who left office more than a year and a half before 9/11). 

Joseph Stalin was depicted in Soviet “history” texts as the architect of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.  

No “historian” dared mention that Stalin’s wholesale purges of the Red Army in the 1930s had made the country vulnerable to the German attack in 1941. As had Stalin’s “nonaggression” pact with Germany in 1939, where he and Hitler aggressively divided Poland between them. 

Related image

Joseph Stalin

But Russians no longer have a monopoly on rewriting history.

In 2015, Jeb Bush entered the “Rewriting History for Americans” sweepstakes.

On October 16, 2015, during an interview on Bloomberg TV, Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for President in 2016, dared speak (for Republicans) the unspeakable:

“When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time. He was President, OK?  Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.” 

Bush was quick to respond on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”   

Jeb Bush

Trump replied: 

“At the debate you said your brother kept us safe–I wanted to be nice & did not mention the WTC came down during his watch, 9/11.”

And: “No @JebBush, you’re pathetic for saying nothing happened during your brother’s term when the World Trade Center was attacked and came down.” 

Suddenly, on February 13, another Republican Presidential candidate rushed to rewrite 9/11: Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio. 

According to Rubio: “The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.” 

And on the following day, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he again made the charge: “If you’re going to ascribe blame, don’t blame George W. Bush, blame a decision that was made years earlier, not to take out bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.”  

All of which ignores such embarrassing truths as: 

  • During the first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council, was not permitted to brief President Bush, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new Al-Qaeda outrage.  
  • From January 20 to September 11, 2001, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time.
  • National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject of terrorism. Then she insisted that the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting.  
  • Paul Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” 
  • Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.” 
  • Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.” 
  • Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly. 
  • Neither Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor has any of them been brought to account.

People who say the Republicans are “batshit crazy” for denying responsibility for 9/11 clearly haven’t read—or understood—George Orwell’s novel, 1984.  

The unnamed Party’s slogan is: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

The same holds true for Republicans: They hope to rewrite the past, as Joseph Stalin did, to wash away their crimes and errors–and pin these on their self-declared enemies.

And thus gain—and retain—absolute power over 300 million Americans.

REWRITING HISTORY: IT’S NOT JUST FOR RUSSIANS ANYMORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on February 17, 2016 at 12:01 am

At one time, Americans believed that the wholesale rewriting of history happened only in the Soviet Union.

“The problem with writing about history in the Soviet Union,” went the joke, “is that you never know what’s going to happen yesterday.”  

A classic example of this occurred in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.  

Lavrenti Beria had been head of the NKVD, the dreaded secret police, from 1938 to 1953. In 1953, following the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Beria was arrested and executed on orders of his fellow Communist Party leaders, who feared they were targets of a coming purge.  

Lavrenti Beria

But the Great Soviet Encyclopedia had just gone to press with a long article singing Beria’s praises.  

What to do?  

The editors of the Encyclopedia wrote an equally long article about “the Bering Straits,” which was to be pasted over the article about Beria, and sent this off to its subscribers. An unknown number of them decided it was safer to paste accordingly. 

Today, the Republican party is furiously rewriting history in a desperate attempt to win the 2016 Presidential election. 

Specifically, its members are now trying to convince Americans that:

  1. President George W. Bush “kept us safe” (excluding, of course, the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, which snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans); and/or
  2. President Bush isn’t to blame for 9/11–it’s his predecessor, Bill Clinton (who left office more than a year and a half before 9/11). 

Joseph Stalin was depicted in Soviet “history” texts as the architect of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.  

No “historian” dared mention that Stalin’s wholesale purges of the Red Army in the 1930s had made the country vulnerable to the German attack in 1941. As had Stalin’s “nonaggression” pact with Germany in 1939, where he and Hitler aggressively divided Poland between them. 

Related image

Joseph Stalin

Recently, Jeb Bush has entered the “Rewriting History for Americans” sweepstakes.

On October 16, 2015, during an interview on Bloomberg TV, Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for President in 2016, dared speak (for Republicans) the unspeakable:

“When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time. He was President, OK?  Blame him, or don’t blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign.” 

Jeb Bush was quick to respond on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”   

Jeb Bush

Not one to let Bush–or anyone else–have the last word, Trump blasted more Tweets: 

“At the debate you said your brother kept us safe–I wanted to be nice & did not mention the WTC came down during his watch, 9/11.”

And: “No @JebBush, you’re pathetic for saying nothing happened during your brother’s term when the World Trade Center was attacked and came down.” 

Now another Republican Presidential candidate has taken to rewriting 9/11: Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio. 

This came during the Republican Presidential debate in Greenville, South Carolina, on February 13. 

According to Rubio: “The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.” 

And on the following day, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he again made the charge: “If you’re going to ascribe blame, don’t blame George W. Bush, blame a decision that was made years earlier, not to take out bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.”  

All of which ignores such embarrassing truths as: 

  • During the first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council, was not permitted to brief President Bush, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new Al-Qaeda outrage.  
  • From January 20 to September 11, 2001, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time.
  • National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject of terrorism. Then she insisted that the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting.  
  • Paul Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” 
  • Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz–whose real target was Saddam Hussein–said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.” 
  • Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.” 
  • Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically–and needlessly. 
  • Neither Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor has any of them been brought to account.

People who say the Republicans are “batshit crazy” for denying responsibility for 9/11 clearly haven’t read–or understood–George Orwell’s novel, 1984.  

The unnamed Party’s slogan is: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

The same holds true for Republicans: They hope to rewrite the past, as Joseph Stalin did, to wash away their crimes and errors–and pin these on their self-declared enemies.

And thus gain–and retain–absolute power over 300 million Americans.

FIRST AMENDMENT DANGERS

In Business, Law, Social commentary on June 13, 2013 at 12:07 am

WARNING: Believing that the First Amendment gives you the legal right to express your opinion may be hazardous to your career.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Of course, that refers only to Congress.  It says nothing about employers–and especially those self-appointed pseudo-gods who claim to be the personification of virtue and infallibility.

If you doubt it, just ask Johnny Cook, who until recently worked as a bus driver for the Haralson County Middle School in Georgia.

In late May, a sixth-grade student boarding Cook’s school bus said he was still hungry.  Cook asked why, and the student said he hadn’t been given any lunch.

The reason: He had been forty cents short for buying a reduced lunch.  So he hadn’t been given anything, not even the peanut butter offered to everyone else.

Furious, Cook vented his spleen on his Facebook page on May 21:

“This child is already on reduced lunch [program] and we can’t let him eat. Are you kidding me? I’m certian  there was leftover food thrown away today.

“But kids were turned away because they didn’t have .40 on there account. As a tax payer I would much rather feed a child than throw it away. I would rather feed a child than to give food stamps to a crack head.”

Just two days later, Cook was fired over that post.

Johnny Cook and friends

The “official reason,” as given by Superintendent Brett Stanton, was that Cook had violated the school’s social media policy by daring to express his opinion publicly.

The policy states:

Students who post or contribute any comment or content on social networking sites that cause a substantial disruption to the instructional environment are subject to disciplinary procedures.

“Employees who post or contribute any comment or content on social networking sites that causes a substantial disruption to the instructional environment are subject to disciplinary procedures up and including termination.”

This is similar to the policies–and atmosphere–of the Joseph McCarthy “smear and fear” era of the 1950s.  You didn’t have to actually be proven an actual Communist, or even a Communist sympathizer.

All that was neeeded to condemn you to permanent unemployment was to become “controversial.”  That way, the employer didn’t have to actually prove the employee’s unfitness.

The Almighty Employer need only declare: “Your usefulness to me is over.”

Consider the statement offered by Superintendent Stanton:  “I can assure you it did not happen,” he told the CBS affiliate in Atlanta.

And how could he be so certain?  Because, said Stanton, he had thoroughly investigated the incident.

“The video surveillance footage clearly shows that the student never went through the lunch lines at the county middle school,” Stanton said.

Therefore, Stanton said, the boy couldn’t have been offered the bagged lunch for students in his situation.

When asked if someone should have noticed the boy wasn’t eating lunch, he had a ready excuse for that: “When you have almost 1,000 students, it’s very difficult to notice.”

Stanton wouldn’t discuss Cook’s termination because it’s a personnel matter, but did say the school district has a strict Facebook policy.

CBS Atlanta contacted the sixth-grader’s family–who backed up Cook’s story.

Cook, who is married and the father of two kids, told CBS Atlanta that he felt in his “heart of hearts the kid was telling the truth.”

A petition has been posted to Change.org demanding that Cook be reinstated.  It has so far gained more than 10,000 signatures.

Nor is Cook the only victim of employers who have no regard for the First Amendment.

Ashley Warden, a waitress at an Oklahoma City Chili’s insulted “stupid cops” on her Facebook page.   In 2012, her potty-training toddler pulled down his pants in his grandmother’s front yard–and a passing officer gave Warden a public urination ticket for $2,500.

Warden was quickly fired.  In an official statement, Chilli’s gave this excuse:

“With the changing world of digital and social media, Chili’s has Social Media Guidelines in place, asking our team members to always be respectful of our guests and to use proper judgement when discussing actions in the work place.  After looking into the matter, we have taken action to prevent this from happening again.”

Put more honestly: “We have taken action to prevent” other employees from daring to exercise their own First Amendment rights.

Employers need to be legally forced to show as much respect for the free speech rights of Americans as Congress is required to.

Until this happens, the workplace will continue to resemble George Orwell’s vision of 1984–a world where anyone can become a “non-person” for the most trivial of reasons.

A LIE TOLD BY BULLIES

In History, Politics on June 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Who controls the past controls the future.   Who controls the present controls the past. 

1984, by George Orwell

Sarah Palin and Richard “Rick” Santorum may not have read Orwell’s  classic novel.  

But they share at least one thing in common with the fictionalized dictator–Big Brother–who rules Oceania:  A desire to attain power through the rewriting of history.

On June 2, Palin, the former Alaska governor, offered her version of Paul Revere’s famous ride: 

“And, you know, he warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 

Generations of Americans who had been taught that Revere made his “midnight ride” to warn colonists–not the British–of approaching British troops were understandably surprised.  

Revere made his ride without the ringing of bells and the firing of warning shots.  Secrecy was in fact critical as the silversmith raced to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were coming to arrest them.

And on June 7, Santorum, the former United States Senator from Pennsylvania, gave perhaps the most bizarre reason ever imagined for the launching of D-Day against Nazi forces in Normandy, France: 

“Almost 60,000 average Americans had the courage to go out and charge those beaches on Normandy, to drop out of airplanes who knows where, and take on the battle for freedom.

“Average Americans.   The very Americans that our government now, and this president, does not trust to make decision on your health care plan. Those Americans risked everything so they could make that decision on their health care plan.”

Generations of Americans who had been taught the June 6, 1944 invasion of France had been launched to destroy the Third Reich were understandably surprised. 

But there is more.

Palin supporters made dozens of changes to the Paul Revere page on the Wikipedia site  after Palin made her nonsensical claims.  Their goal  was to rewrite history to conform with the latest historical fallacy put forth by their political idol.

Wikipedia allows people to add information or make changes to pages, but an army of dedicated users worldwide seeks to ensure the information is accurate.

Jeff Schneider, a Wikipedia online editor and contributor, said that Palin interview videos weren’t considered “reliable sources” for updates to the site.  He added that he was the first to “remove someone adding historic information based on Palin’s interview.”

Again, Orwell’s novel is instructive:

“And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested.”

The leaders of the Soviet Union were notorious for repeatedly rewriting history to suit their own political ends.  Thus, Joseph Stalin wrote his longtime rival, Leon Trotsky, out of the history books.  

Similarly, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, consigned Stalin to historical infamy–while ignoring his own role in carrying out Stalin’s murderous purges of millions.

And so on–through the succeeding reigns of Leonid Brezniev, Yuri Andropov, Constantin Chernenko and, finally, Mikhail Gorbachev. 

As a well-known underground joke went among Russians: “The trouble with writing history in the Soviet Union is you never know what’s going to happen yesterday.”

Neither Palin nor Santorum controls the “bully pulpit”  of the Presidency to shape public opinion.  So they must rely on their own powers of persuasion–and, in Palin’s case, on her army of political enforcers–to reshape history into whatever they want it to mean at any given moment.

Similarly, Republican leaders generally have enthusiastically used inaccurate historical comparisons to advance their party’s fortunes.  President Barack Obama, for example, has been labeled as both a Nazi (complete with a Hitler mustache) and a Communist.

The Nazi comparison ignores the most obvious truth about Nazism: There was no place in this party for anyone who wasn’t white.   And the Communist libel ignores the billions of dollars Obama authorized to save the capitalistic infrastructure that was on the brink of collapse.

Moreover, a man who was both a Communist and a Nazi would have to be constantly at war with himself.  The dictators of the Soviet Union (Joseph Stalin) and Nazi Germany (Adolf Hitler) felt themselves to be locked in a mortal struggle during the 1930s.

And, from 1941 to 1945, they–and the millions of soldiers under their command–waged that struggle openly and brutally. 

But for those bent on attaining total power, historical truth by itself means nothing.  History–like the lives of those they seek to rule–exists only as a means to whatever end they desire.

It remains for the potential victims of such power-seekers to remember the truth offered by Ernest Hemingway: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

A similar alarm was sounded by the man Republicans now revere as their holy-of-holies: Ronald Reagan.   Speaking at a Presidential news conference on January 29, 1981, he bluntly described the philosophy of the leaders of the Soviet Union–in words that now apply as fully to the leaders of his own party:

“The only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that, and that is moral, not immoral, and we operate on a different set of standards.  I think when you do business with them, even at a detente, you keep that in mind.”

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