Orwell and Trump

The most hate filled convention that I have ever seen was the Democratic convention of 1968, held here in Chicago. When Senator Abe Ribicoff denounced the Chicago Police stating, ‘With George McGovern as President of the United States, we wouldn’t have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago, Lipreaders and eyewitnesses contended that {then mayor Richard J.} Daley responded by saying “Get off the stage you f@#&ing kike!”.

The Republican convention of 2016 is second on my all time list. Watching the delegates screaming ‘Lock her (Secretary Clinton) up’ brings George Orwell’s novel 1984 to mind. It describes a dystopic, all-controlling totalitarian state – a state based on an extrapolation of the Stalinist Soviet Union of the 1940’s. ”Two Minutes Hate’ is a mechanism used by this state.

Orwell writes, ‘The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. …In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen’.

And then the savior, Big Brother, appears on the screen, ‘Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock against the hordes of Asia and {Emmanuel}Goldstein,’‘ Just replace Emmanuel Goldstein with Hillary Clinton, Big Brother with Donald Trump and Asia with Mexico or Islam and that’s the Republican convention.

Emmanuel Goldstein is the eternal enemy of the totalitarian state run by Big Brother. The real life model for Goldstein was Leon Trotsky, described in Wikipedia as ‘Born Lev Bronshtein, Trotsky was a close associate of Russian revolutionary Lenin and later the chief rival of Stalin, the latter of whom branded Trotsky a traitor and expelled him from the Soviet Union in 1927. In exile, Trotsky wrote ‘The Revolution Betrayed’, denouncing Stalin and the Soviet Union. During the Great Purges of the 1930s, Stalin’s propaganda invariably depicted Trotsky as the instigator of all supposed plots and acts of sabotage. In 1940, he was murdered in Mexico by Ramon Mercador, a Stalinist agent.’

In 1984, Trotsky’s book is called ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchal Collectivism’. Orwell’s version is not just a critique of Stalinism but rather a critique of all rulers. In contemporary terms, the thesis of the Trotsky/Goldstein book is that all societies consist of three groups – the rulers, the would-be-rulers and the remaining 99%. Would-be-rulers raise issues of justice and equality to become rulers. Governments come and go but the 99% remain at the bottom of the heap. In 2016, the 99% understand this and it has fueled the takeoffs of the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump campaigns.

In 1984, Orwell introduces Newspeak – a corruption of the English language whose vocabulary decreases every year and each word in that ever diminishing language has a more restricted meaning. As Orwell puts it in his famous appendix to 1984, ‘It was intended when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought …should be literally unthinkable’ Well we haven’t quite gotten to that point yet, but a vocabulary that that mainly consists of the words ‘very’, ‘huge’ and ‘loser’ offers little possibility for the expression of any thought.

As for the Democrats, it’s not George Orwell who comes to mind -it is the American philosopher Will Rogers who said, ‘I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat’. Following a Wikileaks posting that showed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) biased against Sanders, the Sanders delegates were disruptive as the convention started. Democratic conventions are often unruly. However, as we go to press, there is a sense that all factions are uniting behind Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders, who finished second in the primaries, was extremely gracious in declaring his support for Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times of July 26 reports, ‘American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have “high confidence” that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee,’ We will not speculate on Russia’s (Putin’s) motives for helping the Trump candidacy.

With the conventions ending, the Republicans are coming away as the party of fear and hate. The Democrats are emerging as the party of hope and inclusion.

While preparing this newsletter, I ran across an article titled, ‘Antisemitism in Britain’. which is reprinted in the full version of our newsletter. What makes the article particularly meaningful is a sense that Orwell is confronting his own sub-surface antisemitic tendencies. He writes, ‘I defy any modern intellectual to look closely and honestly into his own mind without coming upon nationalistic loyalties and hatreds of one kind or another. It is the fact that he can feel the emotional tug of such things, and yet see them dispassionately for what they are, that gives him his status as an intellectual. It will be seen, therefore, that the starting point for any investigation of antisemitism should not be “Why does this obviously irrational belief appeal to other people?” but “Why does antisemitism appeal to me? What is there about it that I feel to be true?” If one asks this question one at least discovers one’s own rationalisations, and it may be possible to find out what lies beneath them.’

He gives several examples, showing the basis for a prejudice and then showing why it is not factual. The example that caught my eye is, ‘It so happens that the war has encouraged the growth of antisemitism and even, in the eyes of many ordinary people, given some justification for it. To begin with, the Jews are one people of whom it can be said with complete certainty that they will benefit by an Allied victory. Consequently the theory that “this is a Jewish war” has a certain plausibility, all the more so because the Jewish war effort seldom gets its fair share of recognition. The British Empire is a huge heterogeneous organisation held together largely by mutual consent, and it is often necessary to flatter the less reliable elements at the expense of the more loyal ones. To publicise the exploits of Jewish soldiers, or even to admit the existence of a considerable Jewish army in the Middle East, rouses hostility in South Africa, the Arab countries and elsewhere: it is easier to ignore the whole subject and allow the man in the street to go on thinking that Jews are exceptionally clever at dodging military service.’

About the Author
Richard Chasman, 1934-2018, was a member of the Modern Orthodox community in Chicago. Professionally, he was a theoretical nuclear physicist. Richard, who described his perspective as "centrist," wrote a newsletter for more than 20 years called "Chovevai Tsion of Chicago," on subjects of interest to the Modern Orthodox community.