Orwell and the Left Intelligentsia

Orwell was right

Reading the recent Simon Tisdall article in The Guardian, “US withdrawal from Iraq is a beginning, not an ending”, and it is predictable to see him cover the usual Guardian-style propaganda points: the Iraq war was a “misadventure”; “explosively dangerous” “unfinished business” remains for the US to deal with in “Baghdad and Basra, in Ramadi and Mosul, and in Tehran, Riyadh, Damascus and Tel Aviv”; the “Iranian tentacles” manipulating “hundreds if not thousands of operatives inside Iraq, ranging from bone fide diplomats to spies and agents provocateurs.” (what of the Western agent provocateurs in Syria, Mr. Tisdall? Or those agitating at legitimate protests in London, New York and other “freedom loving democracies”?). Tisdall’s position is painfully clear: more war to come; a perpetual war on constantly shifting sands with new enemies emerging at every moment.

Of course, he bolsters the popular myth of the West’s inherent benevolence, suggesting that the lies of Bush and Blair “did incalculable harm to the western democratic tradition that is held up as a model for the rest of the world.” No mention of the dead, the disenfranchised, the tortured; and for many millions outside the West there is no “western democratic tradition” – just countless victims of a rampant neocolonialism; the modern day robber barons hiring propagandists to conceal their true motives and dress them up as “men of the people”.

I’m reminded of something George Orwell wrote in “Political Reflections on the Crisis” in 1938, in a discussion of the “left-wing intelligentsia” and their role as propagandists.

Of all the left-wing journalists who declare day in and day out that if this, that and the other happens “we” must fight, how many imagine that war will affect them personally? When war breaks out they will be doing what they are doing at present, writing propaganda articles. Moreover, they are well aware of this. The type of person who writes articles for the political Left has no feeling that “war” means something in which he will actually get hurt. “War” is something that happens on paper, a diplomatic manoeuvre, something which is of course very deplorable but is “necessary” in order to destroy Fascism. His part in it is the pleasantly stimulating one of writing propaganda articles. Curiously enough, he may well be wrong. We do not yet know what a big-scale air-raid is like, and the next war may turn out to be very unpleasant even for journalists. But these people, who have been born into the monied intelligentsia and feel in their bones that they belong to the privileged class, are not really capable of foreseeing any such thing. War is something which happens on paper, and consequently they are able to decide that this or that war is “necessary” with no more sense of personal danger than in deciding a move at chess.

The propagandists Orwell wrote of in 1938 at least had the excuse that Fascism was a genuine evil and a genuine threat. Today’s propagandists such as Simon Tisdall, however, do not have that justification – they represent the new fascists, fighting wars for corporate and financial elites whose political ideology is every bit as dangerous as their ancestors, the industrialists and bankers who secretly bankrolled Hitler.

Read more on Tisdall and his warmongering propaganda from John Pilger.


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