Have Attacks on History, Free Speech, and Independent Thinking Put America on an Orwellian Slippery Slope?

Stan Cromlish
Dec 29, 2018 · 7 min read
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1984 Book Cover

There have been troubling trends of late that have pushed me to start re-reading the 1949 dystopian novel by George Orwell, “1984,” because there have been attacks on the history of the United States as well as attacks on free and independent thought by both political parties. When we start pulling down statues, claiming that news is fake, and the masses begin blindly parroting our politicians from both parties, we are allowing others to do our thinking for us and that is a very scary proposition.

This quote from 1984 has more relevance today in America than I ever thought possible, “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” It is scary, but this is happening from both ends of the political spectrum. With social media, smartphones, and other devices, we are truly living in a time when thinking can be controlled by just manipulating the news feeds to contain the desired messaging whether it is the truth or not. Because, again from 1984, “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’” At some point, how will we know what to believe from politicians, government employees, or private citizens?

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So, are we as the United States slowly slipping into the Orwellian future that was portended in “1984?” Or, is this just another period in our history when there are two sharply divergent views between the political that at some point will blow up and then blow over through diplomacy and understanding?

If you look at social media these days, you will see quotes and comments like “It’s called America First in case you’ve forgotten!” But, the original America First movement was a movement in the late 1930s and early 1940s that believed the German Nazi party was going to win the war in Europe after the swift and decisive victory in France and Low Countries during the summer of 1940. That group counted Charles Lindbergh as one of its supporters, and their goal was not to have American boys involved in another European entanglement after the carnage that had been World War I.

Now, the current America First movement has an innocuous goal of protecting the United States’ border from illegal immigration, equaling out uneven trade partnerships, and bringing back blue collar jobs that were sent overseas in the late 1980s and 1990s where labor is cheaper. Labor is less expensive due to a lack of protective labor laws that over the past 150 years were put in place for American workers.

With illegal immigration, there is plenty of ammunition amidst the rash of police officer killings by illegal immigrant gang members in California and other Mexican border states. But, with every bad apple, there are also those immigrants whether illegal or not who came honestly to the land of milk and honey to start a new life and are willing to abide by the laws of the United States. And, those people are genuinely fearful of being deported because of the actions of the few. Is there a middle ground or a chance a compromise can be found to allow a path to citizenship for those who have been in the US for years and have abided by the laws of the nation and also protect the borders and the country from those illegals who live lives of crime? I would like to think that the government and its people have not gone so far down the path of division that we could not come to some compromise, but lately, I am not so sure.

Those who belong to this movement are seemingly intelligent, but just blindly parrot their favorite politician’s rhetoric and anyone who disagrees with them is shouted down instead of figuring out a way to find common ground. This is another Orwellian practice that has found fertile ground and is bearing fruit.

From the right’s America First movement to the left’s erase Southern Heritage movement which seeks to remove any and all vestiges of the Civil War and its horrible outcome of between 600,000 and 1,000,000 Americans killed and wounded, we see another one of those scary prophesies coming to pass. Both sides in that conflict were Americans, and the war pitted brother against brother, at times. It was indeed a dark time and a dark period in American history, but the statues that honor those Confederate generals and US generals should not be removed from public view in the name of political correctness because the history happened. If we as a nation start removing the accounts and facts recorded by the people who lived those events from the books and consciences of the people, we are sliding down the slippery slope that will only end after, “every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book was rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered.”

Once that happens, we will no longer know and believe that 6,000,000 people were annihilated by the German government during the Holocaust that occurred from 1939 to 1945. Already, people are questioning the validity of this event which did happen during World War II. Do we want to erase the loss of 2,400 Americans at Pearl Harbor? Without the study and understanding of history, there is a tendency to repeat it. Is the erasure of history really what we want to happen to the world, where we know nothing and remember nothing? To maintain our freedom, we must hold onto our past as it was lived and written by those who were there; without it, we cannot know and understand how we got to where we are today.

If we continue the attacks on each other and the attacks on history, we also by extension are attacking the truth. When journalists and other news organizations are belittled for questioning our politicians and others in positions of power, we are setting ourselves up to be victims of propaganda instead of unbiased reporting of the facts. The term, “fake news,” has taken on a life of its own and a similar phrase, ‘Lugenpresse,’ was used by the German government during World War I and the time of Josef Goebbels as Nazi propaganda chief to attack those reports with which the government disagreed and did not show them in the best light. This slippery slope of allowing the ruling party to dictate what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake’ as far as the news because it is not agreeable with those in power will only lead to what occurred in Germany and Japan during World War II where both country’s population believed that they were winning the war when in actuality both were on the verge of defeat from early 1944. We cannot let Orwell’s “1984” come to complete fruition because we will only see what we are allowed to see.

Are we as a country tumbling to disaster and totalitarianism because diplomacy, history, and the news media are all under attack from forces of left and right on the political spectrum? Are George Orwell’s predictions occurring today in the United States or is this just another period in the Nation’s history where seemingly divisive politics will be bridged by calmer voices at some point in the future?

What is your opinion on independent thinking? Extinct? I believe that we are heading down a slippery slope where free and independent thought is close to extinction amongst the masses. But, there will always be a group of people who are willing to examine and study the facts to understand what is happening in the country and will try to straighten the course and make people think. I am genuinely concerned because the mainstream does not know or understand the Nation’s history and some on both ends are blindly parroting just what their leaders want them to believe. We need to continually question, or we will end up, in the end, knowing and understanding nothing and living in a world dictated by what those in power say is the truth.

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