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Rubin Reports

Why the Culture War is Ruining Journalism, Academia, and Charity

December 2nd, 2013 - 4:01 pm

“He who tells the truth is driven from nine villages.” – Turkish Proverb

A couple of decades ago, I was invited to a conference on the anniversary of the birth of Isaiah Berlin. One of the speakers was the George Orwell professor of a British university.

But his ideas were the opposite of Orwell. Orwell was a great patriot. On the contrary, this guy’s definition of a nation was any random lines drawn on a map–no preconditions. He was no patriot. I guess a nation having values is invalid now.

Also, Orwell was an anti-radical socialist, author of the amazing anti-radical Animal-Farm, and a milder, anti-totalitarian socialist who admired the United States. In contrast, the endowed professor had the opposite ideas and real politics of Orwell.  After I challenged him on these modern “Progressive” (leftist) points, nobody spoke to me for the rest of the conference, because they just assumed what he said was true.

If you want to know a contemporary story about this, I can refer to an experience at a conference where a professor (George Orwell professor in fact, was a great patriot, though a socialist) made jokes.

But then I thought about Berlin himself. He championed values of pluralism and individual liberty, against political correctness and enforced orthodoxy.

There are two issues at stake. First, the moderate liberal-conservative democratic consensus–Orwell and Berlin–staked out these margins. This was the mainstream of democracy and democratic opinion: The “vital center.” Today, this has been rejected in place of bitter, triumphalist partisanship, a transformation of the system.

Second, scholarship and honest journalism: Go where truth ordains, even if it is not your preference. This is in place of the indoctrination and partisanship, which have turned large tracts of entertainment, journalism, and scholarship into lies.

In other words, people want teaching, journalism, and charity to be credible. But these are caught-up in the partisan culture war- which is in control of the left. The coinage of these matters is debased.

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Orwell was no saint or undamaged human being. See http://clarespark.com/2012/10/15/orwell-power-and-the-totalitarian-state/. He reminds me of Thomas Carlyle, who introduced (with Marx) the notion of the "cash nexus" that defines modernity for both social democrats and hard (Leninist) leftists.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Brilliant, the real Orwell is stuffed down his own memory hole by the George Orwell Professor and when you point it out you get the orthodox Stalinist treatment. @Barry, as a regular reader I sense we have similar political backgrounds and if we had a cup of coffee together we would both be somewhere in the 'vital center'. I consider myself on the right now but came from a NY FDR Democratic household. After the failure of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to recreate the left in response to Reagan and Thatcher it seems the Gramscian hard left, bent on cultural hegemony, has come to the fore. Universities have become places of indoctrination and journalism predictably ideological. I would regard that as intellectual degeneracy and it is going to produced a lot of disappointment and suffering before it thoroughly discredits itself.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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