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.
Cross-posted from Rubin Reports