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Roger’s Rules

Readers of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four will remember the character Emmanuel Goldstein, Enemy of the People. It’s unclear whether Goldstein was a real person in Orwell’s nightmare surveillance society of the near future. That didn’t matter. As a focus of hate, hence as a sort of unifying ideological glue for the rulers of Oceania, Goldstein was plenty real. If he was a fiction, he was a convenient one, for he helped maintain the brotherhood of paranoia that kept society together.

Every day at 11:00, work would stop as people congregated around the ubiquitous two-way telescreens for the ritual two-minute hate:

As usual, the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago nobody quite remembered), had been one of the leading figures of the Party, almost on a level with Big Brother himself, and then had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared.

The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even — so it was occasionally rumoured — in some hiding-place in Oceania itself.

In his inaugural address in January, Barack Obama promised to put “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”

I hope you’ve noticed how free from petty grievances, false promises, recriminations, and worn out dogmas public discourse has been since that glorious new dawn, 20 January 2009.

What, you haven’t noticed the promised political metanoia? Confidentially, I haven’t either. And I suspect at least part of the reason was dramatized by Orwell’s dystopian novel. The Obama administration and its PR enablers are addicted to blaming others for their own difficulties and failures.

The President likes to refer the economic crisis as a “mess” that he inherited from George Bush. But how does explain that the deficit was some $400 billion under President Bush and is projected to be about $2 trillion — $2 trillion — this year?

He doesn’t explain it. He blames others, especially President Bush.

What was unseemly in January is almost risible now. When will Obama take responsibility for failures that occur on his watch?

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