Tuesday, April 9, 2013
9 April 2013
Elle Fanning b. 1998
Kristen Stewart b. 1990
Dennis Quaid b. 1954
Ms. Fanning's best known genre work is Super 8 and Mr. Quaid's is The Day After Tomorrow. I reluctantly give the picture slot to Ms. Stewart and since I did so, it had to be a picture of her using all her acting ability, which means biting her lower lip.
To be fair, when she was much younger, she was very good in Panic Room.
Prediction: He wrote: Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death.
Predictor: George Orwell (writing through his protagonist Winston Smith) in 1984, published in 1949
Reality: Google thoughtcrime and look at the images. All over the political spectrum, people accuse their rivals of wanting to institute thoughtcrime. Left wingers accuse the right of turning opposition to the Iraq War into thoughtcrime. Right wingers often turn Obama into Big Brother. People way out on the fringe think Holocaust deniers are persecuted martyrs to be equated with Galileo. Some libertarians consider hate crime statutes to be akin to thoughtcrime.
In my view, people should calm down about this. As someone who opposed the Iraq invasion, I can state for a fact that the millions of people who protested the war were not locked up and put in detention centers. We were just ignored, the war happened anyway. The people who fear Obama brings Communism and re-education camps are worrying about something just as unlikely.
Because we don't live in Orwell's dystopia, the things that look most like thoughtcrime to me are the ways people are excluded from groups for failing to follow the party line on important topics. Ever since Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth, the political polarization on the issue of climate change has become more pronounced. Admitting climate change exists is something near heresy in the right wing culture, even though some of their heroes - notably the late Margaret Thatcher and just yesterday Arnold Schwarzenegger in a guest op-ed in the Los Angeles Times - accept the scientific consensus. Last decade, Newt Gingrich was on board with the idea of combating climate change, though he recanted when he ran for president. Neither of these positions is the considered opinion of a serious intellectual. Mr. Gingrich will follow money to Hell's Ditch and back.
A few weeks ago, I went to a talk by a climate scientist in San Francisco, and on the bus trip back to the East Bay, I sensed a lot of discomfort when I brought up that temperature increases and increases in CO2 levels are not moving in lockstep and that the areas with the most warming have nothing to do with population density. I was in no danger of being locked up but inside the group on that bus, I was engaged in thoughtcrime.
We live in a polarized time politically, but it's not as cut and dried as it feels when some topic has people screaming at one another across a chasm of opinion that appears impossible to bridge. The change in public opinion on gay marriage in the past twelve months is a near perfect example. Obama's famous "evolution" on the topic was announced just last May, and a nationwide counter-demonstration of people waiting hours in line for "fast food" was last August. Since then, Chick Fil-A has decided to stop funding anti-gay marriage groups, which must make all those people who stood in line wonder what the hell was the point of wasting an afternoon.
To sum up, thoughtcrime (or crimethink, as Orwell uses later in the book) is not an accurate prediction of our present culture, but it is a metaphor worthy of closer inspection, which nicely describes why Orwell is still worth reading.
Looking one day ahead... INTO THE FUTURE!
A date other than 1984 shows up in the book, and luckily for us, Orwell gets this one wrong as well.
Join me then... IN THE FUTURE!