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Or... Well...

By Owen Paine on Thursday May 21, 2009 01:45 PM

SMBIVA's own super Al passed along a link to an essay by Thomas Pynchon -- a close impersonal idol of mine, or was, 'till I caught that often incurable thought virus, the Trier flu, in the summer of 1974.

Tommy's piece introduces a new edition of 1984. Here's Tommy:

"... one of the great achievements of this novel, one which has entered the everyday language of political discourse [is] the identification and analysis of doublethink."

"... doublethink is a form of mental discipline whose goal, desirable and necessary to all party members, is to be able to believe two contradictory truths at the same time. This is nothing new, of course. We all do it. In social psychology it has long been known as “cognitive dissonance.” Others like to call it “compartmentalization.” ... the idea seems to have presented Orwell with his own dilemma, a kind of meta-doublethink — repelling him with its limitless potential for harm, while at the same time fascinating him with its promise of a way to transcend opposites..."

And lo and behold, it has escaped the confines of Eric's dystopic tale and spread throughout are very own real deal of a brave new world.
"We believe and doubt at the same time — it seems a condition of political thought in a modern superstate to be permanently of at least two minds on most issues. Needless to say, this is of inestimable use to those in power who wish to remain there, preferably forever....

[Orwell] in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, the will to fascism had not gone away, that far from having seen its day it had perhaps not yet even come into its own—the corruption of spirit, the irresistible human addiction to power were already long in place, all well-known aspects of the Third Reich and Stalin’s USSR, even the British Labour party—like first drafts of a terrible future.

What could prevent the same thing from happening to Britain and the United States? Moral superiority? Good intentions? Clean living?"

Pretty standard stuff, eh? But then this comes along, and gets past the usual 1984 blither:
"The question remains, why end a novel as passionate, violent and dark as this one with what appears to be a scholarly appendix?

The answer may lie in simple grammar. From its first sentence, “The Principles of Newspeak” is written consistently in the past tense, as if to suggest some later piece of history, post-1984, in which Newspeak has become literally a thing of the past — as if in some way the anonymous author of this piece is by now free to discuss, critically and objectively, the political system of which Newspeak was, in its time, the essence.

Moreover, it is our own pre-Newspeak English language that is being used to write the essay. Newspeak was supposed to have become general by 2050, and yet it appears that it did not last that long, let alone triumph, that the ancient humanistic ways of thinking inherent in standard English have persisted, survived, and ultimately prevailed, and that perhaps the social and moral order it speaks for has even, somehow, been restored."

In a 1946 article in The Managerial Revolution, an analysis of the world crisis by the American ex-Trotskyist James Burnham, Orwell wrote, “The huge, invincible, everlasting slave empire of which Burnham appears to dream will not be established, or if established, will not endure, because slavery is no longer a stable basis for human society.”

In its hints of restoration and redemption, perhaps “The Principles of Newspeak” serves as a way to brighten an otherwise bleakly pessimistic ending—sending us back out into the streets of our own dystopia whistling a slightly happier tune than the end of the story by itself would have warranted."

Clever, eh? My beloved "standard English" survives under all this -- in the proles' argot, one imagines -- and gets resurrected, come the rising of the mud elfs.

But didn't "standard English" get memory-holed? What if it's precisely Doublethink that saves the proles from Newspeak -- or better, forces Newspeak to split against itself?

Heeere's ... Hegel!

Profounder insight into the antinomial, or more truly, into the dialectical nature of reason, demonstrates any notion whatever to be a unity of opposed moments
. What remains, must remain, even in Newspeak City is the eternal becoming. No superstructural totalization lasts.

And with that insight, 1984 collapses in on itself -- or for short, becomes 1989.

Comments (8)


I don't quite get what Pynchon is doing here. I could never read him anyway\ -- cried a lot, anywhere!

I tried reading the news in French, for awhile, to see if it felt "truer", more concrete. Probably less, it turned out.

Debord seems to have transcended all these debates about language, and lumped it all together under Spectacle. The opening essay of AFflicted Powers, a very interesting meditation on the meanings of 9-11, by a San Francisco collective of leftist intellectuals, uses "spectacle" as way of explaining the impact, the motives, and the fucked up response to that epochal event. As Debord says, if you tend to think of the world in terms of spectacle (as Bush did in overestimating the threat of Al Q) you soon lose your ability to think strategically.

Why do we like SMBIVA? Because it's a first line of defense against Spectacle.

Big ughs to both Tommy and Debord, if you ask me.

Strategic planning isn't hard because our overclass is high on its own marketing campaigns. It's up against a tough, hard reality. From their perspective, Al Q is a godsend, as it provides a new Pentagon-boosting bogey.

Here's to Trier, and to Marvin Harris.

As Lukacs once quipped, everybody's a realist materialist when about to cross the street in traffic.

Why do we like SMBIVA? Because it's a first line of defense against Spectacle.
Awww. This may be the nicest compliment we've ever gotten.

Personally, I hate Spectacle -- perhaps a better term than "collective emotion", which has always been my shorthand for what amounts to the same thing.

The plane goes down. The child falls in the well. The nation weeps. And blasphemies gather in my throat.

It all seems so coercive. I mean, I'm glad the kid got out of the well, and all. But still. Don't tell me what to feel.


Spectacle. Eh

Never trust frog

Moments of media orchestrated collective emotes

Ie the hate sessions in'84

I agree with you father the group slober over butchered buggared waifs is a poor substitute for
Hating trotsky

Watch nancy grace
Now there's orwell topped

I've always wished
To write a joint sequel to
Hux and eric
Brave new 84

Big. Bro
is back baby
And he's on soma
Watch your ass



I always m harris was like the flip side of eric bore

It occurs to me
Turning stuff on its head is fun

Line about a fatal flaw
base superstructure
Contradiction in waged smerf social totalization
Is a bluff
I think he really
Got the bug bad

Btw I puke at
Tommy gun's
Humanism restored shit

If that's your good nite moon dream
U deserve to fear the uniformed phantom
time traveling
thugs of the left and right knocking at your chamber door


Geez, I didn't know there were so many Debord haters out there (out here!) And from MDS's remark I'm not sure you understand "spectacle". Anyway, you'll all probably equally hate Thomas de Zengotita's "Mediated" -- a pop American (not unentertaining) update of Spectacle.

I was a McLuhan fan from the beginning, and I like this stuff. I like understanding how they control us, even when we think we're free! After all, ain't that the credo of SMBIVA?


"I like understanding how they control us"

my post point...they can't control us
our brains can't be washed
its a 17th century
mechanistic fallacy


OP: aren't we in a way self-controlling ourselves by spending time on the internet when we could be out. . . well . . . what?

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