Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Freedom From Dissent - Fortified With Iron(y)

Sometime after I wrote this, the comment I'd been trying to post on Libertas mysteriously reappeared. Kudos to them for behaving like adults. Disagree, but don't censor. Not if your chosen name is "Freedom."

Original Post:
So I moseyed over to Libertas yesterday, a "conservative" film site, and wrote here at Codemorse that "Freedom," in the context of this particular conservative film website, appears to be the freedom to agree with their own views.

Is that judgemental? Probably. But it's also true, as evidenced by my attempt to have an intelligent discussion in their comments section.

Libertas posted this, originally:

So the word is now - and I’m not kidding about this - that Tim Robbins is considering adapting George Orwell’s 1984 into a film. Robbins is apparently directing a stage version of 1984 here in LA (how did I miss this?). Here’s Robbins from the Empire Online article:

“When we think about the authoritarian world that Orwell painted, the catchphrases are one thing, but when you read the book again, the specifics and relevance for now are stunning” says Robbins who confirms it could be some time off - “It’s really a matter of whether I can raise the money for it. We’ll see if there’s an appetite for it. Orwell may have been twenty years off, but I know that I find it incredibly relevant.”

Why do I think this would make a better Saturday Night Live skit than a film?

You can read the various comments about that post HERE, but they're well summed-up by this one:

“Why do I think this would make a better Saturday Night Live skit than a film?”

Yeah, that or a saturday morning cartoon.

Obvious Tim Robbins-hate aside, I had to wonder if anyone who'd posted had actually read 1984. Turning it into a cartoon seems a little like making Kafka's "The Castle" into a Disney musical. So, I responded:
Why do I get the feeling that no one here has actually read 1984?
Snarky? Yeah, a little. Still, my post was sincere. If you've read 1984, you know that Orwell's book is relevant, but not because of the Bush administration. I got this editorial response:
[Editor’s Reply: I don’t know, Matt Morse, why do you have that feeling? It might interest you to know that two people who write for this site have Ph.D.’s in literature (from Stanford and Oxford). So how about you, have you read the novel? Or are you more of a “Green Eggs and Ham” kind of a guy …]

Wow. They sure are sensitive over there, aren't they? But I notice that they didn't respond to the point of my post at all. Which means (a) they really haven't read 1984, Ph.D.s notwithstanding, or (b) they'd taken my post to mean that they were stupid, and so felt no obligation to respond.

So, I wrote back:

Oh, I tend to be a Green Eggs and Ham kind of guy. Big books intimidate me. I did manage to wrestle my way through 1984, though. The reason I posted the above is not because I think anyone here is stupid. It’s because if you’ve read the novel, then Robbins’ comments do make sense. 1984 remains relevant to today’s society. That doesn’t mean that America is “becoming” that book’s government. It means that the ideas Orwell played with are vital and significant. I have no doubt that two Ph.D.’s understand this.

Tim Robbins has some wonky views, so if what you’re really talking about is HIS attempt to make the movie, and your predetermined idea of what that film might end up being, then I guess I “get” it.

I thought that was pretty reasonable. I don't insult anyone, or make any ridiculous claims. In fact, I make a point of correcting any misunderstanding about my original post.

Two people responded reasonably to what I said, and I tried to respond with this:

Thanks for responding, Chris and Russell.

I think that perhaps you take the text of Orwell's novel as its message, Chris, whereas I tend to regard it as extreme windowdressing meant to carry Orwell's core ideas about how authority is exercised. Orwell was not the best at writing in any sort of exciting manner, and I know a lot of people who found 1984 to be a slog, myself included.

But with due respect (and I mean that), I think that the ideas Orwell discusses are not far fetched in the least. For instance, "doublethink," a form of trained, willful blindness to contradictions in a system of beliefs ( and "newspeak," where two opposing sides string together phrases empty of meaning (, are actually used quite often now in the media and in politics (on both sides of the political divide). It can be argued (and I would argue this) that newspeak and doublethink are harmful to the interests of the people being governed, because they effectively depower us.

I suppose my biggest problem with entertainers that hold forth on their politics is that, too often, they're all talk. I prefer to see a person with resources put those resources toward good works. If you're concerned about the homeless, help fund programs that put them to work. Don't berate the government for not swooping down to save everyone.

Thanks for responding so politely. It's appreciated. Too often, political discussions turn into "foot size" contests.

I think that sums up my honest opinion pretty well. There's just one thing: I'm apparently blocked from posting to Libertas now. Since neither of my posts were insulting, I have to assume that (a) the Libertas folk have an inability to deal with viewpoints that in any way threaten their own (Which is, ironically, a definition of doublethink), or (b) one of the editors visited Codemorse, read my not-so-kind review of their site, and banned me from posting. Which is ironic, because it shores up my statement that "Freedom" apparently means the freedom to agree with the views of Libertas.

If I can bore you a little longer, I think this says a lot about our country's inability to communicate. Nothing I said, snarky as it may have been, was untrue. If I've been blocked, they really don't tolerate dissenting views. They are elitist. That doesn't mean that they aren't good people, or that their views can't be correct. But someone over there can't tolerate the notion of someone piping up and offering an alternative, or asking for an explanation of their views.

I may be a heathen liberal, and you may disagree with what I have to say, but an unwillingness to hear it indicates a fundamental lack of faith in your own beliefs. Can they not be questioned? And what does this say about our political polarization in this country? I'd like to ask them about this, but I can't. In a public posting where Orwell's ideas are called "far-fetched," I'm prevented from responding.

That's, like, the definition of irony.


At 1:11 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

As Click and Clack would say, "Boooooogus!" I posted over there m'self on that very thread.

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous jummy said...


"Snarky? Yeah, a little. Still, my post was sincere."

but the part where you contend that neither your of your posts were insulting is standard, factory-line bullshit.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

How were they insulting?

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous jummy said...

you know, i have to doubt that you're even aware of the meaning of what i wrote.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Maybe if you used proper capitalization?

At 11:20 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

Hi, Cap!

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you stickin' up for me. Bogus, indeed.

What's funny is that my post has now mysteriously appeared on the site.

What's funnier is how freakin' ANGRY this jummy guy is.

You'd think I'd called his mother a dirty word or something.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

And just so you know, Jummy, "Snarky" means "Irritable or short-tempered," NOT insincere.

Thus, not doublethink.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

You're quite welcome!


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