Tuesday, June 22, 2004

James Lileks, Michael Moore, George Orwell and Bob Dylan

The Daily Bleat pointed to Christopher Hitchens' response to Fahrenheit 9/11 over at Slate/MSN. Interesting reading, but if you don't make it all the way through his deconstruction of Moore's disjointed anti-Bush spew, don't miss the George Orwell quotation near the end:

Perhaps vaguely aware that his movie so completely lacks gravitas, Moore concludes with a sonorous reading of some words from George Orwell. The words are taken from 1984 and consist of a third-person analysis of a hypothetical, endless, and contrived war between three superpowers. The clear intention ... is to suggest that there is no moral distinction between the United States, the Taliban, and the Baath Party and that the war against jihad is about nothing. If Moore had studied a bit more, or at all, he could have read Orwell really saying, and in his own voice, the following:

The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …

And that's just from Orwell's Notes on Nationalism in May 1945. A short word of advice: In general, it's highly unwise to quote Orwell if you are already way out of your depth on the question of moral equivalence. It's also incautious to remind people of Orwell if you are engaged in a sophomoric celluloid rewriting of recent history.

I'll try to remember.

On an unrelated note, an eminent poetry scholar has published a 500 page book about the poetry of Bob Dylan, and more or less misses the point. Good article if you're a Dylan fan, or especially if you're a high school English teacher subjecting the kids to a "Poetry of Rock" curriculum.