Not getting Orwell

The freedom of the internet sometimes makes you bump into people whom you, at first, sympathize with, and then at some point you discover, almost painfully, that while you share a common interest or viewpoint, you fundamentally came at it from different angles.

I always have had the idea that the history of the fight at the Eastern Front in the Second World War has been a victim of the cold war. Most of what we know, in the West at least, is the tale from the German side. The tale is almost that of a fantasy novel. The Germans, technically superior but numerically inferior, fight a foe with skilled tactics. The Russians combat that invasion with technically inferior systems by using numbers and blunt force tactics.

This is, of course, a very crude representation of reality but it is made by me to serve a point. The point being that one can invoke the idea of a numerically inferior force being able to best a numerically stronger enemy using better men, better weapons and better tactics. Hence, the Nato in Western-Europe, facing the specter of overwhelmingly superior Warsaw Pact forces, might stand a chance if they did what the Germans did, but learned to avoid what brought them defeat.

Of course the German generals, – those who survived -, would tell that tale. It was not their failure that defeat followed. And in the West we, no doubt, were all too willing to buy into that narrative. Even men like Milton Shulman, a man who wanted to set that narrative of the superior German warrior caste straight – Inadvertently bought into this narrative. He wanted to show on the one hand”what pathetic and petty figures these men really were.” 1). But at the same time Shulman reinforced the narrative by acknowledging the competence of the German command; “Why did a group of men with more training, more experience, and more passion for the art of warfare than any other contemporary group of similarly trained men fail to ensure victory[]?

So why did the German’s lose that fight?

[]These weaknesses might be summed up in three words – Hitler, discipline and ignorance.“2)

Here was, so to speak, the perfect military machine that eventually defeated itself. And, as Shulman will acknowledge, this defeat was mostly on the Eastern Front.3)

One fundamental problem was that for the Eastern Front it was hard to hear the Russian side. Not only because of barriers of language and ideology, but also because that side of story might not be a welcome one. What if the Russians eventually were able to field superior numbers, superior technology and use superior tactics? What if they were capable of winning a war without overwhelming superior numbers? Would this foe, now expanded with the sources of Eastern Europe and with only a few hundred kilometers to go to the Atlantic shore, not be unstoppable? Would not then the inevitability of nuclear war be a forgone conclusion?

Ironically it took the fall of the Sovjet Union to give a boost to a re-investigation of the history of the Eastern Front. What did the Sovjet sources tell us? Enter men like David Glantz who after the fall have been trying to see that war from the other side.

Of course, this history, and possible correction, would eventually surface somewhere on the internet. And of those who gave us a renewed narrative of the fight on the Eastern Front was TIK, who dutifully has been trying to tell that tale.

Now you might think TIK is somewhat like Glantz in this respect, – he often uses Glantz as his source -, but you would be far from the truth. You see, to be an historian you need to be a critical reader. And mind you, not just towards other people, but foremost towards yourself. Am I correct? Are my ideas right? And this is where TIK fails the most obvious.

I already showed in a post about his youtube movie about Hitler being a socialist how he cannot even maintain internal consistency. 4) But I ran into him again after I was curious what people say about fascism.

Now to understand his lack of self criticism I have to address it here, not so much as to be nasty to TIK, but in the hope that those who happen to watch his channel will be wary of what he is saying. Check, check and double check. Oh yes, you can check me too.

Now in that YouTube movie TIK has decided to read out the whole article by George Orwell named, “What is Fascism?” And I mean, verbatim. See below for the movie and below that for the article.

The essence of Orwell’s article is that Fascism, even back in his days(we are talking 1944) was used for about anything negative: “It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. “

And

Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathizers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.

A key sentence here is this:

All one can do for the moment is to use the word with a certain amount of circumspection and not, as is usually done, degrade it to the level of a swearword.

And here is TIK’s comment to that youtube movie:

George Orwell wrote a short piece in 1944 asking the question: What is Fascism? George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) died in 1950. His work is technically not in the PUBLIC (STATE) domain in the UK until the end of this year. If Orwell’s estate wishes to make a Fascist-copyright claim on this video, feel free. I’m not monetizing it anyway, and will simply take the video down.

Here then is a man who directly infringes a copyright by literally reading out the whole article verbatim and then calls the Orwell estate fascist beforehand because they might see it as an infringement.

Now you might take this as some form of statement, but fundamentally it shows how disrespectful this man is towards the memory of Orwell by basically directly doing the opposite of what Orwell is advocating: to use that word as a swear word. My impression is that doesn’t even get this. TIK seems too serious in this to understand the irony of his statement.

But even if it was Irony, it is still done in poor taste.

Notes:

  1. Shulman, Milton, Defeat in the West, First Edition, New York, 1948, page XIV,
  2. Shulman, Milton, Defeat in the West, First Edition, New York, 1948, page 3
  3. Shulman, 20
  4. https://meritcoba.com/2019/08/07/6459/

Sources

Milton Shulman’s book, Defeat in the West, can be read via the internet archive. https://archive.org/details/DefeatInTheWest/page/n39/mode/2up

Tik’s youtube movie can be found here:

George Orwell’s article can be found on this website:

George Orwell: ‘What is Fascism?’
First published: Tribune. — GB, London. — 1944.

https://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc

Sucker Punch, Tacitus, atheism and Orwell

” If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

I don’t like quotes like these, because it feels like mindless repeating something that someone else has thought off and is probably quoted out of context anyway.. I heard  this quote when I watched the movie Sucker Punch, just to give you an idea of the context..
Sucker Punch is a curious movie. On the face it seems to be an over-the-top action movie filled with scanty dressed women who are facing various diverse unrealistic situations such as world war I with zombie Germans and so on.. The whole is tied together by a double layered story. The first layer is the ‘real’ world in which the main character is locked up in a psychiatric hospital. She fantasizes to escape her dreary environment and impending doom(being lobotomized). The next layer has her and her other inmates being held by a sleazy guy who acts like a pimp and the environment has a definite vintage feel. It is the layer in which she escaped to the next world.
Sucker Punch has not been received well and I think I can make case  that this has much to do with the pretty women dressed in fetish outfits and the over the top action scenes. It is too flashy and too sexy to look like a profound movie and as such it isn’t.  And that is ironic. Perhaps more quotes would have helped, even if these quotes are totally out of context such as the quote above. And as the case may be: quoting things out of context and cherry picking is a well established practice.

The quote made me also think of an issue I have been struggling with these last few months. I have been watching a lot discussions surrounding atheism on you tube. Atheism can be described as a rejection of the claim that a god(or gods) exists on the ground that there is not enough proof to think otherwise.  In the western world this discussion focuses mainly on the god of the Christians because that god is culturally tied to those areas.

In the Netherlands(my native country) there are almost no discussions surrounding atheism and as far as I can tell nobody takes exception when you say you are an atheist. Perhaps it might lead to an exchange of views, that eventually ends with stand off, but nothing more.
In the US and on You Tube however the discussion is on. There are good reasons for that.  In the US the obvious conflict is the one between fundamental Christians, spearheaded by creationist and apologists, and the atheists. But it isn’t just a fight between ‘extremes’ but one that has a profound influence on our world and thus affects us all. The well funded extreme Christian basically denounce anyone who oppose their claims and want any other claims suppressed. And this is scary because the US is the most powerful nation in the world both economically and military and also very influential in many other areas. A right winged extreme Christian United States is no blessing too the world.

An example of a group of people that are seen as enemies of the faith are those scientists who hold views that are contrary to the views held by extreme Christians. If their scientific investigations do not match with the Christian claims  or even contradict them then science has to take a backseat and adapt to fit the Chritian. claim. Such extreme views are propagated by the likes of a Sye ten Bruggencate.
An example is a passage from the works of the Roman historian Tacitus. When describing the burning of Roman in 64 AD he tells us that the emperor Nero shifted the blame to a group of people called Christians by the populace.. He then tells that the name Christians comes from a man called Christ who has been killed on orders of Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.  More about this can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ
This is the only passage on Christians and Christ that exist in the extant works of Tacitus. It is often pointed to as proof of Christs existence. The whole issue comes down to the interpretation of this sentence: Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,[]
Either this sentence builds upon the previous sentence in which Tacitus says that the name Christians is a name given to these people by the populace.. and then what is said about Christ is also derived from that source(whatever the value of such a source) or this sentence does not build upon the previous one and is one that stands on its own: this is what I Tacitus have found about about Christs(from other sources than mere hearsay). As you might have gathered, even the best of ancient writers do not out of habit mention their sources.

Whatever viewpoint is  the most valid one is very much in dispute, but one thing can be said for sure: this passage is not undisputed proof for the existence of Christ for the passage inself is disputed.
But extremist Christians still keep submitting that Tacitus offers precisely that: undisputed proof for the existence of Christ.

In the US the conflict is taken to the classroom where intelligent design is pushed as valid alternative scientific idea next to ideas such as evolution. These attempts have often failed, so an alternative strategy is develop: remove disliked theories such as evolution from the classroom.
And here we touch a profound  pattern. This is no longer about a conflict over opposing ideas,. this touched on  the progress of humanity. Evolution is not the only view that collides with intelligent design and creationism. Ideas about how the universe and life evolved contradict extremist views and eventually any critical thinking will. So when evolution is removed, this will be just the first of ideas that will be removed, because evolution isn’t a stand alone idea, it is part of a bigger picture, remove one and you need to remove the next . And then the next will follow. And the next. And the next. Until nothing remains.
But these are the idea that are born from critical thinking and eventually critical think will need to go. But it  this same critical thinking that underpins progress and inventions.  Without critical thinking there would be no internet or mobile phones or cars or advanced medicines or science.
Critical thinking, out of the box thinking, qualities that are so readily demanded from applicants by companies and institutions alike, have to be suppressed to make the world match with  extreme Christian concepts .And so we are now entering Orwells world of 1984 where history is rewritten to match the current state of affairs between the superpowers, because suggesting that it might have been changed is to suggest that ‘Big Brother’ has changed his mind, which suggest that he might have been in error. And ‘Big Brother’ does not make errors. The world will be eternally frozen into the now.. there will be no past and no future. There will be no progress.

I have often seen these discussions about atheism as fringe discussions,  interesting only to inhabitants of the United States and not ‘us’  Europeans. In addition I do not always like the methods and arguments of those that fight Christian fundamentalism. But the fact is that they, atheist, sceptics, scientists, artist and anyone else who are not liked by extreme Christians) are actually fighting for something that we accept as normal and we are not helping them.  They are up against some pretty powerful well funded organisations that do not hesitate to stoop to lies, deceit and manipulation to advance their agendas, and which will include an attempt to brainwash the next generation in thinking that the bible is the only proper source of knowledge and truth. And although  I don’t feel on any level qualified to join the discussion, I can at least report on it.. for even writing about it will be contrary to those who like to drag humanity down into ignorance.

So more posts will follow…

 ” If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” might seem to be a reason to take a stand on something. But as a matter of fact, if you do stand for something it doesn’t mean you are doing better than those that stand for nothing. Fundamentalist stand for something.. and see what that leads to.