Welcome to 1984 (30 years late, but we’re there now…)

A lone gunman, after long on-line exchanges with a radical Imam, becomes convinced that the US military has become the main enemy of Islam, enters a military base and, shouting “Allah Akbar” (God is Great) shoots everyone in sight, killing 13 and wounding 32.

But the US military refuses to label this an act of terror.  It is, they say, an act of “workplace violence.”

Elsewhere, half way around the world, the military seizes power by overthrowing a popularly elected president, placing him in prison along with leading members of his political party.  But the US government refuses to label this action a “coup.”  The secretary of state instead calls it a “military takeover to restore democracy.”

The first case is that of Maj. Nidal Hassan, the American-born Palestinian officer who turned on his fellow soldiers at Fort. Hood.  The second, of course is Egypt, where admitting that a coup occurred would force the US to cut off aid to the current Egyptian government.

In both cases, the government argues on pragmatic grounds that it is necessary to twist words.  If Hassan’s act were called an act of terror, how could he get a fair trial (not that this seems to matter for the Boston Marathon bomber)?  If Egypt’s military actions were called a coup, then the US laws that prevent our support of governments that unlawfully overthrow democracy would kick in and force us to cut off aid to a country that we still need to honor its peace treaty with Israel.

But this kind of twisting words to suit our short-term needs at the expense of facing the honest truth is costly.  It leads to the fabrication of policies that ignore reality and instead put weight on phrases.

This is particularly apparent in the handling of the European economic crisis.  The policy actions of the northern European countries in demanding budget-reducing and economy-crushing actions, simply to save the banks and creditors of northern Europe, are creating a humanitarian disaster of historic proportions (see Ken Courtis on the reality on the ground in southern Europe).  Yet it is papered over with noble sounding words like “austerity” and “return to growth” that have nothing to do with reality.  The reality is that debt loads are mounting, local banking systems are breaking, millions are being deprived of decent diets, shelter, and health care, millions of youth are being denied jobs and condemned to permanent loss of earning potential — and all this is being covered up with words about “recovery” in the near future or improvement of “current accounts” and “primary budget balance.”  If people are too poor to consume any imported goods, and there are so few jobs that people with talent leave the country and send their remittances home, that creates a balanced or even surplus current account.  But this is like saying malaria produces weight loss, so is a good thing.  No — the truth is southern Europeans are being visited with economic disaster not of their making, but to pay for the overconfidence and loss of contact with reality among northern European bankers and ministers.

And oh yes, it appears “Big Brother” is with us too.  All Americans are being spied on, all the time.  In the days before the Patriot Act, this was simply illegal.  But now it is not only legal, but thanks to the internet and big data capacities, our activities can be more closely monitored than ever, and without a camera or microphone in sight.

So 1984 is here.  The only question is whether we will continue the obfuscations of the truth, and become accustomed to the total lack of privacy and constant observation, until we too come to “Love Big Brother…”

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About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
This entry was posted in The Global Economy, U.S. Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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