Our Orwellian world

Our Orwellian world

In “1984,” published in 1949, soon before his death at 46, George Orwell portrayed a dystopian world in which reality and the truth were suppressed by the overriding orthodoxies of Big Brother and ideological conformity.

Written as the emerging Cold War with the Soviet bloc was tightening, Orwell forecast a future that if it would not be curbed by democracies, would devolve into a vast echo chamber of enshrined doctrines, immune from opposing viewpoints.

As a new cold war emerges today between the democracies and the new axis of evil — China, North Korea, Iran and Russia — we are witnessing fissures within America and Europe on college campuses and among the educated elites that threaten the foundations of so-called Western civilization.

Orwell introduced the concept of doublespeak — the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs simultaneously and accept both of them. The noted psychologist Leon Festinger called this “cognitive dissonance.”

We witness cognitive dissonance at full throttle when progressive activists, ostensibly committed to feminism and gay rights, don keffiyehs while supporting Hamas and global intifada. Of course, in Iran and Gaza women are subservient to their husbands and homosexuality is a capital offense.

This reminds me of when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president of Iran, was invited, controversially, to speak at Columbia University. When asked by a student, presumably to mock him, if there were homosexuals in Iran, he responded “no,” eliciting laughter from the students. He should have clarified his answer that there were no known homosexuals in Iran.

Chants of genocide in Gaza directed against Israel, which goes out of its way, at the risk of its own soldiers, to limit civilian casualties, ignore Hamas’s charter, which calls for the genocide of all Jews, not just Israeli Jews. No rallies are directed against the Chinese who hold more than a million Muslim Uyghurs in concentration camps.

Then there are the journalists, the supposed purveyors of the first draft of history. Instead, like stenographers, they report the civilian casualty figures issued by the Gaza Health Ministry, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hamas. Other than the exaggerated figures they report, many don’t differentiate between civilians and Hamas combatants. Would we have believed the civilian casualty figures of the Taliban as we invaded Afghanistan?

As Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar revealed, civilian deaths are human sacrifices for the greater Hamas cause. The more deaths reported the better, and the compliant media, the U.N., and political figures report them ad nauseam.

Of course, IDF casualties are a bonus.

That’s why the incessant and Sisyphean pursuit of a ceasefire agreement with Hamas has not borne fruit. Hamas thinks it’s winning because of the constant pounding on Israel about civilian deaths by the U.N., so-called friendly governments, and even the U.S. Hide terrorists behind civilians, hide weapons in tunnels and in U.N. facilities, hospitals, and civilian residences, and let the sacrifices multiply.

Speaking of civilians, we learned that civilians imprisoned four hostages in their homes. One of the jailors was a reporter for Al Jazeera, presumably covering the war objectively. Many civilians in Gaza are not the innocents portrayed in the media. Two-thirds of them support the October 7 massacres. Considering this abhorrent statistic, governing Gaza “the day after” will be challenging indeed.

Meanwhile, Israel is castigated for rescuing its hostages, who were brutally abducted by Hamas, because of the civilian casualties. No doubt innocent lives were lost, and that always is heartbreaking. But the commandos faced hostile fire in a neighborhood that held four hostages for more than eight months. As Rafael Medoff reminds us, the Entebbe raid also was condemned as a violation of Ugandan territory by the former Nazi commander, then U.N. chief Kurt Waldheim, the French, and others.

With the nascent new cold war, we must not confuse winning with not losing. Our practice, if not policy, is to de-escalate at all costs instead of going on the offensive and gaining ultimate victory. Look at Ukraine. It didn’t receive the offensive weapons it needed until late in the game. And it only recently was granted permission to attack Russian formations kilometers from its border, where they assembled after attacking Ukrainian units. The same is true of U.S. constraints on Israel. Don’t invade Gaza City and Rafah. Don’t respond to the barrage of more than 300 missiles by Iran. Don’t escalate against Hezbollah in the north.

We are only playing defense against Iranian proxies, including the Houthis, who are crippling shipping in the Red Sea. Why don’t we make the puppet master, Iran, pay for it? Let’s apply full throated sanctions against Iran’s oil exports, which have increased to two million barrels a day from 300,000 only four years ago. Let’s act like the superpower we are, rather than continuing to appease Iran with an illusory quest for a nuclear deal. That horse already has left the stable.

And what of Europe, where three countries recognized a Palestinian state enveloped in corruption and antisemitism? European countries are now slowly rebuilding their defenses, which have languished for decades, in light of the threat from Russia. They have relied irresponsibly on the defense umbrella provided by the U.S. taxpayer. With the end of the Soviet-led Cold War, Europe relaxed its defense spending. But Scipio Nasica, a Roman senator, reminded us more than 2,200 years ago that “a fear of the enemy kept the state in good order. But when the anxiety was absent from their considerations, then decadence and hubris — the natural dividends of prosperity — began to dominate…far more injurious and dangerous than the adversity itself.”

So the Orwellian idea that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength can be countered by the search for the truth. For, as Orwell concluded, “there was truth and untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world you were not mad.”

Let’s hope that we use our critical thinking to discern the difference between the truth and untruth.

Max Kleinman of Fairfield was the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest from 1995 to 2014. He is the president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation and consultant for the Jewish Community Legacy Project.

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