Full text from the
April-May 1995 issue
of The Last Ditch
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crimethink, rewrite fullwise
By RONALD N. NEFF
and NICHOLAS STRAKON
There is an odd feature of Huber's story which e-mail correspondence with the author has failed to satisfy us about. In Huber's retelling, the arch-traitor is named not Emmanuel Goldstein but Kenneth Blythe. As we told Huber, when we came across the first reference to Blythe, our reading came to a screeching halt as we said, Huh? Only a handful of Orwell lovers would ever know the name Kenneth Blythe one of Orwell's most obscure pseudonyms but virtually everyone who has ever read 1984 knows the name Emmanuel Goldstein. All of Orwell's other character names are left unchanged.
Blythe, in Huber's book, is the putative author of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchic Collectivism, the samizdat manual exposing the nature of the political world Winston Smith inhabits. When Big Brother's dictatorship falls (or appears to fall), it is replaced (or appears to be replaced) by Blythe's dictatorship, with its own set of three slogans and its own telescreen warning: "The Proles Are Watching You." Huber composed his fantasy using essentially the Find, Cut, and Paste computer functions on a scanned copy of 1984, so the substitution of Blythe's name was a bit of unnecessary trouble.
"First," Huber wrote in his reply to TLD, "in Orwell's day the anti-Semitism inherent in the Goldstein name made an obvious point. Orwell was writing three years after Hitler. It seemed obvious that any despot of the future would use Jews once again in the same way. Today, by contrast precisely because anti-Semitism is so much less of a problem the message implicit in the name Goldstein would be much more confusing.
"Second, in my story the government's trick at the end is to pretend to change the government itself rather than the enemy. I wanted the switch to be to someone 'Orwellian.' The Blythe, as I point out in my end notes, is a river in England like the Orwell.
"Then there was a third reason. Even real politicians sometimes may change names. As you may know, we actually have a prominent 'Blythe' in high political office today, though under a different name." [That is a reference to Bill Clinton, who was then in power. NS]
Of course we take Huber at his word. And we understand reasons two and three; they are just the sort of creative indulgence that makes alternative fantasy so pleasurable. But what is going on when Huber writes, "The message implicit in the name Goldstein would be much more confusing" today?
We suspect that if Orwell were writing his dystopian novel today 2031, if you will he, too, would avoid naming his great traitor Emmanuel Goldstein. Not because Goldstein is a villain in the original book to the contrary, if he exists at all he is the great unmasker and resister of tyranny but because of this: while anti-Semitism may be much less of a problem in our day, anti-anti-Semitism is much more of a problem.
Anti-anti-Semitism isn't what you'd think, i.e., mere resistance to bigotry and unreasoning hatred; rather, it is itself a sleepless suspicion and relentless persecution. Under anti-anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism is seen everywhere, the most obvious contexts, the most careful qualifications, and the most benevolent motives notwithstanding. Critics of U.S. policies toward Israel and of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians are denounced as anti-Semites because they are anti-Zionists. At the same time, thunderingly Zionist fundamentalists are slandered as anti-Semites because they are Christians. Those such as Joe Sobran who dare to notice and write about anti-Christianism are themselves ostracized as anti-Semites. And then there is the famous sentence, philo-Semitic in actual content, that is automatically construed as evidence of anti-Semitism if uttered by a non-Jew: "Some of my best friends are Jewish." Even to refer to a person as a "Jew," instead of as "Jewish," is to court unacquitting scrutiny.
Given that deranged cultural context, you bet using the name Emmanuel Goldstein would be "confusing." Consider Orwell's unforgettable description of Goldstein in 1984:
[Goldstein's] was a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheeplike quality. [chapter I]
"Face of a sheep"?! Talk about your invidious stereotypes. But you could talk and write like that in the 1940s without having your character assassinated, assuming you were pure of heart. These days it would take a bold publisher indeed to refrain from "rectifying" that description in a manuscript submitted by a non-Jew. Any defense by the author that Goldstein was meant to be a heroic character would be met by a horse laugh. We suspect that Orwell's description of Goldstein has been allowed to stand in current editions only because bowdlerizing the original 1984 would strike even modern pietists as too great an irony. Imagine, then, what the reaction would have been had Huber proposed to use "Emmanuel Goldstein" as the name, not of Big Brother's nemesis, but of his apparent successor!
Huber insists that the world of telecomputing is conducive to free thought and free speech. His substitution of "Kenneth Blythe" for "Emmanuel Goldstein" suggests an incipient act of crimestop.
An editorial observation,
Since the publication of this article seven years ago, anti-anti-Semitism has become even more ambitious and far-reaching. Nowadays Huber would put his entire writing career at risk were he to observe that "today ... anti-Semitism is so much less of a problem," for that claim, too, would be seen as anti-Semitic!
September 27, 2002
© 1995, 2002 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.
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