Let me get this straight: first the Bushites were for privatizing Social Security, like the good Thatcherite wannabes they truly are. Then it turned out that “privatization” didn’t do well with focus groups, so they were for “private accounts” instead. Now that turns out to be a loser as well, so the Social Insecurity proposal is to be described as feasturing “personal accounts.”
But if Josh Marshall is right — which he usually is about such matters — the White House has the press so cowed that they’re going along with the change of phraseology, with the Bush flacks pushing the idea that referring to the President’s program using the words he used to use, rather than the words he’s using now, would be “taking sides.”
Oceania, of course, has always been at war with Eastasia; saying otherwise would be partisan and shrill.
While the Bush record on civil liberty is appalling in theory, in practice there is little if any visible threat that the government will use violence or the force of the law to threaten free speech. But of course that was true in Orwell’s Britain as well.
The point of Nineteen Eighty-Four is that totalitarianism starts with the language, not with the secret police. By that standard, it is fair to say that we are ruled by people with totalitarian habits of mind. Well, that’s going to happen from time to time, and we can only hope to persuade a majority of our fellow citizens to choose better next time.
But if our journalists act as if they worked for the Ministry of Truth rather than for independent news organizations, the republic is not in good health.