Tim Pawlenty loves Big Brother

It’s not enough for him to back off a politically unpalatable position; he has to apologize for ever embracing consensus reality. Tea Party/Club for Growth Republicanism is becoming more an more totalitarian.

In the closing scene of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith, the apostate apparatchik, finally re-embraces the system that has destroyed him as a human being and is about to put a bullet into his brain.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

That scene echoes the earlier enhanced interrogation torture scenes, in which the enhanced interrogator torturer Dick Cheney O’Brien tells Smith that it’s not enough for him to embrace the Party’s viewpoint verbally: he needs to feel it in his very gut.

Like Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Orwell’s novel is partly a reflection on the Moscow Trials, where Old Bolsheviks confessed to completely implausible crimes. Koestler and Orwell understood that the mark of totalitarianism is the desire to achieve not merely acquiescence but soul-surrender from those with differing views.

Tim Pawlenty, having noticed (back when he had to win elections in Minnesota) that global warming was real, embraced one of the two market-oriented approaches to dealing with it.  He chose cap-and-trade; the alternative is taxation. Now that he has to win Tea Party-dominated  Republican primaries, he needs to back off. But it’s not enough for him to say that global warming is real but that raising energy prices would be economically destructive. He has to say that global warming is not real, and apologize for ever having believed the truth.

I have no particular reason to think that Tim Pawlenty was ever a self-respecting human being, but this sort of formal self-degradation is enough to make you sick to your stomach.

As Winston Smith writes in his diary during his brief moment of intellectual self-respect, “Freedom is the right to say that two plus two equals four.” The whole wingnut enterprise is devoted to saying that two plus two is whatever Rupert Murdoch and the RNC say it is, and that whoever says otherwise is a socialist and probably a terrorist sympathizer.

In the words of an earlier victim of an older tyranny, Eppur, si muove. Isn’t it sad how few of our politicians can truly make Olaf’s boast?

Footnote Naturally, “objective” political journalism asks only whether his crawling will be enough to satisfy his audience, not whether his new position fits with reality. The comparison to John Edwards on the Iraq War is utterly inapposite; subsequent events had demonstrated the the Iraq War was a mistake, while all the new data just shows that global warming is not only real but is happening more rapidly than previously feared.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

7 thoughts on “Tim Pawlenty loves Big Brother”

  1. “The whole wingnut enterprise is devoted to saying that two plus two is whatever Rupert Murdoch and the RNC say it is, and that whoever says otherwise is a socialist and probably a terrorist sympathizer.” That about sums it up. I think of the quotation beneath “The Reality-Based Community” whenever I hear a right-winger deny climate change.

  2. As a Minnesotan, I can assure you that all self-respecting (previously) Republicans here have left the party, from the mayor of Edina up to the former Republican governor.

  3. Sometimes a situation is so unreal, so bizarre, so inexplicable that it belongs, not in a parallel universe, but rather, in some sort of oblique one. There is simply no way that one sentient human who has been exposed to it could explain it to another cognitively capable person who hasn’t and leave them with anything but an Alfred E. Neuman, “Wah?” look on their face.

    The best explanation I’ve found at attempting to explain the mental functioning (assuming “mental functioning” is not an oxymoron) of “The Wingers, Tea Party strain” has been Mike Taibbi.

    Now, its been established that a dictionary-like definition, or explanation, is not doable, the only, and best way I’ve found, is just by reading a Taibbi paragraph and simply letting the totality ooze into your mind as the kalaidoscopic image develops.

    (Paraphrasing, but not much)
    Fending off criticism that his attitude towards these strange beings is demeaning, and most definitely, elitist, he pounces back reflexively with his response: “Look! I know these people, I’ve lived with these people, and I’m telling you, without hesitation, they’re nuts!” “There’s no other explanation, no hidden redeeming quality, no undiscovered knowledge……….no nothing.” “How else can I explain it to you?” “When one of them says something to me so asinine, so batshit, factually crazy, so, well, bullshit, asinine, crazy, and I respond to them, slooowly, with evidense, irrefutable facts, and perfect logic, you know what their response is?” “They look at you with that open mouthed, enlarged adenoid, blank stare, and mutter proudly….Liar.”

    That about tells it all.

  4. Alas, it’s clear that Galileo didn’t say “Eppur, si muove” after his trial. Maybe he did later, in private, but there’s no evidence of that.

  5. Pawlenty can simply mimic Fred Upton (Republican, Michigan) who made the same transition a year or so ago — from understanding climate change, to denying it: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/01/fred-upton-global-warming

    Upton readily scrubbed his website (as well as his brain) of any previous grasp of reality: http://thinkprogress.org/2011/01/03/upton-wallace-carbon/

    Fred could train Pawlenty in straightfaced lying; prescribe the necessary insomnia treatments; and suggest creative replacements for all the mirrors in his home.

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