We have always been at war with Eastasia

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by Jeff Fecke | August 4, 2009

The most savage yells of all came from the schoolchildren. The speech had been proceeding for perhaps twenty minutes when a messenger hurried on to the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker’s hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia! The next moment there was a tremendous commotion. The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong! Quite half of them had the wrong faces on them. It was sabotage! The agents of Goldstein had been at work! There was a riotous interlude while posters were ripped from the walls, banners torn to shreds and trampled underfoot. The Spies performed prodigies of activity in clambering over the rooftops and cutting the streamers that fluttered from the chimneys. But within two or three minutes it was all over. The orator, still gripping the neck of the microphone, his shoulders hunched forward, his free hand clawing at the air, had gone straight on with his speech. One minute more, and the feral roars of rage were again bursting from the crowd. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.

The thing that impressed Winston in looking back was that the speaker had switched from one line to the other actually in midsentence, not only without a pause, but without even breaking the syntax.

–George Orwell, 1984

There’s an old legal saying: If you’ve got the law on your side, pound the law. If you’ve got the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you don’t have the law or the facts on your side, pound the table.

Jeff Fecke is a freelance writer who lives in Eagan, Minnesota.In addition to his own blog, Blog of the Moderate Left, he also contributes to Alas, a Blog, Minnesota Campaign Report, and AlterNet. Fecke has appeared as a guest on the “Today” show, the Alan Colmes radio show, and the Mark Heaney Show. Fecke is divorced, and the father of one really terrific daughter. His debut novel, The Valkyrie’s Tale, is now available.

As you no doubt have read, in the health care debate, the right has decided their interests are best served by pounding the table, sending astroturf-enhanced teabaggers to town hall meetings, where they are to shout down anyone they disagree with, that being the hallmark of someone comfortable with the rectitude of one’s opinions.

This has, of course, been cheered in greater wingnuttia. But this has a nice catch: it seems that this sort of behavior was shocking — shocking! — when the hypothetical agents provoctateur were liberals:

So they will try to co-opt. They will try to disrupt. They will certainly try to incite. When they try, politely put a camera in their face and politely ask them what the hell they think that they’re doing. Ask them loudly, from the diaphragm: it carries better that way, and the only thing that these people hate more than sunlight is sunlight and the interested gaze of a lot of people not inclined to humor them.

Of course, you may not remember the scenes of liberals shouting down participants at tea parties, because we, uh, didn’t. (Why would we interfere with them? We thought they were hilarious!) But that didn’t keep the right from being Very Very Concerned About The Liberal Threat To Democracy.

Of course, when conservatives engage in precisely those horrible behaviors, they’re cheered. Because, you know, that’s what they do.

I’ve never been a fan of disrupting meetings, whether you’re a Teabagger or a member of Code Pink. It doesn’t make you look smart, organized, and powerful. It makes you look deranged and afraid that your opinions are not strong enough to stand on their own merit.

The right is, I think, unable to defend their do-nothing approach to health care reform. And they can’t actually propose reform, as the right has pretty much defined any government involvement in anything not related to the military as pure socialism. And so, faced with a public that does want health care reform of some sort, the right is reduced to shouting people down and threatening that the government is going to kill grandpa once they get him off of Medicare and on to some nefarious government-run program.

It’s too bad. Health care reform is precisely the type of legislation that cries out for an older version of the GOP, one that wasn’t opposed to government, but did want to sharpen their pencils and do the cost/benefit analysis before leaping into anything. But that Republican Party is dead and gone; its last major figure, George H.W. Bush, sired the man who ultimately dealt that party its death blow. What passes for Republicanism now is a weird mix of populism and corporatism. It’s a shame. But it can’t be helped. And it’s why the Democrats need to remember that on health care, they’re on their own.

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