By Victor Davis Hanson// National Review
New commandments replace the old ones on the barn wall.
The socialist essayist and novelist George Orwell by 1944 grew depressed that as a cost for the defeat of the Axis Powers the Allies had empowered an equally nightmarish monster in the Soviet Union.
Since his days fighting for the loyalists during the Spanish Civil War, the left-wing Orwell had become an increasingly outspoken enemy of Communism. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, when Stalin renounced all his wartime assurances and steamrolled Eastern Europe, Orwell came to see state socialism under authoritarian auspices as the greatest threat to human freedom. It was not as if right-wing dictators were not equally lethal, but the inclusion of the words “socialist” and “republic” in a left-wing tyrant’s official lexicon tended to fool millions.
Indeed, it was precisely the leftist totalitarians’ habit of embroidering their murderous pursuit of power with professions of “equality,” “fairness,” and “egalitarianism” that so often allowed them to employ any means necessary to achieve their supposedly exalted ends. In sum, in Orwell’s eyes, the radical Left’s erasure of historical memory and its distortion of reality through the manipulation of language were the chief threat of the 20th century.
His 1945 novella Animal Farm — initially difficult for Orwell to publish and deeply hated by Western leftists — was an allegorical warning to liberals of the dangers of left-wing propaganda. Words and phrases changed their meanings — again and again — to serve a tyrannical agenda. The assorted creatures of Orwell’s fictional barnyard frequently wake up to new commandments posted on the barn wall by their Stalinesque pig leaders, with yesterday’s edicts crossed out or modified — and soon to be forgotten.
Given the political sympathies and self-interest of the present mainstream media and cultural elite, when the Obama administration came into power in 2009, we crossed out prior, out-of-power edicts and wrote new establishment versions in their place — as if no one would ever quite know the difference, or would soon forget if he did. Many of us at the time wrote about the nearly Orwellian change in liberal mentality required to accommodate Obama’s many contradictions.
Rich people were suddenly not all bad blue-stocking Republicans, but also hip, valuable Silicon Valley progressives in flip-flops who, with some reluctance, outsourced and off-shored.
In our past eight years of historical revisionism, huge political contributions — like the hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies given by multi-billionaire financial speculator George Soros — were now helpful for democracy if only they were given to left-wing causes.
Once-liberal public campaign-financing laws and limits on fund-raising applied to all candidates except Barack Obama, who became the largest recipient of campaign cash in election history.
Drone assassinations were suddenly, in 2009, no longer proof of Bush’s efforts to kill the innocent abroad, but sophisticated tools in the Obama’s sober anti-terrorism tool kit. Radical Islamic terrorism simply vanished from our collective minds.
Terrorist killing was reinvented as vague “man-caused disasters” and “workplace violence” that occasionally called for American “overseas contingency operations.” If we did not have the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” then there would be no radical Islamic terrorism — apparently on the theory that if we ban “gravity” from our vocabulary, we will all instantly float upwards.
More recently, “fake news” did not mean promulgating the lie “Hands up, don’t shoot,” doctoring George Zimmerman’s 911 call, or insisting on national TV that the Benghazi attacks were spontaneous riots sparked by a right-wing American-based video maker, who, for his provocations, was perp-walked and jailed on trumped-up charges of parole violations.
Fake news certainly does not denote the decades-long myth that the hard-Communist and pro-Castro presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was emblematic of the right-wing haters of Texas, or the fantasy mythography of Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father passed off as an autobiographical memoir.
Instead, a supposed epidemic of “fake news” became a means to explain how Donald Trump, the supposedly incompetent buffoon, defeated the polished sure winner Hillary Clinton — who at one time in 2008 presented herself as a heroic stateswoman who had flown into Bosnia while under sniper fire. Executive orders are critical presidential prerogatives when Congress won’t act undermine the Constitution’s separation of powers.
In another classic Orwellian moment, the on-air fabulist and serial prevaricator, newsreader Brian Williams, jumped on the bandwagon to loudly editorialize about the dangers of not telling the truth and passing it off as news. Left unsaid was Williams’s subtext: Believe me about the dangers of fake news, because I was the biggest news faker in network anchor history. Or maybe he wasn’t, given Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” memos about Bush’s supposedly having gone AWOL during the Vietnam War, a fabricated scandal that Rather peddled to harm the reelection chances of George W. Bush in 2004.
No sooner did the progressive media and bureaucracy establish new barn-wall rules than Obama got set to leave office, soon to be replaced by a President Trump. Now the leftist project must scramble to hit reverse and start all over from the beginning.
On the lighter side, after 2016, expect that the sight of a president golfing in sports attire and shades will be proof of his indolence and privilege, not necessary downtime as it was for an overworked and harried Obama.
If First Lady Melania Trump takes two jumbo jets full of aides and government junketeers to vacation on Spain’s Costa del Sol next year — as did Michelle Obama for her 2010 getaway — expect media outrage over her supposedly callous selfishness and indulgence.
Here are the more serious and latest samples of the corrected Animal Farm Commandments on the American Farm barn wall for the age of the Trump presidency.
1. The Senate filibuster is
an archaic and disruptive obstacle to government an essential tool of legislative democracy.
2. The Senate’s “nuclear option” of approving nominees by majority votes is a
legitimate tool to restore legislative balance crackpot idea to erode Senate traditions.
3. Pen-and-phone executive orders
are critical presidential prerogatives when Congress won’t act undermine the Constitution’s separation of powers.
4. Past Supreme Court decisions
are always fluid rulings and hold no real sway over present court prerogatives established judicial precedents that should not be tampered with by current politicized justices.
5. Pressuring private companies
like Boeing or Chrysler for political purposes like Carrier to keep jobs in the U.S. is unwise presidential intrusion into the marketplace.
6. Edgy, out-of-the-box foreign-policy outreach to
democracies like Taiwan dictatorships like Cuba and Iran is proof of presidential leadership and imagination.
7. Presidential informality
like inviting rappers with rap sheets to the White House or doing interviews with GloZell like tweeting and videos are ominous signs of presidential frivolity and immaturity.
8. States-rights nullification of federal law
has been traditionally racist, and subversive to the idea of the United States, leading to crisis or war is a legitimate expression of progressive cultural exceptionalism.
9. Running up huge deficits
in Keynesian fashion primes the economy is a dangerous sign of presidential laxity.
10. Regular press conferences with vigorous cross-examinations of the president are
noisy anachronisms from the bygone age of print journalism a must for a functioning democracy.
11. Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio voting
twice for Barack Obama over John McCain and Mitt Romney was at last proof that the white working class was tolerant and enlightened for Trump shows that these deplorable voters are still irredeemable white clingers and supremacists.
12. Worries that registration and voting can be rigged
Rioting, demanding superfluous recounts, damning the legitimacy of the Electoral College, and threatening Electors are efforts to subvert American democracy.
13. Criticizing a former president
allots proper blame where it belongs for current messes is bad sportsmanship, cheap, and unbecoming.
14. Former presidents making business deals and earning exorbitant speaking and consulting fees as they cash in and globe-trot
demeans the office is an acceptable right and welcome duty of an ex-president.
15. Weighing in on contemporary news stories such as
the Skip Gates psychodrama or the Trayvon Martin murder case a flag-burning incident is symptomatic of presidential puerility.
16. Vladimir Putin
was unfairly alienated by George W. Bush, sophomorically hyped into an existential threat by Mitt Romney, and deserving of reset is dangerous, a Trump fan, and an inveterate enemy of the U.S.
All the above have a shelf-life of about four years and may be recalibrated according to the results of the 2020 election.