Friday, 25 August 2017

As Orwell Didn't Say...

'The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.'
 This quotation, allegedly from George Orwell's 1984, is all over the social media at the moment, no doubt in response to the current wave of historical iconoclasm in the US. (Sometimes it's 'a people' instead of just 'people', which makes better sense.) The sentiment is one that Orwell, who knew plenty about the historical iconoclasm of the Soviet Union, might well have endorsed, but it seems he never wrote those words - certainly not in 1984 and, as far as anyone can discover, not in any other of his works.
 This appears to be one of those plausible misquotations/ misattributions that come from nowhere, as if by spontaneous generation, and spread, for a while, like wildfire. It doesn't really matter much: just as the internet enables these false quotations to suddenly emerge and spread, so it enables the vigilant to call them out promptly. However, if any of my erudite readers have any ideas or information about where this 'Orwell' quote came from, or indeed if it occurs in some obscure corner of his works, I'd be glad to know. One for you, Dave Lull?
 Meanwhile, here's another relevant quotation that I believe is genuine: 'I think little of people who will deny their history because it doesn't present the picture they would like.' That's George MacDonald Fraser, best known as the author of the Flashman novels.  Or is it?

23 comments:

  1. This was 'quoted' in the New York Post: "In '1984' one of Orwell’s characters warns of how “every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered.”
    “And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute,” adds Orwell’s character. “History has stopped.”
    A real quotation?

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  2. Attributed to Churchill, speaking in Parliament: History will decide between us.... And I'll write the history.

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  3. Yes George, you could argue when people complain that the victors always write the history that the right to do so is one of the things one is fighting for.

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  4. The final part of the quotation is : "Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right."

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    1. Yes this is in the novel 1984.
      And very pertinent in today's times.

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  5. Would have been a good quote.

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  6. Interesting that even Orwell's dystopian vision drew the line at actually destroying statues, the regime being content to rename them. Maybe that's the solution - if you don't like Nelson's column, call it Nelson Mandela's column. Sorted.

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  7. Apparently there was a mediocre play of 1984 from which some of these fake Orwell quotes originated...

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  8. Ah, that sounds very likely...

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  9. Good Lord I hate it when people parrot fake quotes, even if they are amazingly relevant. Thanks for setting the record straight. I had a deep search myself and could not locate this quote in the writings of Orwell or any contemporary record of him voicing such a sentiment in an interview or in the writings of any respectable peer.

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  10. Perhaps more to the point:

    “It is, I think, true to say that the intelligentsia have been more wrong about the progress of the war than the common people, and that they were more swayed by partisan feelings. The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany. He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind. I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution. One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.” --George Orwell, ‘Notes on Nationalism’, May 1945

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  11. Why does the writer of this post maintain anonymity? Is it because the writer wishes to spread their own view of the world without fear of criticism? Is it because they are so ashamed of what they say in public that they wish to be incognito? is it because they feel more relaxed about their attempt to deceiving the public?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. My guess is that it's because he (or she) is a practical, sensible, self-respecting individual who wishes to avoid the easily avoidable evils of cancel culture, mortally dangerous physical attacks on life, property, and professional life by the infantile antifa types running around these days condemning all and sundry without a trial and without a brain in their violent, empty little, uninformed, uneducated heads (the latter problem notably NOT solved by university). And so forth. Note: The "writer of this post" did NOT "avoid criticism"; YOU just criticized him - identity revealed or NOT. YOU criticized. Your privilege. We welcome your opinions. Free speech - AND safety - and logic - are beautiful.

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  12. Whether he said it or not does not stop the quote from having meaning or being true. Someone apparently said it and it is very relevant and makes much sense. You can simply use the quote without attaching his name. Many quotes are listed under "Unknown".

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    1. Agreed, it's very relevant and applies to these times properly.

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  14. Those who have read the novel know that the quote is a summary of the following which was actually found within: "every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered.”
    “And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute," --

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