The Orwell Problem

How can we remain ignorant when the evidence is so overwhelming?

The Freedom of the Press by George Orwell

This article by the 1984 author himself, which was meant as a preface to Animal Farm, reminds me of Mill’s argument that without criticism and an arena for free discussion, human beings cannot achieve healthy progress or self-development. I truly believe Orwell is a political anarchist and when we read his books, we tend to forget that he was writing in a time when Soviet Russia was fighting alongside the Allies against Hitler and such aid was more than welcome, in spite of the fear of growing communist movements for revolution. It was considered bad taste to critique the governments of your allies, however inhumanely they treated their own people. It is during the World Wars that IR theorists including myself realize the problems with widely accepted concepts like sovereignty and non-interference.

Several questions came to mind as I read this: Should a liberal democratic government have the right to censorship or is it a serious violation of negative liberty? When Orwell (and Milton) speaks of “ancient liberty”, did it ever really exist? Doesn’t Marxist theories of history concerning ideologies of the powerful challenge this idea? Are our present day ideas dictated by the elite and the result of brainwashing the population to love certain political ideals, especially those with economic ties? To what extent was Orwell’s book responsible for the ferocious anti-communist sentiment of American in last few decades? Can we apply Orwell’s concepts to the modern day’s renegade liberalism in a certain hegemonic regime? Are totalitarian methods practiced in advanced democracies today and is this the reason for their stability?

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