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May 27, 2004

No No No No No No No No

I suspect no person on earth cares about this except me. But in this speech Al Gore made a few days ago, he said: "George Orwell once characterized life in Stalin's Russia as 'a boot stamping on a human face forever.'"

This is wrong; George Orwell didn't say that about the Soviet Union. Instead, the character of O'Brien says it to Winston in the book 1984. Winston has been arrested, and O'Brien is in charge of breaking him. O'Brien explains:

"The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy... always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever."

It's not like this distinction matters that much. It's just that, having named this website after something George Orwell said, I feel like I should point it out when he's misquoted.

Also, I do feel bad for George. He's constantly being used by people he would have despised. Al Gore is the least of it.

Finally, it turns out there's actually a song called "Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever."

Posted at May 27, 2004 05:02 PM | TrackBack

No question that Gore's quote is a little misleading, but I wouldn't actually say it's wrong. He didn't say "Orwell once said" he said "Orwell once characterized". So the question then becomes, can that scene with O'Brien and Winston be interpreted as Stalinist Russia? I think you can make an argument that there are parallels. Animal Farm, after all, is nearly an allegory of the Russian Revolution, and Orwell's contempt and horror for Stalin and his regime are well-documented. Is it a stretch to believe that scenes in 1984 are taken from Orwell's conception of Stalin's Russia?

If you buy that the parallel is intentional, then it's reasonable to say that scene is a "characterization" of Stalinist Russia. If you don't buy that the parallel is intentional, then feel free to rant :)

Posted by: Ted at May 28, 2004 02:25 PM