1984 in 2008 - Bill Ayers Speaks

I know references to 1984 are cliche, but the editorial today by Bill Ayers in the New York Times brings it home:

Unable to challenge the content of Barack Obama's campaign, his opponents invented a narrative about a young politician who emerged from nowhere, a man of charm, intelligence and skill, but with an exotic background and a strange name. The refrain was a question: "What do we really know about this man?"

...

I was cast in the "unrepentant terrorist" role; I felt at times like the enemy projected onto a large screen in the "Two Minutes Hate" scene from George Orwell's "1984," when the faithful gathered in a frenzy of fear and loathing.


This happened a lot during the campaign. Reverend Wright, Tony Rezko (that one never really did catch on), and towards the end, Barack Obama himself - they were yelling, "Kill him!"

And it's happened a lot in our society, both under Bush and more broadly. A government spying on its citizens. A country in constant, often meaningless war. When Osama Bin Laden's face flashes on screen, it's almost a literal Two Minutes of Hate.

How does this get changed? Ayers has his solution:

With the mainstream news media and the blogosphere caught in the pre-election excitement, I saw no viable path to a rational discussion. Rather than step clumsily into the sound-bite culture, I turned away whenever the microphones were thrust into my face. I sat it out.

Can Obama move us away from 1984-style governance? I really hope so. But as Ayers says, this stuff - suspicion, sound bites, hatred, violence - it's part of our culture. Moving away from an incurious, reactionary culture towards something else is more than one man can do in a lifetime. And besides, this change can't really be legislated - it's going to take every one of us, individually.

I'm not saying we should move backwards and use cultures of the past as our models - technology and modernity have forever closed off that route - but we should move somewhere new. And I'm not saying this process hasn't started already. The day after the election, K Street in Washington DC (where I work) just felt different.

Still, there's a long way to go and I'm not sure the Ayers solution, sitting it out, is really appropriate for everyone. We're part of this country and this culture whether we like it or not. So, what else can be done?

Tags: 2008 election, Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, Culture (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

How much responsibility
do the over the top upper class psuedo intellectual campus radicals of the 70's (faux revolutionaries using real bombs) have for the reactionary culture they now deplore?
In fact, wasn't the stated goal of 60's and 70's radicals to incite reaction that would in turn incite revolution?
Ayers is the wrong guy to criticism 80's reaction, when the resultant reactionary culture was in fact his short term goal!
by kosnomore 2008-12-06 08:00AM | 0 recs
Re: How much responsibility

Sure, there are always swings in culture. 60s and 70s hippies and radicals gave way to 80s and 90s culture wars and conservative revivals. Prediction can be a fool's game, but maybe we're on the verge of a swing in another direction.

by J Ro 2008-12-06 08:04AM | 0 recs
Agreed. But shouldn't you try to discourage
the guys who caused the pendulum to swing the first time?  
FWIW, every time Ayers speaks, he's applauded by the intelligentsia (the New York Times editorial page?) but he turns off lots of others.  After all, that is why they tried to keep him under wraps until after the election, right?  It's a re write of history for him to say he nobly refused comment - - he was asked to shut up.
by kosnomore 2008-12-06 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Agreed. But shouldn't you try to discourage

Well, yes, I suppose, but I tend to think these swings are somewhat inevitable.

by J Ro 2008-12-06 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: How much responsibility -None

Actually it was the civils rights movement and the passage of the civil rights act that made the Southern Strategy and the rise of the modern Republican party possible. It was built on white resentment and fostered a resurgent neo-segregationist backlash. The Weather Underground and campus 60's radicals were a sideshow that had little impact on anything.

by hankg 2008-12-06 08:13AM | 0 recs
I disagree (and no one can say for sure) -

but I think:
New Left radicalism ala Ayers
+ Ted Kennedy's primary challenge =
Reagan in '80.
Without either, no Reagan, no Reaganism (IMHO).

BTW - the Panthers and Weather Underground were (phony) Exhibits 1 and 2 in support of the bogus racist Southern Strategy.  The excesses of Ayers et al were what scared the white urban ethnic working class towards Reagan Republicans.  It wasn't MLK that turned them off, or Cesar Chavez.  It was Stokely and H Rap Brown and, yes, Ayers, Dohrn, etc.  Cop killing really doesn't go over well among the class of people that give birth to our cops.

by kosnomore 2008-12-06 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: I disagree (and no one can say for sure) -

It was the welfare queens, Willie Horton (black people are all scary criminals) and affirmative action that was the basis of Republican campaigns since Nixon. The radicals only figured in as much as they were appeasing and empowering the lazy criminal blacks (and later on the terrorist Arabs and illegal Mexicans).

Once they beat that horse to death they replaced the Blacks with Mexicans and whipped the same racist asshats into a frenzy about the brown menace taking over the country bringing their corrupt no good inferior culture with them. They portray a traditional white christian culture as under seige and on the defensive against the darkie hordes and their multi-culturalist allies.

Given demographic trends that strategy may doom them to being the party of the rural deep south and appalachia.

by hankg 2008-12-06 10:55AM | 0 recs

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