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1984 ... is Big Brother here?

Over the past two years or so, much has been written about Eric Blair, the British writer who gave the year 1984 its ominous connotations. Blair, who wrote under the pseudonym of George Orwell, had some comments of interest to those concerned with the gun control question, and it would be beneficial to examine these remarks in some detail.

Blair's views on gun control are particularly important because he is accepted by liberals as one of their own, and a perceptive and vigorous foe of totalitarianism. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes him as an uncompromisingly honest writer of the left, while the Great Soviet Encyclopedia calls him a "bourgeois liberal reformist" who opposed the "suppression of individual freedom." Given these excellent liberal credentials, any comments he might have made regarding gun control cannot be dismissed as the rantings of a right-wing fanatic.

Orwell's qualifications for having opinions on gun control are based primarily on his five years of service in the Indian Imperial Police, in addition to his universally acknowledged ability to perceive totalitarian tendencies.

Orwell did not appear to have had a strong concern in firearms or shooting sports, but he did have a mild interest. I have found one photograph of him at age 14 posing with a shotgun. Later in India, he solicited an invitation to go snipe hunting, but failed to bag any snipe. On another occasion he was found in the very act of cleaning a sporting gun. He appears to have owned a Winchester .44-40 rifle while a policeman in India, but I am unable to prove his ownership of a handgun. Given his police and military or paramilitary service, one can deduce that he probably owned a handgun; whether he did or not, he certainly would have been familiar with such arms.

Bruce-Biggs quotes him as saying, "When I was a kid you could walk into a bicycle shop or ironmonger's and buy any firearm you pleased, short of a field gun, and it did not occur to most people that the Russian Revolution and the Irish Civil War would bring this state of affairs to an end." In 1984 he devotes only a single sentence to the idea that gun control is an instrument of totalitarianism, and in Animal Farm he devotes about as much space to the importance of small arms to the possession of liberty. In "You and the Atom Bomb," he portrayed the flintlock musket and the breech-loading rifle as determinants of democracy, and conversely, he portrayed complicated and expensive technology as despotic.

But it is not from explicit statements by Orwell regarding gun control that we can learn the most. Rather, it is from his exposure of the suave methods of modern totalitarianism. Orwell recognized not only the arrogant, jackbooted form of oppression that we call fascism, but also the seemingly altruistic form which controls the victim's perceptions, values, or thoughts in such a way as to oppress him while concealing the fact of oppression.

We will now review quickly the two works for which Orwell is best known, 1984 and Animal Farm. Although works of fiction, they were actually intended to be grim warnings of the totalitarian world in the making.

1984 describes a nightmare world in which all knowledge and information are under state control and subject to falsification to fit the current party line. Every citizen is subject to 24-hour electronic surveillance and is controlled chiefly through manipulation of thinking, management of news and other information, conformity-oriented group activities, and ultimately, a secret police. Individuals who do learn to think for themselves are brainwashed or destroyed.

Animal Farm describes a rebellion by farm animals against their human masters and the setting up of an animal republic. There is a constitution designed to prevent the usurpation of power by some of the animals and the restoration of animal-slavery. As things progressed, however, the leadership stratus (the pigs, being the most intelligent) acquired a taste for luxury and power and through twisting the constitution, managed to make themselves the supreme rulers of the farm. In the end, the other animals found themselves in the same state as before the establishment of the republic.

New what has all this to do with gun control? Taking Animal Farm first, let us examine the manner in which the rulers reinterpreted the animal constitution. Paraphrasing, they would say, "Well, yes, the constitution says this, but what it really means is . . ." Somehow, the constitution always meant that the rulers always got what they wanted and the other animals always became more oppressed.

One sees a parallel in the twisting of our own Constitution. I personally believe, although I will never debate the point, that the founders of the Constitution intended for the Second Amendment to confer an individual right. Seeing the individual's right to keep and bear arms as a threat to their own power, the advocates of gun control say, "Why, yes, the Constitution does indeed confer the right to keep and bear arms, but this is a collective right, exercised by the militia." (The militia, of course, is now under their control.) One can't prove a thing, of course; that is the genius of the suave, cunning brand of totalitarianism, of the refinement of word-twisting to the point that no one is any longer certain of what the Constitution is intended to mean. Indeed, when this kind of deception is repeated sufficiently, it is taken for the truth and the victims will no longer even remember that another interpretation had ever existed.

It was in Animal Farm that Orwell coined the phrase, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." One sees this hyper-equality in New York, where certain outspoken advocates of handgun prohibition were found to hold permits to carry handguns. One sees it too when certain city councils ban handguns but provide generous exemptions for themselves. Limousine liberals are indeed more equal than the rest of us.

In both 1984 and Animal Farm, the necessity to protect the alleged victim from some real or imagined danger, either from an outside enemy or secretly created by the ruling elite, was used by the same ruling elite as a pretext for taking away freedom. We see this in action when a certain Police Commissar (sic) castigates sportsmen's groups for allegedly opposing gun controls "under the deceptive guise of freedom." When elitist advocates of gun control or prohibition cite the rising crime rate, perhaps actually caused by lenient sentencing of violent offenders, as pretext for depriving us of the right to keep and bear arms, one begins to wonder. Perhaps they are engaged in the management technique known to infamy as firefighting; of starting a fire, or allowing it to start, in order to put it out . . . on their own terms.

Also of this genre is the passionate desire to ban handguns in order to prevent accidents. Quite aside from the fact that the handgun accident rate is too low to be worth the enforcement effort, most of the real leadership of the anti-gun movement knows perfectly well that handgun accidents can be prevented just as effectively by education as by prohibition, and more cost-effectively. They never mention it, though, because reduction of the accident rate is not what they want; they want gun prohibition, for reasons of power, not for reasons of idealism.

Especially in 1984, Orwell described the practice of controlling behavior by controlling the people's thinking. We see this happening when, in effect, the ruling elite issue the politically correct opinion on gun control to the electorate. Although gun control advocates cannot, at present, falsify already published data, they do misinterpret it in such a manner as to deceive. Moreover, they really do not have to forcibly suppress the truth. They need only control the sources of information which most people rely upon: television, radio, and general-interest magazines and newspapers. The vast majority of people are not sufficiently interested to seek out sportmen's side of the story, and are quite content to accept the distorted slop served up by the opposition. Accepting this rubbish as the truth, the electorate then forms the politically correct opinion. Thus the ruling elite can actually get the opinion it wants through knowledge control without having to risk getting caught falsifying.

Apropos to this let us examine the scientific discovery that guns kept for self-defense are actually more dangerous to the owner and his family and friends than to criminals. This idea has been treated before under the head of lying with statistics. Adopting an Orwellian reference frame, let us assume that the inventors of this statistic are guilty neither of honest error nor of willful deceit; they are merely interpreting data according to their subjective standard of the truth.

It is self-evident from biological considerations that no living thing increases its safety by making itself more easily victimized; although at times surrender may be the best short-run solution to a particular tactical situation, it is not good on the average. But natural law works objectively, not subjectively. Thus natural law is in conflict with totalitarian truth.

Now why would pseulo-altruists wish to discourage people from defending themselves? It is because people who possess the capability of defending themselves will not be sufficiently dependent upon the elite for protection; moreover, defense-minded people are likely to be assertive in other matters as well, hence less easily manipulated, exploited, or victimized by the very elite which pretends to want to protect them. Interpreted according to subjective standards of truth, this means that guns really are useless for self-defense because it is not useful to the ruling pseudo-altruistic elite for people to defend themselves.

Don't be surprised if you have to read that over several times to understand it. After all, the ability to oppress people without their knowledge depends upon the ability to keep their thinking muddled.

electronic snooping was feasible and practiced long before the electronic revolution, but the recent advances in technology bring Orwell's nightmare of surveillance much closer to practicality. Putting this technology together with the calls of gunhating liberals for the development of electronic devices for making street-searches for guns and for suspension of Fourth Amendment rights against searches for guns, one begins to feel very uneasy indeed. The possibility of imposition of totalitarian gun control through electronic surveillance is much less science fiction now than it was when Orwell wrote 1984.

Honest liberals who may be tempted to embrace these proposals should bear in mind that, once Fourth Amendment rights are suspended with regard to guns, they will shortly thereafter be suspended with regard to everything else. Although Orwell appears to have regarded gun control as an instrument of totalitarianism, I hasten to point out that by no means everyone who supports gun control is a totalitarian. The vast majority of our opponents are honest liberals who, however misinformed, are nevertheless seeking to create a better world. They should be judged carefully and compassionately; it does us no good at all, and much harm, to lump them into the same category as those cunning and greedy seekers of power who use altruistic liberalism as a disguise.
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Author:Whisler, Norman J.
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:column
Date:Jun 1, 1984
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