12/21/2010 12:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Greenwald to Krugman to Orwell

Here's Joe "Good Guy" Biden contradicting himself about WikiLeaks. Sickening, isn't it? Thank you, Glenn Greenwald. (Update: Dec. 19 -- Really sickening, to say nothing of U.S. officials calling European standards for human rights an "irritant.") Which brings me to Paul Krugman's blogpost, "Decade of the Living Dead." Krugman's blog, The Conscience of a Liberal, even more than his NYT column, is necessary reading. It's necessary for those who understand his number-crunching charts and for the rest of us.

The "living dead" blogpost is typical of Krugman but has the added beauty of a link to an Orwell essay that elaborates on the persistence of what Krugman has dubbed "zombie lies" and the whitewashing of truth, which have been recurring themes of his blog. UPDATE: Krugman's Dec. 20 column continues the theme: "It's one thing to advance your goals [through political compromise]; it's another to open the door to zombie ideas. When you do that, the zombies end up eating your brain..."

The Orwell essay, published in 1943, is entitled "Looking back on the Spanish War," although Orwell goes much further than that, as usual uncannily seeing into the future. Orwell is so quotable it's almost ridiculous to single out any one of his remarks. But what the hell, let's be really ridiculous, beginning with this: "believe nothing, or next to nothing, of what you read about internal affairs on the Government side. It is all, from whatever source, party propaganda -- that is to say, lies." Have WikiLeaks and Julian Assange been channeling him?

Of course they have.

Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various 'party lines'.

Orwell says he has the "feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. After all, the chances are that those lies, or at any rate similar lies, will pass into history." Which is exactly what Krugman was getting at.

And dig this comment pointing to a revolt against postmodernism long before postmodernism ever made its appearance:

I know it is the fashion to say that most of recorded history is lies anyway. I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our own age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past people deliberately lied, or they unconsciously coloured what they wrote, or they struggled after the truth, well knowing that they must make many mistakes; but in each case they believed that 'facts' existed and were more or less discoverable. And in practice there was always a considerable body of fact which would have been agreed to by almost everyone. If you look up the history of the last war [WWI] in, for instance, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, you will find that a respectable amount of the material is drawn from German sources. A British and a German historian would disagree deeply on many things, even on fundamentals, but there would still be that body of, as it were, neutral fact on which neither would seriously challenge the other. It is just this common basis of agreement, with its implication that human beings are all one species of animal, that totalitarianism destroys.

Now for some fitting musical accompaniment -- a taste of "The White Beast."

"The White Beast" is an excerpt from William Osborne's 50-minute music video, "Music for the End of Time." It features his music, digital stills by Norbert Bach, and the trombone playing of Abbie Conant.