Sunday, January 08, 2006

A disturbance in the Force

When I lived in Orange County, California, the amount of energy required to push back against the pervasive and appalling me-first, fuck-the-poor conservatism was considerable. It was like a psychological equivalent of the physical burdens that make New York so challenging. Sure, the sun shines (through a patina of smog, to be sure) upon an endless sea of red tile roofs, but the sense of entitlement and lack of empathy seemed other-worldly to me. In the coastal areas where I lived, the last time a Democrat won at any level was, well, never.

The official stenographer to the landed gentry there was the Orange County Register. So imagine my surprise at this, from the access-restricted Register via The Smirking Chimp:

Lawyers for the estate of George Orwell have announced their intention to sue President Bush for plagiarism.

"We have long believed that this administration has stolen much of its policy from Mr. Orwell's writings," said attorney Will Bilyalotz. "Expressly, '1984' and 'Animal Farm.' In some cases, like the illegal surveillance of its own citizens, this administration has lifted the passages word for word from '1984.' Just changing the year doesn't protect the president from copyright laws."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, while refusing to comment directly because of the "ongoing investigation," reminded reporters that the Patriot Act had given the president the power to suspend copyright laws and, anyway, "No one can own words."

Legal experts believe proving copyright infringement will not be easy. "Even if he is guilty, the president's propensity for adapting Mr. Orwell's '1984' newspeak is so effortless, as if he made up the words himself," said law professor Sue Yu Atdropohat. "Illegal borrowing of words or even fictional characters from published works has a high threshold of proof. The producers of the film 'Being There' have had their lawsuit against the Bush campaign tied up in court since 2000. After all, one man's outright theft of ideas is another man's malapropos."

"Personally, I think this so-called intelligentsia is just jealous," said Newt Gingrich. "Orwell could have only dreamed of great terms like 'defeatist' and 'evil-doer.'"

Bilyalotz differs. "The president's comments like, 'This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table,' is plain and simple, Mr. Orwell's 'doublethink' (the power to hold two completely contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously and accept both of them)."

The president has regularly pointed out that he will do whatever it takes to defeat terrorism, and that those who want to hamstring his ability to steal written material are only aiding the enemy. "9/11 has made us look at our plagiarism in a different way," said the president. "As long as I am president or king, the American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And if that takes dissolving the Constitution, then so be it."

"It was Mr. Orwell in '1984' who first came up with 'Victory Mansions' and industrial-grade 'Victory Gin.' Now the president calls his book, a 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.' The president doesn't go 10 seconds without using the word 'victory.' One doesn't have to be a math whiz to put two and two together. Our greatest concern is not that the president uses Mr. Orwell's words," Bilyalotz said, "but that he's actually using '1984' as a governmental guidebook, and I'm afraid the president hasn't read how it ends."

I wouldn't blink at this coming from Maureen Dowd. But its appearance in the OC Register suggests there has been a fundament rift torn in the space-time continuum.

Read the whole thing.


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