ORWELL VIEWS ON JEWS?
To Orwell Today,
I wonder what you think about Orwell's essay on Anti-Semitism in Britain?
I think it is interesting. I believe that Orwell was trying to say that Jews are often used as a 'bogeyman' that can be blamed for many number of ills, so as to divert attention from the real cause of many problems, as Hitler did. I think he chose the name Goldstein specifically in 1984 because he saw that a lot of people think the Jews are this all encompassing malevolent force rather than individuals, some good some bad.
Like his quote from said essay - "Plenty of people who are quite capable of being objective about sea urchins, say, or the square root of 2, become schizophrenic if they have to think about the sources of their own income." -
I think it is human nature to want to have something concrete, identifyable that you can blame everything on and it is also a way of dehumanizing people so that they are a term, an object, an enemy, rather than individuals with differing opinions etc.
What is your opinion of his essay?
I assume the essay you are talking about is Orwell's AS I PLEASE columm for Tribune, February 11, 1944.
One of the main points he seems to be making is that anti-semitism in Britain is a reality that should be talked about in the open and that it isn't just lunatics and Hitler who can be accused of it. Here's an excerpt:
"...Recently I happened to review some books dealing with the persecution of the Jews in medieval and modern Europe. The review brought me the usual wad of antisemitic letters....The disquieting thing about these letters is that they do not all come from lunatics. I don't greatly mind the person who believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion....But in addition to these types there is the small business or professional man who is firmly convinced that the Jews bring all their troubles upon themselves by underhand business methods and complete lack of public spirit. These people write reasonable, well-balanced letters, disclaim any belief in racialism, and back up everything they say with copious instances. They admit the existence of 'good Jews', and usually declare (Hitler says just the same in Mein Kampf) that they did not start out with any anti-Jewish feeling but have been forced into it simply by observing how Jews behave....
Antisemitism flourishes especially among literary men. Without even getting up from this table to consult a book I can think of passages in Villon, Shakespeare, Smollett, Thackeray, H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot and many another which would be called antisemitic if they had been written since Hitler came to power. Both Belloc and Chesterton flirted, or something more than flirted, with antisemitism, and other writers whom it is possible to respect have swallowed it more or less in its Nazi form. Clearly the neurosis lies very deep, and just what it is that people hate when they say that they hate a non-existent entity called "the Jews" is still uncertain. And it is partly the fear of finding out how widespread antisemitism is that prevents it from being seriously investigated...."
I don't think anyone knows for sure why Orwell chose Goldstein - a Jew - to be the "all encompassing malevolent force" in 1984. See GOLDSTEIN'S CONSPIRACY FOR WORLD DOMINATION. Some people have accused Orwell of being anti-semetic because of it. But as Orwell himself has said, even Shakespeare - a fellow literary man - has been accused of anti-semitism.
To answer your question about my opinion of Orwell's essay, I found it instructional and interesting as I do almost all of everything he wrote.
All the best,
PS - The above AS I PLEASE article was later developed into the ORWELLIAN ANTI-SEMITISM essay which, on second thought, is probably the one you were referring to.
Anti-Semitism in Britain, by George Orwell, AS I PLEASE columm for Tribune, February 11, 1944
Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler, Review by George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters of George Orwell, Volume II, My Country Right or Left, 1940-1943
Orwell reviews Hitler's Mein Kampf (wants it put on record never been able to dislike Hitler), New English Weekly, Mar 21, 1940
The art of fiction: George Orwell (an Orwell review of Mein Kampf)
by David Blackburn, Spectator, May 25, 2012
...In a review of Mein Kampf, which Orwell published in March 1940, he wrote: "When one compares his [Hitler’s] utterances of a year or so ago with those made fifteen years earlier, a thing that strikes one is the rigidity of his mind, the way in which his world-view doesn’t develop. It is the fixed vision of a monomaniac and not likely to be much affected by the temporary manoeuvres of power politics. I should like to put it on record that I have never been able to dislike Hitler. Ever since he came to power — till then, like nearly everyone, I had been deceived into thinking that he did not matter — I have reflected that I would certainly kill him if I could get within reach of him, but that I could feel no personal animosity. The fact is that there is something deeply appealing about him. One feels it again when one sees his photographs — and I recommend especially the photograph at the beginning of Hurst and Blackett’s edition, which shows Hitler in his early Brownshirt days. It is a pathetic, dog-like face, the face of a man suffering under intolerable wrongs. In a rather more manly way it reproduces the expression of innumerable pictures of Christ crucified, and there is little doubt that that is how Hitler sees himself. The initial personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is there. He is the martyr, the victim. Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds. If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon. One feels, as with Napoleon, that he is fighting against destiny, that he can’t win, and yet that he somehow deserves to. The attraction of such a pose is of course enormous; half the films that one sees turn upon some such theme."...
ORWELL ARCH-ENEMY OF MARX
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