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The Betrayal of Dissent: Beyond Orwell, Hitchens and the New American Century [Hardcover]

Scott Lucas
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Feb 2004
Since his death in 1950, George Orwell has been canonised as England's foremost political writer, and the standard-bearer of honesty and decency for the honourable 'Left'. In this controversial polemic, Scott Lucas argues that the exaltation of Orwell, far from upholding dissent against the State, has sought to quash such opposition. Indeed, Orwell has become the icon of those who, in the pose of the contrarian, try to silence public opposition to US and U K foreign policy in the 'War on Terror'. Lucas's lively and readable critique of public intellectuals including Christopher Hitchens, Michael Walzer, David Aaronovitch, and Johann Hari – who have all invoked Orwellian honesty and decency to shut down dissent – will appeal to anyone disillusioned with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lucas contends that these leading journalists and commentators have used Orwell to justify their own political transition from radicals to upholders of the establishment. All of them play influential roles in supporting the UK and US governments' charge that opponents of war -- and those who question the motives behind American foreign policy and its implementation -- should be condemned as 'appeasers of mass murder'. This controversial book shows how Orwell has been used since 9/11 to justify, in the guise of independent thought, the suppression of dissent. We must rescue ourselves from Orwell and from those who take on his guise so, as Lucas puts it, our ‘silencing is… vital to a "manufacture of consent" for the wars which are supposedly being fought in our name and for our good’.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press (20 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745321984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745321981
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 12.5 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,175,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Scott Lucas is the first writer to engage at length with the extraordinary split on the left created by the Iraq war. He does it brilliantly. He is completely fearless, challenging not only the bombast of Christopher Hitchens and other pro-war supporters but also our preconceptions about that icon of the left, George Orwell. (Peter Wilby, Editor, New Statesman)

This is the compelling story of how self-constructed contrarians, whilst staking out the moral high ground, have acted to close down debate and stigmatise dissent. Lucas forces us to ask whether intellectuals can ever be suitable candidates for the policing of our souls when they themselves have abandoned any attachment to the sanctity of habeas animam. While 'Orwell', Hitchens, and Ignatieff wield their shovels not against the State but for it, Lucas takes his own shovel and digs a crater-sized hole for the burial of their self-aggrandising unwisdom, their distortions, and their intellectual opportunism. (Frances Stonor Saunders, author of The Cultural Cold War and Who Paid the Piper?)

This is an angry book. It is also well researched, carefully footnoted and coherently argued. The author's point is not to damn Orwell and the much-slighter Hitchens, but to detail their inconsistencies, set their work in context and question their value to us as guides to current political action. (Tribune)

This should be a fine and important book. (Noam Chomsky) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Scott Lucas is a regular contributor to the New Statesman. He is Professor of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham and author of numerous books on US and British foreign policy, intelligence services, culture and ideology. He is the author of Orwell: LIfe and Times (2003).

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Customer Reviews

2.0 out of 5 stars
2.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SMILING FACES SOMETIMES "The Undisputed Truth" 10 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback
The 2 previous reviewers got it exactly right. Who does this chap Scott Lucas think he is?

To find an American has muscled-in on the "Orwell biography business" is an irony that would not surprise George himself. It appears Scott Lucas makes a comfortable living cherry-picking received information about a man he cannot possibly relate to - as Orwell never had 2 farthings to rub together until the last 3 years of his life.

I may have been out of the country a long time but I still can't imagine why the English have permitted an American to assume the role of "Orwell seer". Did Birmingham University hire him on the mistaken belief "What knows he of England who only England knows"?

Having now lived 45 years in England and 30 in the USA I can categorically state only those born in England can appreciate and understand what the words "George Orwell" now represent.

If Mr. Lucas cannot comprehend George Orwell was the GREATEST PROPHET OF THE 20th CENTURY he should cease writing and talking about him and go back to his Orwell books and try very hard to transport himself back to that period and imagine just how tough Orwell had to be to survive financially - let alone write reams of the most lucid English prose ever committed to paper.

Should he continue to berate Orwell an axiom that's sustained me ever since I met "Big Brother" in the English Civil Service comes to mind. "Talent immediately recognizes genius but mediocrity recognizes nothing higher than itself"

UK Amazon readers may note I live in Las Vegas. I wish to assure them I'm not anti-American - only pro-Orwell.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 'Dreadful' as Orwell would say 20 Dec 2007
Format:Paperback
This book is badly written (the bits that are written by Lucas, anyway - mostly he seems to just cut and paste from newspapers and magazines)and sloppy. There is a good book waiting to be written about the liberal hawks and their bad judgement, but this is not it.
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6 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Betrayal 27 April 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Overall, I found this book to be somewhat disappointing. I was expecting apolemic, written in anger, but I felt that the argument got too boggeddown in the detail, itself seemingly a compendium of recent newspaperarticles on US foreign policy, etc. There were also a couple of minormistakes in the book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant study of war and treachery 27 May 2004
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This gripping and passionately written book shows how reactionaries use George Orwell to cover their warmongering and to smother their opponents. Conservatives and social democrats alike wrap themselves in Orwell's mantle to attack democracy and sovereignty.
Orwell all his life adopted the Etonian pose (like Boris Johnson today), "I'm really a frightfully decent chap, so you must excuse my attitudes to women, Jews, the working class, socialists, communists ... "
In his extensive research, Lucas has found some remarkable material. General Anthony Zinni, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "Access to energy drives all U. S. policy in the region." When Rupert Murdoch asked Blair in March 2003 what the Sun could do to help him, Blair said, "Step up the attacks on the French."
The broadcaster Michael Savage said, "We need racist stereotypes right now of our enemy in order to encourage our warriors to kill the enemy." Lucas reminds us that the Guardian reported as early as 27 December 2002 that the CIA was using torture at the Bagram air base, and, on 7 March 2003, that US forces had beaten Afghan prisoners to death.
Christopher "I'd vote for Bush" Hitchens said that the war "will be greeted by the majority of the Iraqi people as an emancipation." On the occupation, a State Department official observed, "the bottom line is we control the purse strings, the appointments, and anything else of political value."
Lucas quotes Edward Said, "Demonisation of the Other is not a sufficient basis for any kind of decent politics, certainly not now when the roots of terror in injustice can be addressed, and the terrorists isolated, deterred, or put out of business." That one sentence contains more sense about how to fight Al Qa'ida than all the Bush and Blair lexicon of lies. We must right injustices, especially the Israeli denial of sovereignty to the Palestinian people (against the disgusting lie that attacking Iraq could bring peace between Israel and Palestine); and we must isolate, deter or kill Al Qa'ida's leaders.
We need to do both. We can fight for justice, without supporting terror, and we can oppose terror, without supporting the US empire - to deny this is to accept Bush's own logic.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very timely and needed study 10 July 2004
By Pen Name? - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The phenomenon of posturing as "the reasonable left" in many academic and journalistic circles of late by such characters as Hitchens and Walzer has been very troubling and has bred further confusion and straw-man positions for those who attempt to do honest work and critique to confront. At this time, the debates ranging over topics like the current wars, the presidential election and even the content and effect of Michael Moore's recent film have spurred some pointless tangents deflecting needed effort and attention from much more important debates. Lucas' book is a solid criticism of the damage wrought by such self-aggrandizing attacks as the ones Hitchens, Walzer and others have popularized. Of course, others on the left from Mickey Z to Eric Alterman have been guilty of similar diatribes, and numerous others have been caught up in such games defensively.
Beyond this, the work on Orwell is very interesting and saddening to a degree. Even the fan of Orwell should take the book seriously, for it does not discredit many of the core tenets readers have taken away from Orwell's work, which often remain solid, but in fact furthers the work which many hold Orwell in high esteem for, but which he himself seems to have shied away from.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SMILING FACES SOMETIMES "The Undisputed Truth" 10 Jun 2010
By W. BUTLER - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The previous 1-star reviewer got it exactly right. Who does Scott Lucas think he is?

To find an American has muscled-in on the "Orwell biography business" is an irony that would not surprise George himself. It appears Scott Lucas makes a comfortable living cherry-picking received information about a man he cannot possibly relate to - as Orwell never had 2 farthings to rub together until the last 3 years of his life.

Having been away for rather a long time I can't imagine why the English have allowed him to adopt the role of "Orwell seer". Did Birmingham University hire him on the mistaken belief "What knows he of England who only England knows"?

Having lived 45 years in England and 30 in the USA I can categorically state only those born in England can appreciate and understand what the words "George Orwell" now represent.

If Mr. Lucas cannot comprehend George Orwell was THE GREATEST PROPHET OF THE 20th CENTURY then he joins the huge band of small-minded Orwell detractors who'll sink into obscurity as Orwell's stature only continues to grow.

Another axiom, that's sustained me ever since I encountered "Big Brother" in the English Civil Service comes to mind. "Talent immediately recognizes genius but mediocrity recognizes nothing higher than itself".

I wish to assure American readers who note I'm blessed to enjoy living in Las Vegas nothing I've said is intended to be anti-American - only pro-Orwell.
8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The real Orwell 2 April 2005
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book portends to be about how intellectuals who have change din mid stream from radical left to moderate centrists dare to use Orwell in order to justify their actions, Mr. Hitchens being the most trotted out example. The question here really is not whether or not intellectuals have used Orwell, they have, but rather what is the nature of Orwell that appeals to people to do so.

Perhaps it is worth understanding Orwell. Orwell was an English radical, a communist who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War and very much opposed Churchill style conservative natioanlism. Then Orwell realized the evils of Stalinst style communism and wrote books such as 1984, and ANimal Farm, trying to come to grips with the monster state, the police state that was the Soviet Union. Orwell never stopped being a socialist, he never stopped being a leftist, but he realized that the worst forms of Leftism were actually the same as the worst form of the right. In the 1930s as Hitler gobbled up Europe Orwell found himself on the side of Churchill opposing Nazism.

Orwell never became a right winger. But he became a thoughtful leftist and this is what lodges in this books throat, that Orwell dared to change, he dared to grow up and dared to realize not every conservative, such as Winston, was evil and that not every leftist, like Stalin, was a saint. Hitchens also grew up. And many other intellectuals such as Horowitz and Podhoretz grew up, changed, and realized some of their colleagues were wrong. And this book is merely a character assasination of anyone who dares to challenge the monolith of leftism. It pretends to assautl those who defend the 'establishment' but in fact Hitchens is still fighting the establishment, he is fighting the liberal estblishment, sort of like in 1984.

Seth J. Frantzman
12 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stalinist ClapTrap 2 May 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Very disappointing "indictment" of Orwell. Don't bother. Much better you read Orwell himself or Chris Hitchens' fine new book on George. This is a pass.
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