The Corner

Why Orwell Matters

Here is what Sen. Obama said:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them…And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Here is what Sen. Obama now says he said:

“So I said, ‘Well, you know, when you’re bitter you turn to what you can count on,’ ” he continued. “So people they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country or they get frustrated about, you know, how things are changing. That’s a natural response.”

1. Note how version #1′s “cling” becomes version #2′s “vote about” and “take comfort from”–as the condescending dismissal becomes empathetic understanding.

2. Note how version #1′s “religion” and “antipathy to people who aren’t like them” becomes version #2′s “faith” and “their family and community” –as fundamentalist xenophobes now become beleaguered folks who band together against the unfairness.

3 Note how version #1′s “anti-immigrant” becomes version #2′s “mad about illegal immigrants” –as the nativist who opposes all immigrants, legal and illegal, now becomes understandably angry only about those coming here illegally.

4. Note how version #1′s “as a way to explain their frustrations” becomes version #2′s “they get frustrated about” as the misguided scape-goaters become those who react understandably to adversity.

5. Note no explanation in version #2 for version #1′s “anti-trade sentiment”–and no wonder since Obama himself is embarrassed that so far he’s voiced far more “anti-trade sentiment” than those he caricatured.

6. Note how version #1′s “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter” becomes version #2′s “your’e” and “you” and “Thats a natural response”, as the condescending use of the embittered and distant “they” now morphs into a kindred “you” and the quip “not surprising” becomes the sympathetic “natural.”

7. Note how version #1′s idiotic logic that Middle-America has only become religious or pro-gun in the last 25 years as a result of job loss is simply omitted.

8. Note how there is sudddenly no “context” for the landscape of version #1: an elite Bay-area audience that is told stories about those Pennsylvanian gun-toting zealots.

With Obama, the clarifications (cf. the Wright and Michelle contextualizations) are always more interestig than the original lapse.

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