Letters from the Lunar Outpost

True bravery is shown by performing without witness what one might be capable of doing before all the world.
- La Rochefoucauld, French Classical Writer (1613-1680)

It was nearly eleven hundred, and in the Records Department, where Winston worked, they were dragging the chairs out of the cubicles and grouping them in the centre of the hall opposite the big telescreen, in preparation for the Two Minutes Hate.

The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Sarah Palin was not the principal figure. She was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. All subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of her teaching. Somewhere or other she was still alive and hatching her conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of her foreign paymasters, perhaps even–so it was occasionally rumoured–in some hiding-place in America itself.

Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied beauty queen face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Tea Party protesters behind it, were too much to be borne: besides, the sight or even the thought of Palin produced fear and anger automatically. She was an object of hatred more constant than either the Republican Party or Fox News, but what was strange was that although Palin was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, her theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were–in spite of all this, her influence never seemed to grow less . . .

In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening hockey mom voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O’Brien’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a Newsweek magazine and flung it at the screen. It struck Palin’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.

“1984”, George Orwell, written 1948, updated 2011

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Team of Rivals
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