BY MATTHEW HERBERT
My hero, George Orwell, was such a great essayist that between 1943 and 1947, the British newspaper Tribune gave him license to write about whatever he chose. He called his column “As I Please,” and many of his anthologized essays from this period still bear this quip as part of their titles.
Today the qualifications for writing about whatever you like are much lower. I pay about 200 bucks a year for my blog and a URL. For this modest price, I get to sit down at the keyboard and expatiate freely for all who have ears to hear. Well, really the resulting blather is for myself, but like a crazy person on the subway, I don’t mind if others listen in and even join in.
In the spirit of Orwell’s “As I Please,” I plan to add a new “column” to my lineup of blog posts. In addition to my rather ponderous essays and book reviews, I will occasionally share shorter bursts of news items, framed with only the lightest touch of commentary.
As a further homage to Orwell, I’ll call it “Nothing to See Here, Folks.” Orwell thought that even the educated, well intentioned people of his time were routinely unable to see plain, ordinary facts right in front of their faces. He wrote an essay about this phenomenon (of course!) and called it “In Front of Your Nose.”
Orwell believed himself to have a “power for facing unpleasant facts.” Although he never said so, he must have believed that most people lacked this power. And so he wrote his essays, which placed unpleasant, or at least unattractive, facts front and center, right in front of his countrymen’s noses.
I also believe the bien pensant of my time have achieved a kind of willful blindness, one that is fostered by mass culture and (much of) mass media. The people who have enough money to shape the content of media go to great exertions to control our attention, surreptitiously suggesting to us what is important and what is not. Like Orwell, I think much of what ought to be important to us is right in front of our noses, and unpleasant to behold.
So with that in mind, stay tuned for “Nothing to See Here, Folks,” in which I will try, as briefly as I can, to draw out of the news facts and ideas that the power elite would like us to ignore.