-By Warner Todd Huston
Apparently the most left-wing, government-supported media conglomerate in all of the British Empire, The British Broadcasting Corporation, has refused permission to place a statue of George Orwell at its new facilities in London. Why? Because George Orwell, famed as the author of novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, is “too left-wing” for the Beeb.
Upon reporting the news, The Telegraph was a bit taken aback by BBC Chief Mark Thompson’s proclamation that one of Britain’s most famous modern authors is unsuitable to represent the broadcaster. After all, the BBC is considered a bit left-wing itself.
“Mr Thompson’s remark will surprise critics of the BBC, who have long accused the corporation of liberal bias,” The Telegraph dryly says.
Apparently, BBC head Thompson passed this judgment on Orwell, whose real name was Eric Arthur Blair, while at a BBC reception earlier this year. Thompson was cornered by Baroness Joan Bakewell, a supporter of the statue, and pressed on erecting a statue to the famous author and journalist. But the Beeb director instantly dismissed the idea saying, “Oh no, Joan, we can’t possibly. It’s far too Left-wing an idea.”
The decision seems to be set in stone for now as it has been confirmed that the BBC has officially nixed the idea of an Orwell statue.
This proclamation is interesting, if not downright odd, in several ways. Firstly, Orwell was an actual BBC employee back previous to the conclusion of WWII. Orwell worked for the BBC’s Eastern Service from 1941 to 1943. His job was to counter Nazi propaganda via broadcasts to India.
Says Martin Jennings, the sculptor hired to create the image, “George Orwell is regarded as something of a patron saint of political journalism so his presence near the BBC could surely act as some kind of inspiration to all independent-minded broadcasters.”
Secondly is Orwell’s particular brand of left-wingery.
Now, it is certainly no mistake to say that Orwell was enamored of socialism. He was certainly a left-winger. But Orwell’s leftism was the sort that made him unwelcome among his contemporary left-wingers who were lovers of the rise of socialist nations like Russia’s Soviet Union. This is because Orwell’s left-wingism was of a contrarian’s bent.
Orwell disdained that the Soviets, the Nazis, the French, Spanish, and Italians — they all failed miserably in their attempts to institute socialism as far as he was concerned. Orwell, in fact, was a pretty virulent opponent of these nation’s attempts at socialism.
Here, for instance, is what Orwell said of the Soviet Union:
“In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. And so for the last ten years, I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the socialist movement.”
George Orwell was, of course, completely wrong with his belief in the essential ideals of “real” socialism. It is a bad idea not because the Soviets just didn’t do it right, but because it cannot be done right. Socialism is a failed idea through and through.
Dying in 1950, Orwell didn’t live long enough to see this proven out, so maybe he would have rejected left-wingery if he’d have lived longer. Still, it doesn’t really matter. Orwell’s left-wingism was of a particularly ethereal and fantasy-based set of ideals, to be sure, but what makes his left-wingism somewhat meaningless in the greater scheme of things is the fact is he was never an apologist for the Soviets or other totalitarians of his day.
Orwell’s left-wingism was benign and most certainly doesn’t overshadow his excellent literary triumphs, so putting the kybosh on a statue in his honor outside the new Broadcasting House in Oxford Circus, central London is just a silly move.