By Jack Engelhard
Say this about the 1960s. Those years were spontaneous. We didn’t know what’s coming next. Anything could happen and it usually did and sometimes it was good and sometimes it was bad but in either case it was real. Does anybody remember REAL– I mean when people and events were authentic?
I’m still catching bad music from that column I wrote in which I refused to dance at that wedding that took place in Denver, which was so altogether sanitized and scripted, like a commercial or a movie, all the people performing as directed – and this is no knock on one party or another. It’s what we’ve become, all of us, not necessarily robots, but actors, you know, read your lines and shut up.
“Do not deviate from the script.” This goes for the performers and all the rest of us in the bleachers.
We are all living in a commercial. I am trapped in your commercial and I can’t get out!
So then I wrote – I wrote that the only true moment at that event in Denver was when, up there on stage, after all the speaking had been done by focus-group approval, the children kept interrupting the parents. That was charming because these two kids, the daughters, are so adorable and wonderful, but mostly because it all came about spontaneously. Wow! Where can we get more of that!
Now I’m getting nasty e-mails (“we are so full of love and that is why we hate”) because I touched the crown of the savior. I did not adhere to the script. Hey, that’s your script, not mine. Do you mind if I try some thinking of my own? Is it okay if I depart from the screenplay that you insist I follow line for line, word for word? Must I cheer when you cheer and must I jeer when you jeer? Must I flatter when you flatter?
Orwell already spoke about this and Leni Riefenstahl made films about this and I’m not saying we’re there yet, but it is getting awfully plastic.
The message? The Propaganda Police will come after you if you utter a discouraging word – and it’s the same all over, this sanitization, this Sovietization of our culture. By now we all know about the major New York publisher who burned a book, even after it was published, because it failed to heed the Party Line, even in America, yes, even in America this happens and it’s happening more and more.
Books are not being published (thousands that do not make the headlines) due to a lack of understanding of the feminist movement or whatever agenda is rife at the moment. These books are stillborn. Writers (as in the Soviet Union) must follow codes of conduct. Movies are not being made due to FEAR. Back in 1957, Burt Lancaster had the guts to turn out “Sweet Smell of Success” even at a time when Walter Winchell (who was being targeted) was the most powerful gossip columnist in America.
Nothing like that today, when your literature is judged by your politics, even if you have no politics. You don’t. They do.
These days everything comes with a program, scene one, scene two, scene three, exactly as it is on the set of every movie, commercial or infomercial. Now I’m trapped in your infomercial and I can’t get out. Every speech is “vetted” to conform to the doctrine at hand. There is no “going it alone.”
Speak openly, fearlessly, and hate mail cometh and it rings more than twice.
When does culture trespass into religion and when does religion trespass over to mob intolerance?
Over in the Big Leagues, journalists, or so-called journalists, namely those at NBC and MSNBC, are at odds because not enough of them are loyal to the cause of the redeemer. So it’s not news we’re getting, only more commercials – AND WE CAN’T GET OUT! We are trapped in a propaganda warp.
Dissenters will not be dispatched to a Gulag or “re-education” camp, necessarily, but there will be THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE.
We will MONITOR your message as surely as Al Sharpton monitors Don Imus. We are the THOUGHT POLICE and we are not quite the Inquisition but we have other means. The TRUTH IS WHAT WE TELL YOU IT IS, and don’t you dare switch that dial. If you are Democrat you must be completely Democrat and if you are Republican you must be completely Republican.
This is the RULE ABOVE ALL OTHER RULES. Pay attention for here it comes: YOU MUST NOT THINK. If you start to think you may form opinions outside the orthodoxy and then we will have no choice but to cast you out and turn you into a sacrifice. If you read the words of a ready writer who differs, object immediately and hotly, lest you fall to reasoning.
This, too – The Master Is Never Wrong.
Back in the Little Leagues, well, over there in some small town somewhere in America, a group of kids, real apple pie American kids, displaying some real old-fashioned American gumption, carved a baseball field out of someone’s backyard and started to play ball. The Township came along and stopped all that –something about misuse of property and lack of authorization.
The kids – who had already set up a lemonade stand – did not have “the proper papers” and failed to “follow procedure.” They were trying something spontaneous. Imagine that! We can assume, then, that these children now have their first lesson in politics. To get ahead, you must play ball and it is not baseball. You must conform. You cannot do anything unless it is pasteurized, organized and authorized.
As you grow up our Ministers of Loyalty will give you a role. If you are in the scene you will be given a script and we will tell you what to say. If you are part of the audience we will tell you when to applaud, when you laugh and even when to jeer. You will no longer be an individual. You will be a functionary. You will be a nonentity, a face in the crowd. You will shout, if not in so many words, LONG LIVE BIG BROTHER. You will have lost your daring, your uniqueness, your spirit, and you will be glad.
For you will have become one of US.
Jack Engelhard’s latest novel, THE BATHSHEBA DEADLINE, now in paperback, places journalism at the center of our war on terror. Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel INDECENT PROPOSAL that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. He can be reached, and his Works can be viewed, at www.jackengelhard.com.