Orwell and Tarkington In Support of American Journalists


Sales of George Orwell’s novel 1984 are apparently increasing in response to events in the United States. Orwell’s Doublethink and Two Minute Hate readily lend themselves to parallels with “alternative facts” and the whipping up of hatred against perceived “others”. But it’s not only a writer like Orwell who we can turn to for enlightenment. Any writer with a eye to human nature could help us. I’d like to refer you, for example, to Booth Tarkington, Princeton Graduate and author of the novel The Magnificent Ambersons. Wealthy, patrician, conservative Tarkington seemingly has little in common with Orwell; but yesterday I read the section in The Magnificent Ambersons where Eugene Morgan tries to help his daughter understand the characteristic combination of arrogance and inability to accept criticism. Eugene’s observations will strike a chord with any number of contemporary American journalists:

“That’s one of the greatest puzzles of human vanity, dear, and I don’t pretend to know the answer. In all my life, the most arrogant people that I’ve known have been the most sensitive. The people who have done the most in contempt of other people’s opinion, and who consider themselves the highest above it, have been the most furious if it went against them. Arrogant and domineering people can’t stand the least, lightest, faintest breath of criticism. It just kills them.”

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