Welcome to the Spring 2023 issue of The Objective Standard. This begins the journal’s eighteenth year in publication, and I’d like to extend a tremendous thanks to everyone who subscribes and supports our work.
George Orwell’s classic, 1984, envisioned a nightmare world of statist dictatorship where one’s every word and action is monitored for compliance with “The Party’s” dictates, and people are “vaporized” for the slightest suspicion of resistance. It might sound hyperbolic to suggest that we’re now on the cusp of such a world. But in “The Terrifying Prescience of George Orwell’s 1984,” Andrew Bernstein shows that we’ve drifted close enough to it to make any rational person’s skin crawl. Examining the story, the principles it dramatizes, and its contributions to the language of political discourse, Bernstein points out alarming similarities between this timeless dystopian novel and the world we live in today.
One of those parallels stems from the FBI’s efforts in recent years to stifle certain views and voices online—a clear violation of free-speech rights—which were revealed when Elon Musk granted reporters access to Twitter’s internal files. In “What the Twitter Files Revealed about Power and Censorship,” I comb through the reports, showing why widespread cries that private companies have engaged in “censorship” are misplaced and how many of the proposed “solutions” are far more dangerous than the problem.
Scary as things might be stateside, they are worse in China, Brazil, and in some respects, New Zealand. In “Are Filmmakers Finally Standing Up to Chinese Censorship?,” Angelica Walker-Werth highlights some of the Chinese Communist Party’s successful efforts to manipulate U.S. film studios in this regard, along with promising signs that some of these studios are growing a backbone and refusing to modify their films.
In “What Americans Can Learn from Brazil’s Chief Censor,” I show how that country’s recent foray into censorship demonstrates the terrible, destructive consequences of stifling the human mind. In its efforts to root out “misinformation” and opposing political views (often treating them as one and the same thing), Brazil’s Electoral Supreme Court has earned the nickname “Ministry of Truth.” However, as I write, “there can be no rational argument for doing away with rational arguments, nor any for endowing some with the authority to dictate what is and is not rational or true.”
Nonetheless, in “Good Riddance to Jacinda Ardern, Arch-Statist,” Thomas Walker-Werth shows that endowing some with the authority to dictate “truth” is also a literal description of the policies of New Zealand’s former prime minister. Walker-Werth bids a happy farewell to Ardern, the socialist politician who, regarding COVID-19, had the nerve to tell her countrymen, “We will continue to be your single source of truth.” Big Brother couldn’t have said it more clearly.
Next, in “Babylon 5: Pioneering, Philosophic Science Fiction,” Walker-Werth celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of that show’s debut. Instead of a series of standalone episodes, creator/producer J. Michael Straczynski wrote a single, five-season epic—and used that broad canvas to explore such themes as tyranny versus freedom, the virtue of personal responsibility, and the meaning of life. (The show also features the 1984-inspired Night Watch, a network of spies who report their friends’ and colleagues’ “disloyal” behavior to a tyrannical regime.)
At the root of so many present-day political problems is the catastrophe commonly referred to as “public schools.” That’s a euphemism, explains Bernstein in my interview with him, “Bad Schools and What to Do about Them”; all private schools are open to the public. What are more accurately called “government schools” have, for decades, succeeded not in educating children but in confusing and even indoctrinating them. Of course, there are still many good educators in classrooms across the country, but the remote learning that lockdowns necessitated exposed the rotten core of these schools and the nonsense many students are being “taught.” Bernstein, author of Why Johnny Still Can’t Read or Write or Understand Math: And What We Can Do About It, explains why America’s government school system must be replaced—not reformed—and how to circumvent it in the meantime to give children an excellent education.
On February 2—the birthday of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand—I spoke with Timothy Sandefur about his latest book, Freedom’s Furies: How Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, and Ayn Rand Found Liberty in an Age of Darkness. It’s the first book-length exploration of the relationships between these authors and the context that led to their respective 1943 works, The God of the Machine, The Discovery of Freedom, and The Fountainhead. Sandefur’s book shows why these women—who spearheaded the modern American liberty movement—are as important as ever, and our conversation gives a taste of the book.
The shorts in this issue are:
- “Protesters to China’s Tyrants: ‘Communist Party, Step Down!’” by Thomas Walker-Werth;
- “What Ayn Rand Meant by ‘Americanism,’” by Dan Sanchez;
- “Five of Richard Branson’s Most Inspiring Moments,” by Thomas Walker-Werth;
- “Why Do Our Political Options Suck?,” by me;
- “Taylor Swift Fans Should Celebrate Her Becoming a Billionaire,” by Justyna Piątek-Pawłowska.
The reviews in this issue are:
- And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meacham, reviewed by Timothy Sandefur;
- This Afterlife: Selected Poems by A. E. Stallings, reviewed by Timothy Sandefur;
- Free Speech: A Global History from Socrates to Social Media by Jacob Mchangama, reviewed by Michael Dahlen;
- Knock at the Cabin, written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, reviewed by Thomas and Angelica Walker-Werth.
I hope you enjoy the issue—and here’s to making 1984 fiction again.
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