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eXile Classic / October 21, 2005
By John Dolan


Christopher Hitchens is out to save America. He’s brought the cross of St. George–Orwell, that is–along on the crusade. He’s everywhere in the American media lately, lending his accent and vast self-importance to the cause of Freedom.

You might wonder why imports like Hitchens are center-stage in the U.S. these days. You’d think a country of 300 million could find somebody to make a coherent case for the war in Iraq. But you’d be wrong. Ever hear ’em try? Bush sounds like an Okie fruit picker on glue; Cheney mumbles like a hanging judge at the end of a long day; and Rove, their PR chief, won’t talk on mic because he knows he’d come across like the scoutmaster trying to explain why he had to share a tent with your son. We’re hopeless.

And that’s why a used-up hack like Christopher Hitchens, whose main distinction in the English literary world was his alacrity in betraying friends when advantage loomed, has been able to jump the Atlantic and get greeted (and paid) like the second coming of Edmund Burke. He speaks for the tongue-tied Bushite majority, who aren’t so much silent as choked with sullen, mule-headed determination to show up the “elites” even if the whole country crashes and burns in the process. Since they can’t actually SAY that, they’ve got nothing to say.

That’s where Hitchens comes in, giving hate a voice. Hate deserves a hearing, after all. And these Brits make it so fuckin’ suave, as Frank Drake would say. Maybe it’s the accent, maybe it’s all that history or buggery or the tea, but damn! They hate so good.

Our native haters can’t cut it next to Hitchens. Next to him, Ann Coulter’s just a goofy Carol Burnett. You watch her and realize she’s just flirting, clowning for the boys. And poor old nodding, blithering Limbaugh-compared to Hitchens, Rush comes across as a 50-year-old AV club geek trying to impress his crusty old homeroom teacher by bitching at the hippies.

We’d better face it. American communication skills are sly, smiley stuff: lobbyist lunches, jollying up the tame press corps with a few fake back-slapping sessions. As Twain said, a double load of buckshot in the back is our idea of single combat.

Americans have been falling in unrequited love with these glib visiting Brits since frontier days. Every time a 19th-c. British author overspent on child prostitutes or laudanum, he or she embarked on an American lecture tour to repair the family finances, following Dickens’ path from one muddy American boomtown to the next. At every stop the author would let the yokels adore him for a few minutes, then retire to make careful notes on the locals’ ignorance, foul table manners and general stupidity for the scathing book to be published once safe in London.

And the Yanks fell for it every time. After wining and dining their distinguished visitor, the social elite of Podunk would order copies of the noble visitor’s account, hoping to see their names in print-only to be stunned at the lecturer’s sketch of Podunk as a stinking backwater, and brief description of its leading lights as an “execrable mob of beasts.”

I’ll bet an appendage Hitchens hates his groveling audience of American suckers just as much as his Victorian predecessors did. His earlier books are remarkable for their strident anti-American tone-and I mean compared to other books by British Trotskyites. In other words, he’s rabid, folks. He’d hit that nuclear trigger and vaporize your sweet hometown in a second, ya suckers. Hitchens’ orc-like understudy, Mark Steyn, who now poses as a champion of the U.S., was less discreet than Hitchens, describing our country (in an article gloating over the Atlanta bombing) as “the United States of losers and bozos.” You know we’re low on spokespersons when these are our star players.

Americans talk for consensus; for Brits, it’s a martial art. From birth they train for a world of casual verbal cruelty matched in America only by inner-city blacks. (Which is why only blacks in America have the verbal inventiveness to match the Brits.) Just compare a British tabloid with the U.S. variant: our Enquirer peddles mostly fantasies, dreams of self-transformation injected into an audience that still hopes to be “special.” The British rags don’t bother with Disney stories. They peddle pure steel-toed hate, two-minute Oi songs in prose form. Every article designates a hate-object for the mob to chase down and kick to death.

Hitchens’ American fans have no notion of these habitats where the Brits hone their hate. Instead, most of us encounter Brit hate in contexts that make it look good: pop songs, comic novels, or those sharp, tough essays the Brits seem to do so much better than us.

I’m thinking here of the high-priest of British hate, George Orwell.

I’m sure many of you, like me, encountered Orwell’s essays in your first year at college, and found them the only readable selections in the Norton Reader, that huge sampler of civil sermons. In that gooey context he stood alone.

Hitchens has written a book, Why Orwell Matters, coyly laying out his claim to be Orwell’s heir-this generation’s brave lone Brit facing a world of ideologues. The real subject, of course, isn’t Orwell but Hitchens himself.

Most decent American liberals, who continue to revere Orwell but hate Hitchens, reject Hitchens’ link to Orwell. I wish they were right. But you see, I’ve been looking over Orwell’s letters, essays and novels, and I’m afraid Hitchens’ claim can’t be so easily dismissed. In fact, only a very indulgent reading of Orwell’s work can sustain his reputation as a socialist, an anti-imperialist, or even an independent thinker. Under close examination, all the components of Orwell’s reputation dissolve, and the brave maverick looks dismally like a stunted, sneaking reactionary.

I’ll start with a classic Orwell essay, “Shooting an Elephant.” It’s a vivid, simple story about how the young Orwell was forced by the pressure of an expectant Burmese crowd to shoot a harmless elephant. Orwell’s surface thesis, laid out in the concluding paragraphs, is that Imperialism turns the Imperialist into a puppet in the hands of the natives. Here’s the first paragraph:

In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people-the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me. I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-European feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a European woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to do so. When a nimble Burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all. There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans.

After reading the mild civic homilies of the Norton, this raw hate entranced me. Orwell talked like Ted Hughes’ hawk would after a few brandies: no mercy on the underdog Burmese, no “understanding” about their motives. And the suave way he shrugs off his notoriety with a joke-“the only time in my life I have been important enough for this to happen to me”-no young literary man could resist this persona; this is who you want to be.

Yet:I did worry about that description of the Burmese. I mean, it was sort of racist. But reading on, I saw it was just part of a strategy, a double twist where first Orwell zaps you with his anti-Burmese descriptions, then balances them with a paragraph about his loathing for “the Empire [he] served.” It was such a risky, raw strategy I felt proud to have spotted it. Moving up through the ranks, I taught “Shooting an Elephant” for years as a classic of rhetorical structure.

Now I think I read it wrong, rejecting the “obvious” in favor of cooptation by the author. In fact, I was exactly the sort of sucker Orwell had in mind, a half-bright provincial trained to miss the obvious and cleave unto the far-fetched. By teasing this sort of reader with that shock intro, then reassuring him (“Don’t worry, I’m anti-Imperialist”), Orwell got me to ignore the biggest and most important feature of the essay, Orwell’s sheer simple hate for the Burmese. It stuns me to realize that I helped a generation of students overcome their simple, correct instinct (some poor honest kid would always ask, “Isn’t this:kinda racist?” and be talked into seeing the Emperor’s glorious wardrobe by me). Ah, if only somebody rewarded grad students for seeing the obvious, instead of the febrile and unlikely.

Along with the race hatred, there’s another obvious feature of this intro: the way it dramatizes Orwell himself, a sensitive young white man alone in a crowd of evil aliens. That habit of dramatizing himself never changes. It’s a constant in Orwell’s work; the only difference is that the scene shifts from Burma to Europe, and the hostile crowd consists of fellow intellectuals trying to lure him into one of the orthodoxies they have cravenly embraced.

In “Shooting an Elephant,” his isolation is literal; no other Englishmen seem to be on duty in Moulmein on the day the elephant gets loose. Alone, Orwell succumbs to the crowd’s pressure and shoots the elephant. But he is the real victim, forced to do violence to his conscience.

The argument is contagion. The Burmese are so vile that they infect the hero; he and his comrades should give up Burma simply to avoid infection. Of course, the story hints that they don’t have a choice; the Empire is doomed anyway. In fact, the Empire is an object of pity: “I did not even know [as a young man in Burma] that the British Empire is dying, still less did I know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are going to supplant it.”

The Burmese are entirely devoid of sympathy; they’re the winners, recipients of free elephant steaks and spectators at a pachyderm murder free of charge. Occupation seems to be a lark for them, a chance to indulge their caddish habit of cheating at sport.

If you’ve read anything about the British conquest of Burma, you’ll have a different reaction: you’ll wonder why Orwell’s Burmese opponents didn’t jump him at midfield and gouge his eyes out. God knows, they had every right. Britain started swallowing Burma bit by bit in the early 19th century. The Raj would have preferred to take the entire country in one blow, but the Burmese managed to avoid war until 1885, when the Brits got impatient and sacked the Burmese capital, burned the palace, booted the royal family out and celebrated with an orgy of tabloid headlines and cartoons showing the Burmese as big-eyed, stupid frogs bayoneted by Tommies.

Orwell never dramatizes a moment like that in any of his works. I’m inclined to choose the dull, obvious explanation for this odd silence: the man was a reactionary, Imperialist racist.

Once you’ve admitted that possibility in reading Orwell, the evidence is everywhere. And the passages which are supposed to “balance” the anti-Burmese vitriol with anti-Imperial details look very weak-intentionally weak, perfunctory. Here’s Orwell’s list of the wrongs of empire from “Shooting an Elephant”: “:convicts huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos:” That’s the best he could do? Where are the actual Imperialists, George? All you’ve got here is a bunch of Burmese wretches whose crime seems to be making your younger self feel bad.

Apparently they’re not fit to have a master like you.

In fact, Orwell’s thesis, which I once found so clever, is a cliche of Imperialist apologists. I developed an eye for these the hard way; they kept coming up whenever the Irish were mentioned in my favorite British books. I’d be reading along, happy little Anglophile that I was, and suddenly my favorite authors would spew hatred for us, the Irish and the Catholics. It not only hurt, it puzzled me for years. They were the winners, the ones who did the massacres; isn’t it the victims who are supposed to be angry?

Years later I heard a joke that explained it concisely. An Irishman has been bayoneted by a British soldier, and as the Mick dies slowly in a ditch the Brit kicks him over and over, cursing him and wishing him a painful, slow death. With his last breath the Irishman asks, “Why are you so angry at us?” The Brit leans down, whispers, “You swine, we will NEVER forgive you for what we’ve done to you.”

It’s one of those jokes-a lot of Irish/British jokes are like this-that are more true than funny. The Empire was a lot of things, from piracy on a global scale to Evangelism, but as its more concrete benefits started looking short-lived after 1918, its value as a point of pride, a shared happy dream, became relatively more important. Bumming the Imperial high was the last worst crime a native could commit.

And the Irish, glory to them, taught all the other conquered tribes how to turn the Empire’s story around, and turn defeat on the field into victory among the conquered hearts and minds. So the quickest way to see petulant Imperialists in action is to look up that fatal word “Ireland” in the index of any British book.

It’s a painful lesson. Most of them don’t even mention Ireland, no matter how central it might be to the topic. Those who do specialize in the sort of squeamish concessions I find in Orwell. I remember a classic case, Antonia Fraser’s Cromwell bio. Cromwell’s passage across Ireland was a genocidal horror, culminating in the sale of thousands of Irish women and girls into sex slavery in the West Indies (where some shared the auction block with early African shipments) and the confiscation of every decent acre of land on the island. Along the way, the Lord Protector-famed for mercy to defeated enemies in Britain-committed savage massacres, the biggest at the town of Drogheda. The slaughter at Drogheda is too well known to leave out entirely, so Fraser grudgingly mentions it, then comments that the real shame of Drogheda is that it stained Cromwell’s glorious reputation, it diminished him. Apparently it was a far less serious matter for those who were massacred. Just another day at the office for them. A mere bagatelle compared to Oliver’s soiled rep.

That’s vile enough, but how is Orwell’s thesis in “Shooting an Elephant” any less so? Orwell has made generations of nerdy readers so happy that we didn’t bother to notice he doesn’t consider wogs human.

Orwell alludes to the wrongs of Empire hundreds of times. But never does he dramatize them, and that’s the key. We’re dealing with a brilliant mob orator, a specialist in rousing hatred. If he wanted to indict the Empire, he’d retell the conquest of Burma so movingly that Kipling would sob.

Instead, Orwell limits anti-imperial evidence to a phrase or two, often buried in his famous lists. You find them sandwiched between a Stalinist lie, a Catholic falsehood and a Fascist propaganda claim. The quick equation-favorite device for defenders of the indefensible.

These lists are never meant to attack the Empire. They’re simply a quick shot of the many ideologies our hero, the brave loner George Orwell, resists so nobly, the last free mind in Europe.

And this too is a lie. Orwell was never the only maverick around, and every time he implies that his colleagues all joined some totalitarian club, he libels them and shames himself. It’s true that in the mid-1930s huge chunks of the Continental intelligentsia chose sides among Stalin, Hitler and the Pope; but even in more factionalized worlds like France, there were many independent writers doing very well. Celine, a real loner, with more mad courage than a reactionary like Orwell could even imagine, became famous at the very worst phase of Leftist hegemony in the Parisian scene without following any party’s line.

For English writers, the situation was far less dire, thanks to the aversion to abstract ideas which Orwell claimed as a national trait. If Orwell was censored, it was because Orwell cherished his persecutions. In fact, by sticking with Communist-affiliated publishers like Gollancz, he ensured a steady supply of persecution stories, which he disseminated via his letters, always reinforcing the growing legend of St. George. Best of all, Gollancz was a pushover of an antagonist, and the books always got printed. Persecution and publication, a crusader’s dream world.

Why, other than the urge to play crusader, did Orwell haunt the Leftist presses? Because, he tells us, he was a socialist. Really? The closer I look, the less convincing a socialist he makes. In fact, socialists rank high among his many hates. The only good socialists in any of his works are the dead ones he knew in Catalonia. Live leftists disgust him, especially English ones, as shown by his brilliant attack on Leftists in Road to Wigan Pier.

So once again, let’s invite the obvious: Orwell is lying when he calls himself a socialist. And again, once the possibility is admitted, the evidence piles up. Read Orwell’s correspondence with poor Victor Gollancz over Wigan Pier and you see the stolid, loyal Gollancz trying desperately to understand why his star writer spent so much time vilifying his fellow socialists in a book commissioned by them. Read that exchange and you’ll never buy Orwell’s version of himself as simple, honest man. He’s the Satanic diva, pushing Gollancz into objections which allow Orwell to play the lone, misunderstood hero.

But if he never was a leftist, why did he call himself one? For Orwell, the red star was protective coloration. It allowed him to smuggle his hates into print, gave them a fine radical gloss, and spared him the cold, clear readings his essays deserved. (Only academics believe that writers want to be understood. Writers want to be misread to their advantage.)

Ah, but what about Spain? Orwell put his life fighting for POUM in the Spanish Civil War. He got himself shot in the neck-pretty high risks for a phony socialist. How do I explain that one?

Actually, it’s simple. Orwell went to Spain to fight for his most deeply held belief, yes. Unfortunately, that belief wasn’t socialism but the nastiest, most puerile of the tribal hatreds English babies learn in the cradle: anti-Catholicism.

The revolution in Catalonia was unlike any other socialist rebellion before or since. Its fury was reserved for priests, nuns, churches and monasteries, and the anarchists Orwell loved were famous for inventing new ways to kill clerics. That’s what drew Orwell to Catalonia: the chance to help the men who were disemboweling priests in Barcelona and winding their guts around the altars. At last, a chance to smite the bloody Papists, the whore of Rome, Eric Blair’s oldest and dearest hate. Not since Cromwell had an English Papist-baiter had such an opportunity to torment the filthy priests. Naturally, Orwell was on the first ship he could catch. It wasn’t about socialism, it was about the chance to kill “a stinking RC” (Orwell’s description of Wyndham Lewis).

Orwell’s hatred of Catholics is so blatant that it’s frightening. I wonder what kept his fans from seeing it. Here’s a quick sample of St George in Ian Paisley mode:

Nearly all our anti-clerical feeling is directed at the poor, unoffending old C of E. If ever a word is raised against Rome, it is only some absurd tale about Jesuit intrigues or babies’ skeletons dug up from the floors of nunneries.

Here we get class snobbery mixed with religious bigotry: Orwell’s objection to the prevailing brand of Catholic-baiting is that it’s crude, mob hate, not the sleek variant he wants. Note too the sentimental exemption for the dear old Church of England, which never hurt anybody except for a few million Irish Catholics.

There’s something about Catholics that sets off a chain of atavistic old-maid responses in Orwell, as here, when he jumps from exulting in his chance to smear the bloody Papists to maundering about his garden. This guy is seriously creepy, like Miss Marple if she lived in the Shankill Road:

I had the great pleasure of reviewing [two pro-Catholic books]:It was the first time I have been able to lay the bastinado on a professional RC at any length. I have got a few square feet of garden, but have had rotten results owing to rain, slugs and mice.

And again, in a later letter, wandering from the Inquisition to updates on the local hedgehog:

I found Vacandard’s history of the Inquisition quite interesting:It appears:that the pendulum in Poe’s story was actually used:Torture [was dropped] in the middle of the 18th century, but the Pope did not formally abolish it until 1816. Our hedgehog has disappeared.

I don’t even want to think about the thought processes that led Orwell from the tortures of the Inquisition to that lost hedgehog. Perhaps the Jesuits got it.

Back in my naive Anglophile days, these sudden blurts of hate for our Church hurt quite a bit, but nowhere near as much as the sudden fits of vicious anti-Irish hate I came across. Of course, they go together, “Catholic” and “Irish,” which has always been handy for the English bigot.

Orwell hates the Irish too, of course, but much more slyly. Most of them he classes with tramps as human waste; only the Nationalists, the rebels, earn his active hate. It boils over in a strange context, his review of Sean O’Casey, in which he bizarrely turns O’Casey into an Irish Nationalist and attributes O’Casey’s English fame to guilt (when in fact O’Casey’s plays and memoirs were grimly devoted to revenge on the Nationalists, who seduced O’Casey’s hero, Connolly).

But his most revealing slip came when he had to pick a name for the apparatchik-interrogator villain for 1984. Consider the real names of the men who have governed Britain-and then explain why Orwell named his villain “O’Brien.” Bad conscience trumped sense yet again. He hates the O’Briens so much that he foolishly imagines they’re going to rise to the top in the coming Soviet Britain and take their revenge on the Orwells (or should I say the Blairs). It’s silly-but then Orwell is quite a silly man.

Other than these outbursts, Orwell adopts the usual British strategy for dealing with Ireland: clipped, sullen admissions, always vague and brief, that some things were done that were not entirely nice, then a quick change of subject. On the greatest massacre of all, the “Famine” of the 1840s, he adopts the usual strategy: dead silence, just like every other British writer before 1980.

That’s the thing about Orwell’s Imperialism: it’s perfectly ordinary stuff, distinguished only by the socialist persona he invented to speak it. As an example of literary dissembling, Orwell belongs with the great forgers. But as a man of ideas, he is truly beneath contempt. His ideas are simply the hatreds of his nursery, hidden by an elaborate self-glorifying backstory.

In 1984 Orwell’s provincial xenophobia led him to come up with the worst dystopian prediction in history, when he depicted Soviet totalitarianism led by the Irish rebel O’Brien as England’s future. Oblivious to the huge cruelties of Britain, he went far afield again-as when researching the tortures of the Inquisition-to find his bogeyman. It was a typically fatuous self-indulgent, reactionary impulse. The xenophobia starts in the very first line of 1984, the famous opening: “It was a cold, bright day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Oh the horror of the continental (Papist) 24-hour clock! Anything but that! He was lucky in his tuberculosis. If this fool would have lived any longer, his stupidity would have become obvious to all.

The story Orwell sold the world in his essays and books centered on his lonely ideological odyssey-an evolution that never even got started. From youth to death, Orwell kept his cherished hatreds, all born of an astonishingly fatuous blend of British populist stances from the late Empire. His crises are those of a secretive, cunning child.

Consider one recurrent dilemma, mentioned dozens of times in his works: whether to stand when “God Save the King” is played. This is, first of all, a spy’s dilemma, born of bad faith. Moreover, it’s a silly one, since only a schoolboy would imagine risking exposure to satisfy a sentimental habit.

And that’s Orwell: a maze of lies, maintained with adult skill and considerable talent, in the service of the most tawdry middle-class prejudices.

And so, we have to concede that Hitchens has the right to claim Orwell as ancestor. Like brothers, they share many traits, all of them vile. Indeed, it’s shocking (and kind of sickening) to see how slavishly Hitchens has worked to advance Orwell’s deepest hatred: the bloody Papists. Would you be surprised to learn, dear reader, that Hitchens has written an entire book vilifying Mother Theresa, a charming little tome he christened The Ghoul of Calcutta. Yes, in a world full of villains, she was his pick for Public Enemy #1.

It’s that relentless, unashamed hate that makes Hitchens a true heir of Orwell. And Hitchens is right, too, when he reminds us that Orwell matters. Hell yes, Orwell matters! Because America has landed itself where he started: defending the indefensible, reviving his Imperial project. Orwell was loyal to his hates, and that mad persistence in a hostile environment made him a master stylist (so good he seemed “simple”) pushing the most remarkably puerile list of hates in literary history: Papists, wogs, women (don’t get me started on Orwell and women!) and lefties; a twit’s list of enemies, a fool’s list.

America is now neck-deep in a war so stupid that nothing in our native speech can contain, let alone defend it. Enter Mister Hitchens. He’s channeling Orwell, he says, and alas, he’s right. Until now, it was easy and harmless to let Orwell be a dead saint. But Hitchens called that bluff; when he says he’s come to do Orwell’s work, the evidence says he’s telling the truth. Because Orwell’s work, once you tear off the camouflage, is fanning the hate of a fading Empire for a disobedient, turbulent world where the wogs refuse to obey it. The worst news America could ever receive is this: Hitchens really is Orwell’s heir.

John Dolan is the author of Pleasant Hell, published by Capricorn Publishing. You can order it on, or pester your local book shop.

This article was first published in issue #224 of The eXile in October, 2005.

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Add your own

  • 1. paul cripps  |  November 27th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    what planet are you from mate. one of the few truly honest writers of the 20th cehtury and you turn him into a racist/imperialist.what you couldn,t pove he was a child molester as well.keep up your obvious drug taking while reading harry fucking potter.

  • 2. matt  |  March 6th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    …hmmm. This actually makes sense.

    Although I think he may very well have just been given to trotskyite sympathies. Prone to Sectarianism, interventionism, and revisionism of the man’s record (ie Snowball of Animal Farm)

  • 3. matt  |  May 16th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Just FYI though, everything he wrote about Mother Theresa was accurate. Really it was worse, check out’s bio of her.

  • 4. Carlito  |  August 12th, 2010 at 7:20 am

    I don’t what the article is talking about. What anti-Burmese hate? It is just a description. And rather technical and bland at that.

  • 5. Tash Shaikh  |  November 1st, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    An antidote to sycophants like Hitchens, is Noam Chomsky. He cuts across all the BS and exposes the racist and imperialist ambitions of the US and its servile war dog Britain.

  • 6. A.Tomás  |  February 20th, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Have to say, excellent article!

    The evidence is all there, cheers.

  • 7. Fatty Arbuckle's Ghost's Pants  |  April 16th, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Jeez, it must be awful to be a british apologist

  • 8. FatIrishman  |  April 17th, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Whats wrong with naked spewing hate for the Catholic church? The two thousand years of combined atrocities committed by and for that supra-national monarchy surely deserve as much hate as can be mustered. Is the article claiming that Hitchens is some sort of secret Christian?, holding some sort of well hidden nostalgia for the church of england that drives his hate for all other religions, including his public verbal flogging of all Christianity’s various cults including the C of E itself?

    The central point of contention here seems to be that other Americans are not as mad as the author is at Hitchens for calling bullshit on the brutality of the american empire and its good friends the Zionist Israeli’s and then heading over to the USA to make money on book signings and public speaking events anyway. “Hitchens carries a secret loathing the bumpkins he’s trying to fleece” is the thesis. No, he carries naked open hate for some Americans he sees as detestable he’s never hidden that. To claim that because he hates some Americans he obviously hates them all is absurd and childish.

  • 9. Jack Boot  |  April 18th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    A few points:
    1) Orwell realised early on that British – indeed, all European – imperialism was doomed. However, he also realised that a post-imperial Britain would be a paltry thing indeed.
    As a patriot, he could not have been overjoyed at the prospect – be it ever so just & inevitable.
    Of course he disliked the Burmese – as Nietzsche said, it is inhuman to bless where one is cursed…

    2) Orwell was a man of his time – as are we all. His slagging of pacifists, birth-controllers, feminists, vegetarians and gays certainly comes across as Politically Incorrect nowadays.
    But, it can be argued that, in the 1930s and 40s, their agendas (particularly pacifism) were a dangerous distraction from the main task at hand.

    3) Orwell’s dystopian predictions in “1984” indeed proved to be wrong – or at any rate premature. However, I doubt that he meant it as a prophecy; as Scrooge said, it was not what would be, but what might be.

    4) How can anyone with progressive pretensions conceivably have a good word for the Roman Catholic Church – impeding human progress since 325AD?!
    I for one one would love to see the current Panzer Pope’s gutty-wuts wound ’round St. Peter’s Altar – along with those of all the child-fucking priests!

  • 10. Broggly  |  July 10th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    While I mostly agree with the article (I’ve thought something was off about Orwell since I discovered how much he loved the army and couldn’t understand why socialists might have problems with it given the history of dragoons running down Trade Unionists and all that) I think it’s a bit rich to assume Mother Teresa must be as good as everyone thinks she is given the article being about Orwell not living up to the hype.

  • 11. Flatulissimo  |  July 14th, 2011 at 11:26 am

    I must echo the sentiments of previous comments – what’s wrong with hating the Catholic Church? Seems like Orwell is not alone in clinging to “tawdry middle-class prejudices.” C’mon Dolan, it is about time to finally get over whatever child brainwashing you were subjected to in Cath’lic school.

  • 12. justaguy  |  July 15th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    interesting and kind of sad. I still say that the parts of 1984 detailing the “Brotherhood’s” critique of society are essential reading…

    “The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living…”


  • 13. Mike Tango  |  July 16th, 2011 at 1:43 am

    Dolan hates Orwell because he couldn´t be a bigoted mole who passes on lists of suspected Communist writers like Orwell did.

  • 14. Teskulon  |  July 17th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    The young kids who said “Isn’t that kinda racist?” was the true indoctrinee, silly. (Wasn’t all that racist, just the usual way any occupier would feel about his sullen charges.) The culmination of college education is simply to make sure that none of the liberal indoctrination takes hold too deeply. Servile State can’t have standards, after all. Since they tend to fight fair.

    The fact that all you do is look at the style of arguments, rather than the results of their implementation, puts you more firmly in the dumbass liberal slave-driver camp than Orwell and Hitchens ever were.

    Though a more ‘racist’ you might have gotten a more simple reason the British hated the Irish so much: It’s the same reason the Germans hated the Jews, the Japanese hate the Koreans, and the Tutsi hate the Hutu. The more physically and mentally alike you are, the more you’ll fixate on the small differences and ruthlessly crush each other at the earliest opportunity. For it ain’t until men realize they’re brothers until they instantly begin to fight.

  • 15. franc black  |  August 26th, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Mr. Dolan,

    In the time it took you to polish this piece (of tripe), you could’ve read “Burmese Days” as well. Basing Orwell’s world view on “Shooting an Elephant” seems rather presumptuous. He deserves better treatment, and you probably know it.

  • 16. Restell  |  September 10th, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    The fact that the author apparently thinks being “racist” is the worst, most abominable trait one can conceive of, rather than the default setting of every human being born on planet earth, is what kills this article in the egg.

    Inter-ethnic hatred is the rule, not the exception, and if those Burmese could’ve gotten on their boats and sailed off to Britain to subjubgate them first, they certainly would have. Ditto the Irish: It’s not a lack of desire, but a lack of ability, that had the English dominating the Irish for so many centuries instead of the other way round.

    Finally, all the pearl-clutching at Imperial Britain’s atrocities while blissfully ignoring those of the Roman Catholic Church (in a head-to-head historical match-up, which of the two has caused more human misery would be hard to say) is reminiscent of….wait, I found it:

    “Most of them [British books] don’t even mention Ireland, no matter how central it might be to the topic.”

    What a pity.

  • 17. Phoenix Woman  |  October 15th, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Heh. Right again as usual.

  • 18. hazey  |  December 19th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    @16. Restell

    Five seconds on teh Google would show you that John Dolan is AKA Gary Brecher. Making your misdirected rant hilarious.

  • 19. G.A.  |  December 19th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I have a difficulty believing Dolan is serious in this. To me this seemed more as a thought exercise of sorts, where Dolan tries to argue something he’s not entirely convinced about.

    I do not think Orwell was an imperialist. I am one, but I do not think he was. He had remains of class identity (as can be seen in Wigan Pier, or in that subdued but very much /felt/ way in Down and Under), and he indeed did look down upon the Burmese, but I don’t really see a reason to doubt that he hated his role as a policeman or the imperialism of British Empire.

    He was a typical conservative Brit, flawed and prejudiced, but I can’t see anywhere any argument made by him for preserving the empire. The entire article lists his prejudices as if they’re automatically constituting Orwell as an imperial apologist, but that’s simply not the case.

    Maybe I missed something.

  • 20. franc black  |  December 19th, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Shite, not this article again … criticizing one of the few honestly respected writers of modern English (George Orwell) will not just lose you a few friends, it stands to really wipe your slate clean.

    Have you read Homage to Catalonia, Road to Wigan Pier, any of the political essays ?

    (as for Hitchens, he’s using his well-honed kiss-ass skills on St Peter, trying to delay his eventual immersion into the Lake of Fire …)

  • 21. John Drinkwater  |  December 19th, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    The first part of this essay – on Hitchens – is hilarious and great, but I’m afraid Dolan is just wrong about Orwell here.

  • 22. thomzas  |  December 20th, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Dolan, painting the Catholic Church as a victim is as ludicrous as making the British Empire a saint.

  • 23. DC Resident  |  December 20th, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Your attack on Orwell is just nonsense. Orwell was 24 years old when he LEFT Burma. In other words, the brunt of your argument is based on the political opinions and actions of an Orwell between the ages of 21-24.

    If you take the time to read Orwell’s works [with a clear mind, that is], it’s both clear and fascinating to see his progression as a writer and as a human being. The Orwell of age 24 was not the Orwell of 34, and most certainly not the Orwell of 44.

    Orwell actually learned and grew from his experiences, reassessed his former prejudices, and wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade, even if that meant alienating the British Communists and doctrinaire liberals.

    Your essay screams “I haven’t read all (or even most) of Orwell’s works.” Absolutely screams it.

  • 24. muscle shoals  |  December 22nd, 2011 at 4:36 am

    I remember thinking that this was crap six years ago. I haven’t improved with age. Yep, still a dumbfuck.


    “After reading the mild civic homilies of the Norton, this raw hate entranced me.”

    What “raw hate”? There’s no sign of it in the entire paragraph you quoted, as far as I can see.


    “Orwell went to Spain to fight for his most deeply held belief . . . anti-Catholicism.”

    Evidence? (That that was the reason for his going, I mean.)

  • 25. Restell  |  December 22nd, 2011 at 6:06 am


    Reading charming misspellings and rambling about random personnages would leave even the most dedicated debater dans le noir.

    Making your incomprehensible response non-sensical. Do keep at it though.

  • 26. marquis de carabidae  |  January 1st, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Turns out Orwell was a fuckbag about art, too:

    Orwell on Dali

  • 27. Evan  |  January 6th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    It’s fairly obvious what the author’s game is from the way that he bemoans the anti-clericalism of the Spanish Republicans, while omitting to mention that the Church had sorely provoked that treatment through it’s vocal and unstinting support of reactionary politics (in league with the military and the large landowners, the Church was the main wellspring of Spanish Fascism). Orwell was vehemently anti-Catholic; this causes the author pain but is not by itself enough to blacken Orwell’s reputation YES IT IS, YOU WORTHLESS SWAMP-TROLL; therefore the TROLL contributes a number of additional spurious TROLLISMS such as that Orwell was THIS TROLL’S HERO.

    This is something of a TROLL’S VERSION OF SADNESS, because for all his literary talents Orwell was an unpleasant person in many ways NOT THAT DOLAN CARED WHAT SORT OF UNPLEASANT PERSON ORWELL WAS, BUT RATHER WHAT A BIGOT ORWELL WAS AND WHAT A TROLL I AM, TROLL VON TROLLSON, and a COMMENT that approached ORWELL’S flaws in a less blatantly dishonest fashion would be interesting.

  • 28. O'Brien  |  January 9th, 2012 at 4:25 am

    “Troll” is a species not an ethnicity. I am a troll. I lick boots for a living. Love me, please!

  • 29. O'Brien  |  January 9th, 2012 at 9:07 am

    My previous comment above was improved and somewhat de-retardedized, though fully de-retardedizing my comment is still beyond the capabilities of modern science. I wish to thank the Almighty Exiled Censor for improving my comment, and I will hereby try to improve myself as a retard, so that I might not drool my thoughts on anyone else.

  • 30. O'Brien  |  January 9th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    This comment has been sprayed with Trollicide

  • 31. O'Brien  |  January 9th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Wait what did the BEEEEEEP!

  • 32. Boll  |  February 3rd, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    LOL! What a pathetic trollcicle!

  • 33. darthfader  |  June 23rd, 2013 at 10:05 pm


  • 34. 10th Grade English  |  December 27th, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Dolan nails it again. Wish the article had been formatted more clearly so that the quotes were separate from the writing but hey no biggie.

    One thing a lot of comments here are getting wrong is that Dolan isn’t saying that the Spanish Catholics didn’t have it coming, he’s simply saying that this “exception” to Orwell’s general rule “sit-on-my-ass-and-hate-the-left” is really not an exception at all. This is an essay about Orwell, and from Orwell’s perspective the Spanish Civil war wasn’t about “Freedom” or “Communism” at all. Even if you think Orwell joined a correct cause, Dolan is correct to point out the stupid and petty reasons WHY he joined that cause.

    And I call your bluff Anonymous readers: if you had actually read Orwell (and not just skimmed the cliff’s notes like most American high-schoolers) everything Dolan wrote here would ring true. That’s the real problem here: Americans don’t read, but want to sound smart in front of other by picking literary heroes and enemies… we get deeply uncomfortable when truly educated and intelligent independent thinkers call out collective bluff, complicating the stupid oversimplified picture we have in our heads.

  • 35. Adi  |  May 7th, 2014 at 2:25 am

    So, shit for brains here is attacking Orwell for noticing things like the Human Condition?

    Now, I get it. The financial bankruptcy of this so-called journal is the cause of its intellectual and moral bankruptcy.

    I am sure this nobody here wishes he had a fraction of Orwell’s notoriety. Lacking any intellectual weapons in his armory, he is reduced to the status of a thirteen year old black girl at an all white prep-school.

  • 36. A Corkman  |  August 5th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Good essay. However, there are two minor errors; The infamous “stinking RC” comment
    refers to D. B Wyndham Lewis, the humourous
    writer, and not Wyndham Lewis who wrote
    “The Revenge for Love”.

    Also, Hitchens’ book was called “The Missionary Position”,
    not “The Ghoul of Calcutta”.

    Having said that, I agree with a lot
    of the points Dolan made. It always
    puzzled me why the “leftist” Orwell was enthusiastically quoted by the National Review, Norman Podhoretz and the Tea Party-people who would NEVER quote Orwell’s
    contemporaries like Bertrand Russell
    or J. B. Priestley.

    I suspect Orwell would have openley embraced the Right had he lived longer- he’d already
    snitched on people to British Intellgence, including people like Priestley and Naomi Mitchison who were critical of Stalin. I can easily
    imagine him writing an article
    for “The Daily Mail” blaming the “Pansy Left” for the Suez Crisis.

  • 37. Fletch  |  August 15th, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    Mendacious article. This is poorly-done mudslinging at its worst.

    The obvious response would be to trade ‘Shooting an Elephant’ for the ‘Burmese Days’ novel, and to point out that Orwell quite clearly stated his reasons for signing up for a socialist (not even Trotskyist, nor ‘the anarchists Orwell loved’) in the first chapter of Homage to Catalonia – he was overwhelmed and amazed and awed by seeing ‘a town where the working class was in the saddle’… ‘in some ways I didn’t even like it, but I recognised it as a state of affairs worth fighting for.’

    Awful, opprobrious work. Orwell and even Hitchens deserve much, much better than this nonsense. The latter wasn’t perfect, and he wasn’t Orwell, but there was a lot of truth, beauty and wisdom in his oratory.

    Also, while it’s true that I’m a neocon tool who can’t handle seeing his idols subjected to criticism, nevertheless, that does not minimize the impact of this anonymous comment. Feel it’s sting, O faithless non-believer in the Orwell God!

  • 38. John Selmer Dix  |  December 11th, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you providing us with a great example of this superior Anglo style, Fletch. Went right for the kill there using mendacious as your first word! With two quotes that you provide without any context, and other appraisals of Orwell that you simply assert with no evidence, you have proven this frivolous Irishman wrong. Cheers!

  • 39. Aditya Barot  |  February 25th, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Sad, pathetic, angry darkies like me thank John Dolan.

    I like your work on War. Being somewhat obsessed with martial history myself, it is a pleasure to read someone else who is also deeply passionate.

    But I despise my own vast sense of self-importance and my obvious envy and hatred of your work. And my hatred is not funny, not like your pathetic self-hating variety. You are a failure and you know it — which is why I’m leaving a comment on your article, because I’m such a winner in life and you’re a loser who merely writes the things that I read all alone. Some day, I will become the Chris Hitchens of Indian blog commenters, just you wait!

  • 40. simon chen  |  May 23rd, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Thank you for the article. Hitchens should be branded a heretic, dug up his corpse and burned.
    His many fanboys/worshippers defending this dead man is a joke. No problem spewing hate on the Catholic Church, Mother Theresa, Christianity but leave Hitchens alone! LOL
    Thank God, Franco got rid of those socialist swines/pests.
    A gem of an article. If the Immortal can be ridiculed, so is the Mortal.

  • 41. Dermot O Connor  |  September 20th, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I am a middlebrow idiot. enough said

  • 42. Dermot O Connor  |  September 20th, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Not sure if I mentioned this already, but I really am a middlebrow idiot. That’s why I love Orwell, and I get my ideas from google searches.

  • 43. David  |  June 24th, 2017 at 8:37 am


    Um…yeah, because Hitchens is such a “hateful” person. (?)

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