Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, July 07, 2006

Patriotism vs. Nationalism

Here is an excellent Newsweek column on the differences between patriotism and nationalism. The article has a lot of quotes from George Orwell’s “Notes on Nationalism,” written in 1945. Orwell’s writing has as much meaning today as it did in the 1940s.

Too many people — in every country — think nationalism and patriotism are the same thing. They’re not; they’re completely different.

Orwell defined patriotism as “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people.” Can’t argue with that.

The subtitle of this article is “The greatness of the United States is unique—and not a model to be exported by narrow-minded nationalists.”

According to Orwell, nationalism is the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or an idea, and “placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” In other words nationalism doesn’t have to be based on a country. This same fanaticism can be applied to any “ism”: Communism, Neo-Conservatism, Fundamentalism (of any religion), you name it. Whether it’s based on a country or an “ism,” nationalism always has that combination of blind zeal and indifference to reality.

In nationalism, thoughts “always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. … Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.” And this self-deception leads to disastrous miscalculations based on wishful thinking rather than facts. Orwell says:

“Political and military commentators, like astrologers, can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties.” Hey, whatever happened to all the flowers and ice cream that grateful Iraqis were supposed to showering our troops with?

Orwell really has our current foreign policy dialed with this quote:

“All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labor, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral color when committed by ‘our’ side.… The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Sound familiar?


Blogger Kitchen Window Woman said...

Excellent post, Tom! Lots of good Orwell quotes! To repeat my reply from over at the "Chronicles" - I ran off a copy of the Newsweek article from your link and am going to with it while I have my iced tea.

"Self-deception seems to be a common practice among followers of the various "isms".

I think that intellectual laziness is also a common trait of group think sloganists. They prefer to remain ignorant because like the president of the United States, they find reading and thinking for themselves a real drag. Doing special salutes while dressed in team colors is a lot more fun and it's easier, too!

Hey, didn't everyone have to read Orwell in High School? How could militarists and nationalists forget?

July 7, 2006 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kitchen Window Woman: Yup, Orwell sure had everything dialed 60 years ago. Our "leaders" are providing textbook examples of the things he wrote about. Self-deception and intellectual laziness -- that's a scary combination, and it sure explains the predicament our country is in right now.

July 7, 2006 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

You left out liberalism which what most of you left wing nuts suffer from. Its funny how you pointed out each one, but left out liberalism. I wonder why that is, oh thats right you think liberalism is perfectly fine and despise any other form.

July 8, 2006 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Like it or not, Jon, liberals are less prone to this rigid type of thinking. They think things through and form their opinions through rational thought instead of knee-jerk reflexes.

That's a generalization. There are people of all "isms" who form their opinions logically, and people of all "isms" who just react automatically with no thought processes. But nationalism is based on these automatic unthinking reactions. Nationalism is patriotism's ugly stepsister.

July 8, 2006 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

Hi Tom,


I recently moved my blog to movable type.

In the process someone stole my blogspot URL.

My new URL is


Could you please remove the blogspot URL from your link list? I don't want the asshole who stole my blogspot URL getting any undeserved traffic.


July 8, 2006 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: Thanks for the heads-up. I'll delete the old link and add your new URL.

July 8, 2006 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

Get over yourself, liberals don't think any more critical or deeper so don't fool yourself. You liberals love to call people that don't agree with you names and accuse them of not thinking for themselves.

July 8, 2006 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

Jon, what in the hell did you just type?

Are drunk on Budweiser watching cars go around in a circle and blogging at the same time?

By the way, maybe you can define the word Liberal for us all.

July 8, 2006 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Charity Shill said...

I would add that many democrats and republicans fit under that nationalistic banner.

July 9, 2006 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Charity Shill: Absolutely. Both parties are corrupt and having their strings pulled by the same puppetmasters. Any flipflopping Democrat who "voted for the Iraqi war before they voted against it" is practicing nationalism at its worst.

July 9, 2006 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Trollmeister said...

Your entire argument is based on your assumption that Orwell was right.

That's a misplaced belief and it's where your argument falls apart. Pretty early on.

July 10, 2006 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger frstlymil said...

GREAT post Tom. I'll have to read further and read the referenced article. And yes, I agree that both Republicans and Democrats can fall under the banner of nationalistic dogma-thought. Since we did have to read Orwell in school, it is amazing how few of us remember. Now, to trollmeister - there is a reason that genre fiction has had to go through some re-naming recently. 1984 was originally science fiction. True. But there are a host of books that have had to be reclassified as speculative fiction, due to the uncanny way that the events of that fictional book became reality in later years. Jules Vern is an author of fine example. As it turns out, Margaret Atwood, labeled as an hysteric when she wrote The Handmaid's Tale, is now more considered a writer of speculative fiction, for obvious reasons. Orwell wasn't supposed to be right, any more than the Brothers Grimm - these were cautionary tales of where we COULD go - not guide books for people on how to carry the horror out.

July 10, 2006 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Trollmeister: As Frstlymil pointed out to you, Orwell wasn't "right" or "wrong." He wrote about the mis-use of power, and the corruption that it caused. He also wrote about the use of language to con people by using names that were practically the opposite of what they really meant. Examples: the Ministry of Love from 1984, Bush's "Clear Skies Initiative." Or, rallying for war against other countries, attacking anyone who disagrees with you, and calling it "patriotism." He was pretty uncanny, considering his books were about 60 years ago.

Frstlymil: Thanks. Yeah, everyone could use a refresher course in Orwell's warnings from 60 years ago. I never read the Handmaid's Tale, but that sounds like it's in the same category. James Dobson and Jerry Falwell are determined to bring that to reality here in America, and we have to stop them.

July 10, 2006 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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January 21, 2007 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger A Controversial Mind said...

Easy people…I think what John is doing is venting…a lot of that going around…I mean look around…if things don’t start getting better…HMM…anyway got lost in a thought. I would have to agree with John…Liberalism is a disease…you can be cured…

June 24, 2008 at 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

***Like it or not, Jon, liberals are less prone to this rigid type of thinking. They think things through and form their opinions through rational thought instead of knee-jerk reflexes.***

omg. the moron who typed that sentence, just proved the entire point of the blog. liberals are nationalists, and they are morons. and so you don't think i'm biased, neoconservatives are out of their minds as well. both camps are rapidly propelling the country full speed ahead to a nationalist socialist type of fascism. they take their turns at the helm (house/senate/president/scotus) screwing over we the people. unfortunately most people in this country are stupid sheep...ready to hand over blindly power to the leadership of both camps. happy 4th everyone. zeigheil.

July 4, 2008 at 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Orwell's definitions of both nationalism and patriotism are accurate because..... I will stay with Webster thanks.

October 25, 2008 at 5:17 AM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

My dad, along with most WWII veterans, understood the difference real well. Living in my house growing up, I didn't need to read an article about the difference between nationalism and patriotism; it was more or less pounded into my head from an early age.

Dad despised nationalists. He thought they were all ignorant dupes. As a veteran of 5 different theaters of war, he'd had his fill of nationalism.

January 22, 2009 at 7:09 AM  
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December 12, 2009 at 2:14 AM  
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March 10, 2010 at 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn't express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach

March 13, 2010 at 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link to the Newsweek story has been removed from its database. Did you save a copy you could post by any chance?

February 25, 2011 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

I didn't realize the original article had disappeared. I did a web search and couldn't find any other links to it.

Sorry, I don't have it copied anywhere.

February 25, 2011 at 10:57 AM  
Anonymous lavinia said...

the link to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/ doesnt display the article? Could you fix it?

September 21, 2012 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Sorry, but if the link is no longer available, there's nothing I can do.

September 21, 2012 at 10:35 AM  

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