The above video, courtesy of TED–Ed’s Noah Tavlin, provides an excellent primer on the difference between simply “authoritarian” and actually “Orwellian.” If we can apply this lesson to our present political situation (even in the current environment, which strongly discourages critical thinking and dissent), I would say that the last two presidents have been authoritarian, in practice. But the worst Orwellian tendencies of our government have grown each year following 9/11 — making President Barack Obama, ironically, more Orwellian, in practice, than his predecessor, whose authoritarian excesses Obama was elected to reverse.
It was, after all, President Obama, whose brilliant use of language made it possible to continue torturing “folks” (including American whistleblowers) and unleashing CIA-armed/trained Salafist terrorist “rebels” on the world (continuing Bush’s monstrous, post-OIF, “Redirection“)… to the effect that hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed on his watch. And most Americans didn’t even fucking notice, even with the resulting greatest flood of refugees in recorded human history. Most believed that the neocon agenda had been rolled back… when it actually had been dramatically expanded (look at what’s happened to JSOC… and Yemen! during the Obama years).
That is Orwellian, indeed.
And even more to the point, it was President Obama who effectively repealed habeas corpus and turned due process-free assassination of Americans uncharged with crimes (and their children) into the “targeted killing of terrorists” (the kid should’ve had “a more responsible father” — IMAGINE IF THAT ZINGER HAD COME OUT OF TRUMP’S ADMINISTRATION!).
We should never forget that it was Barack Obama who championed and signed into law the worst provisions of the 2012 and 2016 NDAAs, which, respectively: ended Posse Comitatus and repealed the Smith-Mundt Act, the longstanding prohibition against propagandizing the American people (2012); and authorized a veritable Ministry of Truth (2016), creating a government office to determine which news is “real” and which is allegedly “fake” (from now on, everything that contradicts the state’s propaganda is officially fake news, thanks to President Obama… with a little anonymized assist from PropOrNot and the neo-fascist hacks at the Washington Post).
As many close observers have noted in recent years, by doubling down on the most authoritarian of the Bush/Cheney policies, President Obama has put in place everything that a would-be dictator could possibly desire, including a surveillance system that would make Big Brother greenly envious. Trump doesn’t need to change a thing, when it comes to the legal framework and lethal programs he’s inherited. Obama did it for him. Nixon’s theory of the Unitary Executive, once considered terrifying and radical, is now the respected, consensus opinion in Washington.
I understand that some people reading this might actually like/admire Barack Obama and imagine him to be liberal — so did I, once — but we on the left have to reconcile ourselves to history if we’re to have any chance of opposing Orwellian authoritarianism, under any president: https://invitation2artivism.org/?p=1491