Sunday, June 9, 2019
Orwell's "1984" Meets China's Indoctrination, Pope Francis, Gun Control, and Most Importantly, the "Chernobyl" Mini-series
JUNE 8, 1949 -- 1984 IS PUBLISHED IN BRITAIN. It was 5 days later when George Orwell's iconic novel appeared in the US. But, the impact of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" -- Orwell wrote out the number as the title in 1949, although it has subsequently often ben published as 1984 -- is a distopian novel, whose themes center on the risks of government overreach, totalitarianism and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviors within society. Dictionaries define "utopian" as a society that's conceived to be perfect. "Dystopian" is the exact opposite -- it describes an imaginary (perhaps not always so imaginary?) society that is as dehumanizing and as full of great suffering or injustice as one can imaging, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic. • • • 1984 IS 70 YEARS OLD BUT IT IS STILL VERY RELEVANT. The New Yorker published on Friday an article titled “1984” at Seventy: Why We Still Read Orwell’s Book of Prophecy" written by Louis Menand, who starts by saying : "There are elements of '1984,' by George Orwell, that seem never to fade from relevance. George Orwell’s '1984,' published seventy years ago today, has had an amazing run as a work of political prophecy. It has outlasted in public awareness other contenders from its era, such as Aldous Huxley’s 'Brave New World' (1932), Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451' (1953), and Anthony Burgess’s 'A Clockwork Orange' (1962), not to mention two once well-known books to which it is indebted, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 'We' (1921) and Arthur Koestler’s 'Darkness at Noon' (1940). “1984” is obviously a Cold War book, but the Cold War ended thirty years ago. What accounts for its staying power?" • Louis Menand says that Orwell's 1984 is still being read and discussed : "Partly...owing to the fact that, unlike 'Darkness at Noon,' Orwell’s book was not intended as a book about life under Communism. It was intended as a warning about tendencies within liberal democracies, and that is how it has been read. The postwar Sovietization of Eastern Europe produced societies right out of Orwell’s pages, but American readers responded to '1984' as a book about loyalty oaths and McCarthyism. In the nineteen-seventies, it was used to comment on Nixon and Watergate. There was a bounce in readership in 1983-84 -- four million copies were sold that year -- because, well, it was 1984. And in 2016 it got a bump from Trump." • For Menand : "The fundamental premise of the novel was its most quickly outmoded feature -- outmoded almost from the start. This is the idea that the world would divide into three totalitarian super-states that were rigidly hierarchical, in complete control of information and expression, and engaged in perpetual and unwinnable wars for world domination. This was a future that many people had contemplated in the nineteen-thirties, the time of the Great Depression and the rise of Stalinism and Fascism. Capitalism and liberal democracy seemed moribund; centralized economies and authoritarian regimes looked like the only way modern mass societies could be governed. This was the argument of a book that is now almost forgotten, but which Orwell was fascinated and repelled by, James Burnham’s 'The Managerial Revolution' (1941). It’s true that, after 1949, the world did divide into super-states -- not three, but two -- and their forty-year rivalry did a lot of damage around the world. But they were not twin totalitarian monsters, the Fasolt and Fafner of twentieth-century geopolitics. They may often have mirrored each other in tactics, but they were different systems defending different ideologies. Orwell, who had little interest in and no fondness for the United States, missed that." • Yet, we could argue that today, there are indeed three totalitarian super states battling for world domination, partly by controlling information and expression. There are Russia and China that overtly control information and expression -- China more than Russia perhaps -- in their effort to create a world in which the state is the only entity that matters and indivivuas must submit or be punished and/or outcast. And, while the United States is NOT a totalitarian super state, the radical left of the Democrat Party and other socialist-globalists are doing their best to make it so, ans they are making great inroads by literally terrorizing into silence individuals who disagree with them. All we need do is ask what the US would be like today if it were not for President Trump. • But, says Menand : "There are some parts of the novel whose relevance seems never to fade, though. One is the portrayal of the surveillance state -- Big Brother (borrowed from Koestler’s No. 1) and the telescreen, an astonishingly prescient conception that Orwell dreamed up when he had probably never seen a television. Another is Newspeak, a favorite topic of Orwell’s : the abuse of language for political purposes. [Does that ring bells for today's United States and Europe?? It should.] But '1984' is a novel, not a work of political theory, and, in the end, it’s probably as literature that people keep reading it. The overt political material -- such as 'The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,' the (very long) book that the commissar O’Brien gives to Winston and Julia as he lures them into the trap -- is likely now skipped by many readers. (The book’s analogue is (The Revolution Betrayed,( Leon Trotsky’s attack on Stalinism, published in 1937, but it is also a parody of 'The Managerial Revolution.') O’Brien’s interrogation of Winston, though meant to be the climax of the book, and though people still invoke it, is not completely satisfactory. How does O’Brien convince Winston that two plus two equals five? By torturing him. This seems a rather primitive form of brainwashing. In 'Darkness at Noon,' which also ends with an interrogation, the victim, Rubashov, though he is worn down physically first, is defeated intellectually. (Both novelists were attempting to understand how, in the Moscow Trials, Stalin’s purge of the Old Bolsheviks, between 1936 and 1938, the defendants, apparently of their own free will, admitted to the most absurd charges against them, knowing that they would be promptly shot. After Stalin’s death, it turned out that those defendants had, in fact, been tortured. So Orwell was right about that.) But who can forget this moment : " ‘You are the dead,’ said an iron voice behind them'? Orwell created a story that had suspense and had characters whom readers identify with." • Menand reminds us that : "When the book came out, some people assumed that the character they were meant to identify with (with horror) was O’Brien. That’s probably what Orwell had in mind, too. O’Brien was the type he wanted to warn people against: the intellectual who becomes sadistically fascinated by power. The O’Brien figure corresponded to a popular understanding of the lure of totalitarianism at the time: that it tapped into some dark corner of the human psyche. "There is a Hitler, a Stalin in every breast," as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., put it in his liberal manifesto, 'The Vital Center,' which was published the same year as '1984.' " • • • ORWELL'S 1984 IDEAS AND PHRASES THAT HAVE ENTERED INTO MODERN LANGUAGE. • "Big Brother" exists as the embodiment of the Party but does not exist as a living person. O'Brien says Big Brother will never die so he can't be alive. • "The Two Minutes Hate" is a ritual observance that is designed to use the collective rage of the people against supposed 'enemies of the Party' to strengthen the Party's position among the people. It is a daily period in which Party members of the society of Oceania must watch a film depicting the Party's enemies and express their hatred for them for exactly two minutes. [That cuts close to the bone if we consider the anti-Trump anti-conservative anti-Christian propaganda spouted daily by the mainstream media whose goal is to make the socialist-globalist Democrat agenda a success.] • "Hate Week" is a fictional event in '1984' that is a psychological operation designed to increase the hatred of the population for the current enemy of the totalitarian Party, as much as possible, whichever of the two opposing super states that may be. • A "Thoughtcrime" is an Orwellian word used to describe an illegal thought, popularized in '1984', wherein Thoughtcrime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question Ingsoc, the ruling Party. Forbidden thoughts are punishable by death, or as the main character Winston Smith wrote -- were death. In the book '1984', the English Socialist Party (Ingsoc in NewSpeak) has three sacred principles : Newspeak, the official language of all party members, whose purpose is to eliminate all Thoughtcrime; Doublethink; and The mutability of the past. "Who controls the past controls the future : who controls the present controls the past," repeated Winston obediently. In George Orwell's 1984, Winston does not physically die at the end of the book. He dies figuratively. During the story, Winston loses his individuality to the Ministry of Love, all the unique characteristics that made Winston be himself and comprised his personality have disappeared. • “War is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.” These are three slogans of the Party, Ingsoc. • In '1984', there are only four ways in which a ruling group can fall from power. Either it is conquered from without, or it governs so inefficiently that the masses are stirred to revolt, or it allows a strong and discontented Middle group to come into being, or it loses its own self-confidence and willingness to govern. [Are we not now witnessing the battle in the US and Europe between those who are the ruling group -- we call them the elite -- and those who want to stop their encroachment on the human love of freedom? • On June 8, 2015, The Almanac wrote a short piece by Richard Kreitner about ‘1984’ that quoted Diana Trilling, (1905 - 1996), the American literary critic and author, one of the New York Intellectuals, who was feared for her critical intellect. "This is Mr. Orwell’s picture of the way the world ends," Diana Trilling wrote in The Nation of 1984, "a perpetual nightmare of living death." When 1984 was published...The Nation assigned it to Diana Trilling, who had been the magazine’s regular book reviewer for the better part of a decade, assessing the works of writers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Saul Bellow, Katherine Anne Porter, Sinclair Lewis, Truman Capote, Elizabeth Hardwick, Vladimir Nabokov, Anais Nin, Dawn Powell, Evelyn Waugh, and Carson McCullers. “There was nothing light-mindedly fashionable about reading The Nation,” Trilling wrote in her 1993 memoir, The Beginning of the Journey. “It was an obligation of intelligence.” The following review of 1984 is included in our collection Surveillance Nation : Critical Reflections on Privacy and Its Threats, published last year : "Although George Orwell’s 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' is a brilliant and fascinating novel, the nature of its fantasy is so absolutely final and relentless that I can recommend it only with a certain reservation. This is Mr. Orwell’s picture of the way the world ends : actually it does not end at all, physically -- one would even welcome some well-placed atom bombs -- but continues in a perpetual nightmare of living death. Thirty-five years from now, according to Mr. Orwell’s grim calculation, there will be three great powers on this planet, any two of which will be constantly at war with the third, not for ascendancy but in order to maintain the political and economic status quo -- 'War is peace,' as the party slogan has it. For the rulers of the future state it is enough that people are allowed to exist; their welfare -- in any sense in which we understand the word -- does not have to be taken into account. The dehumanization of man has reached its ultimate development. Love, art, pleasure, comfort, the sexual emotions, have all been recognized as the consumer products of a society based upon the freedom of the individual, and they have been liquidated. Life -- if it can be called life -- goes on only so that power may go on." • • • 1984 FROM A NON-ENGLISH PERSPECTIVE. France 24 last Friday wrote an article about Orwell's classic '1984' turning 70 amid enduring interest : "Written in 1948, and published the following year, '1984' depicted a chilling future world in which a totalitarian state controls people's thoughts and actions, suppressing any dissent. Seventy years after its publication, George Orwell's classic dystopian novel '1984' continues to fascinate readers, in particular youngsters growing up in a social media-dominated age of increasing angst. 'Some students are very shocked by it, and remain shocked by it,' said Michael Callanan, an English teacher and director of the Orwell Youth Prize, which supports political expression amongst young people. 'It is part of the paradox of a book being 70-years-old,' he added. 'I think they were taken aback by how fresh and how true to our lives today it strangely is.'....This rigidly-controlled society features a so- called 'ministry of truth' that distorts reality, with the ever-watchful eyes of 'Big Brother' keeping tabs on citizens' behaviour. The novel introduced other terms that have endured in the lexicon, including 'double-think,' which means 'the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,' according to Orwell. For Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation, which promotes the work of the writer who died in 1950 aged 46, and administers various awards, his masterpiece was 'very prescient.' She noted the book's description of 'two minutes hate' -- in which citizens watch a daily film inciting them to hate enemies of the state -- as comparable to online hate-mobs today. Over the seven decades since its publication, '1984' has remained omnipresent on the social landscape, and even seen periodic spikes in sales. In 2017 it enjoyed a boom in popularity after one of US President Donald Trump's advisors used the term 'alternative facts,' a phrase used in the book. In Britain, sales that year increased by an eye-popping 165%, publisher Penguin Books told AFP. The novel also saw a marked increase in purchases in 2013, after the revelations of mass state spying by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Callanan, who has been teaching for 30 years, said today's teenagers are not 'frightened of it in a way that maybe previous generations were. But in the past couple of years with the rise of Trump, there is now significant minorities of students that are very concerned about the way the world is going -- and of course truth is the big thing,' he added. • France 24 says : "Even those who have not read '1984' can be hard pressed to avoid its influence on popular culture, from movies and music through to video games. When students open the book for the first time, Callanan said they 'immediately recognise things like 'double-think' and the 'thought police'. These kind of Orwell phrases are out there in the zeitgeist, and kids have heard of them,' the teacher at a school northwest of London added. The book appears particularly relevant amid wider public interest in dystopian fiction and drama on television and in cinemas, with television hits like 'The Handmaid's Tale' and 'Black Mirror' and film adaptations such as the 'Hunger Games' series. Callanan tells his pupils Orwell is 'the granddaddy' of these contemporary works. 'People read it when they are young and then read it when they are older and come to a different understanding of what it is saying,' Seaton added. 'People are reading it for signs of what they should be worried about now.' " • • • THE 1984 QUALITY TO CHINA'S MOSLEM CRACKDOWN. The Wall Sreet Journal reported on May 27 about "The German Data Diver Who Exposed China’s Moslem Crackdown." The WSJ wrote : "KORNTAL, Germany -- Research by a born-again Christian anthropologist working alone from a cramped desk in this German suburb thrust China and the West into one of their biggest clashes over human rights in decades. Doggedly hunting down data in obscure corners of the Chinese internet, Adrian Zenz revealed a security buildup in China’s remote Xinjiang region and illuminated the mass detention and policing of Turkic Moslems that followed. His research showed how China spent billions of dollars building internment camps and high-tech surveillance networks in Xinjiang, and recruited police officers to run them. His most influential work began in February last year, after a Chinese diplomat denied reports about the camps and advised journalists to take Beijing at its word. Mr. Zenz decided to take up the challenge and prove the diplomat wrong using the Chinese government’s own documents. 'I got really irked by that,' the 44-year-old German scholar said. 'I said, ‘OK fine, I’m going to look this up.’ " • Mr. Zenz, wrote the WSJ : "...uncovered a trail of bidding papers, budget plans and other documents that rights groups, scholars and diplomats say prove the extent of the construction of the camps as part of a Communist Party campaign to forcibly assimilate ethnic Uighurs and other minority groups. Mr. Zenz’s initial estimate that the camps have held as many as 1 million people has been accepted by the US and some other governments, though rejected by China. He has testified before US Congress and Canadian Parliament. Chinese diplomats stopped denying the existence of the camps in August, and began defending them as vocational training centers necessary to fight terrorism. It was a rare about-face that experts and activists said Mr. Zenz’s work helped bring about." • While, says the WSJ : "China has struggled for decades to eradicate a sporadically violent separatist movement among some of Xinjiang’s 12 million Uighurs....[it was] After a spate of terrorist attacks five years ago that Beijing attributed to the influence of radical Islam, President Xi Jinping ordered a new crackdown. The resulting effort combined policing, surveillance and indoctrination. Chinese authorities initially kept the campaign a secret, but in recent months have portrayed the camps as an innovation in counter-terrorism, organizing tightly controlled tours of certain facilities for selected diplomats and journalists. Chinese authorities have never directly addressed the findings by Mr. Zenz and the others. The Xinjiang government and China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment on the scholar’s work." • Zenz embraced Christianity after an encounter with a Korean-American Baptist pastor while on a university year abroad at American University in Washington, according to the SWY, and : "His faith pushes him forward, said Mr. Zenz, who wrote a book re-examining biblical end-times with his American father-in-law in 2012. 'I feel very clearly led by God to do this. I can put it that way. I’m not afraid to say that. With Xinjiang, things really changed. It became like a mission, or a ministry.'....In 2016, Mr. Zenz found caches of job-recruitment advertisements online that added up to a buildup of police forces in Tibetan areas of China. The discovery caught the attention of Mr. Leibold, who asked if he could find similar data related to Xinjiang. 'He was sending me emails at three in the morning saying, ‘Look at this’ and ‘There’s tons of stuff here,’ Mr. Leibold said. Working with Mr. Leibold and others, Mr. Zenz began publishing research that unveiled a security buildup in Xinjiang. After he came across the denial of the camps by the Chinese consul-general in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Mr. Zenz threw himself into researching the facilities. In a report published last May by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, he estimated they collectively held anywhere from 100,000 to slightly more than a million people....China’s government is purging websites of the documents Mr. Zenz has relied on, making his work more challenging. And he said he is sometimes overwhelmed by media requests and government invitations. He also recognizes it is rare for an academic to shape global discourse and feels that burden. 'A lot of the work I do is unemotional, working with data. But there have been moments that I’ve been moved to tears.' ” • • • CHANGING THE LORD'S PRAYER. Fox News and several Catholic outlets reported early in June that Pope Francis wants to change the Lord's Prayer. Yes, Pope Francis has officially approved a change to the most famous prayer in Christianity. Fox News says : "It's the prayer Jesus taught his followers to pray and one of the few things that unites 2.2 billion Christians across the globe. But the Holy See's May 22 approval adjusting The Lord's Prayer, widely known among the faithful as the 'Our Father,' has been years in the making, UCatholic reported. The Catholic leader changed the phrase 'lead us not into temptation' to 'do not let us fall into temptation,' as mentioned in the gospel of Matthew 6:13, because the original translation implies that God induces temptation. The change, officials said, is closer to the original intent of the prayer. 'I am the one who falls; it’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen,' Francis explained to Italian broadcasters about the phrase change. 'A father doesn't do that, a father helps you to get up immediately. It's Satan who leads us into temptation, that's his department.' " • Fox News said that while some commenters on social media see the Pope's change as making sense, "others have called it an abomination. One user said: 'this is like changing the Declaration of Independence.' " • Is this a needed or even useful change?? Or, is this Pope Francis's version of Orwellian Newspeak? In any event, nothing prevents us from continuing to say the Lord's Prayer as we always have. There is no hint of Thoughtcrime -- yet. But, there is a strong sense of what some of us grew up hearing about changes; "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." • And, there is the Second Amendment issue. This is the pure Big Brother watching us. The Gateway Pundit on June 08, 2019, the anniversary of the publication of '1984,' wrote an article titled " Washington Gun Owners Face Orwellian Dystopia With Implementation Of I-1639." The Gateway Pundit tells us this : "Since the passage of Initiative 1639 in Washington state last year, gun owners and prospective gun buyers have become the targets of some of the most onerous and restrictive policies in the nation. In fact, as the new law has slowly taken effect throughout 2019, many are still unsure as to exactly what the law is now. Due to the vague and contradictory language of the initiative, it’s left to government agencies to figure out how to interpret and implement the law. Of course, those government agencies are staffed with far left bureaucrats, who follow the orders of far left governor Jay Inslee. Though the law is being challenged in court, it will be up to far left judges who have been appointed by far left governors to rule on it. One of the many scary parts is that the state mental health authority will apparently be keeping records of who has 'applied' to purchase a pistol or rifle. As per RCW 9.41.094, effective July 1st, 2019, 'A signed application to purchase a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle shall constitute a waiver of confidentiality and written request that the health care authority, mental health institutions, and other health care facilities release, to an inquiring court or law enforcement agency, information relevant to the applicant’s eligibility to purchase a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle to an inquiring court or law enforcement agency.' " That sounds a lot like Newspeak and Thoughtcrimes. The state of Washington is treating the perfectly legitimate desire to own a gun, a right protected by the Second Amendment, as a Thoughtcrime against the state. • • • THE CHERNOBYL MINI-SERIES. But, far and away, the bleakest portrayal of '1984' is found in the harrowing HBO-Sky UK mini-series "Chernobyl" that depicts the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 and the unprecedented cleanup efforts that followed. • BBC News says : "The film follows the fall-out of the explosion and examines both the lives of those in power who tried to hide the truth and those on the outside who hoped to uncover it. Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson portrays Ulana Khomyuk, a Soviet nuclear physicist intent on finding out how and why the Chernobyl disaster happened. 'She's an amalgam of the [real-life] scientists who worked on the situation,' Watson explains. Jared Harris plays Valery Legasov, a Soviet physicist and Stellan Skarsgård portrays a high-up government official, Boris Shcherbina. 'Her currency is she's a brilliant scientist and if she can get the facts out, he [Soviet physicist Valery Legasov, played by Jared Harris] will recognize the truth. They [those in power] came close to annihilating the whole of Europe.' " • BBC tells us : "According to the UN, the event affected more than 3.5 million people and contaminated nearly 50,000 square kilometres of land. The number of people killed by the disaster remains disputed. The first emergency workers rushed in as lethal smoke billowed out. Of 134 who were diagnosed with acute radiation sickness, 28 died within months. At least 19 have died since. It is conclusive that around 5,000 cases of thyroid cancer -- most of which were treated and cured -- were caused by the contamination. Many suspect that the radiation has or will cause other cancers, but the evidence is patchy. Amid reports of other health problems -- including birth defects -- it still is not clear if any can be attributed to radiation." • That may be true, but at the end of the last episode of 'Chernobyl' there is a summary of the deaths and illnesses related to the Chernobyl disaster that is hard to watch. The Chernobyl nuclear explosion was not convenient to the Soviet Union's leaders, so they covered it up. Not only did they cover up what really happened at Chernobyl, the Soviet Union covered up -- hid from its own scientists and people -- the reality of the weaknesses in the design and materials of all their nuclear reactors, refusing to admit that they had chosen 'cheap' over 'safe' nuclear technology for all their nuclear power plants. The reality hit home during one particular part of filming -- a graveyard scene, where an extra was standing beside one of the actresses, crying, and turned to her and said, "My son, my son." The actrice later told BBC, "This is not make-believe. It's a nightmare." • "Chernobyl" has had such a dramatic impact all over the world -- even beating Game of Throne audience ratings -- that BBC tells us that Russia will make its own version of what happened at Chernobyl : "The NTV drama will deviate from the acclaimed HBO series -- and from historical reality -- by claiming that the CIA was involved in the disaster. Director Aleksey Muradov claims it will show 'what really happened back then.' HBO's mini-series, which concluded on Monday, received the highest ever score for a TV show on IMdB, as well as a 9.1 rating on Russian equivalent Kinopoisk. But in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's most widely-read tabloid, Mr Muradov said his version of the show 'proposes an alternative view on the tragedy in Pripyat....There is a theory that Americans infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Many historians do not rule out the possibility that on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy's intelligence services was working at the station.' " Yet, the IZVESTIA newspaper declared it a more "realistic" portrayal of the era than most Russian films manage. There's also admiration of how the series conveys the heroism of ordinary people. But, says the BBC : "The show has been particularly unpopular with Russian state TV and the country's tabloid newspapers....Komsomolskaya Pravda published several negative articles about the show -- including one floating a conspiracy theory that it was produced by competitors of Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear company, to ruin the country's reputation as a nuclear power....For the Kremlin, the topic of history is a highly sensitive one -- especially about the Soviet Union. Official media now tend to paint a sanitised, idealised vision of the USSR, and portray Putin's Russia as its spiritual heir. This makes it easy to see any critical view of the Soviet past as an attack on the Kremlin's ideological power base. It's a narrative it seeks to completely control and guard from outside influences -- particularly from a West it sees as hostile." However, states the BBC : "Some Russians feel the version of reality offered by Kremlin-controlled media is not entirely unlike the lies told by the Soviet state. As a result, perhaps the most dangerous idea was the key question running though Chernobyl -- what is the cost of lies?" • BBC's Will Gompertz reviewed "Chernobyl" on May 4. He wrote : "To say Sky/HBO's new mini-series Chernobyl is thought-provoking would be like describing Usain Bolt as quite a fast runner, or the water under the Antarctic sea ice as a bit chilly. This is TV that doesn't just get you thinking, it stops you sleeping....By the end of the third episode I was craving something a little lighter: re-watching the Towering Inferno maybe or a double helping of Luther. Anything actually, that wasn't real....Knowing what happens makes it hard to watch sometimes. Seeing the whole town standing on a bridge with children still in their pyjamas watching the fire through a haze of radioactive ash is ghastly. It could become mawkish. But the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the production, the pacing of the scene changes, and the excellent acting throughout (there are no fake Russian accents) gives us something different, special even : a truly exceptional, important piece of dramatised non-fiction." • • • DEAR READERS, the facts are sufficiently straightforward. The No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded on 26 April 1986 in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat. At least 31 people were killed in the immediate aftermath, and the effects continue to be felt to this day. The world estimates the real death toll related to the Chernobyl explosion to be between 4,000 and 93,000. Neither the Soviet Union nor today's Russian government has ever admitted that more than the original 31 deaths are attributable to the nuclear disaster. BUT, as the BBC noted : "Some Russians feel the version of reality offered by Kremlin-controlled media is not entirely unlike the lies told by the Soviet state. As a result, perhaps the most dangerous idea was the key question running though Chernobyl - what is the cost of lies?" • The next time your intelligence goes on holiday and you begin to think that the world -- that is, you -- can live with socialism in its modern guise, watch any 5 minutes of "Chernobyl." It is the most terrifying film I have ever watched and it haunts me. The nuclear disaster itself is frightening enough. But, the Soviet regime's attitude toward it and towards the people -- their people -- exposed to death because the Soviet politburo refused to tell the truth -- that is the horror. Levasov is cut off from all society after he finally tells a Soviet inquiry court the truth and finishes by saying that finally one 'pays the price for lies.' But, the real Legasov wrote his notes about Chernobyl and they circulated secretly among Soviet-era scientists. He finally committed suicide two years to the day after Chernobyl Reactor No. 4 exploded. He had told the inquiry court that the lies perpetrated left the scientists and technicians at Chernobyl in the dark factually and so as they tried to stop the out-of-control reactor, they unintentionally created a nuclear bomb. • There is no computer-enhanced monster, no SciFi virus, no doomsday version of the Middle Ages that can compete with the sheer terror you will feel as you watch "Chernobyl." And, as you stare into the Soviet hell, remember that it is a Socialist hell, a world in which truth is blotted out and Newspeak and Thoughtcrimes are the rule. People cease to count for anything. Orwell was not only right in 1949, he is even more right today.