by Christina Stigliani
Indiana Daily Student, 28 September 2006
"Was George Orwell a journalist?" controversial foreign correspondent and essayist Christopher Hitchens asked a large audience Wednesday night in Alumni Hall at the Indiana Memorial Union.
Hitchens offered his thoughts on the question, also the title of his lecture, and discussed the lessons journalists can learn from writer George Orwell.
By applying the teachings of Orwell, he said, journalists can avoid the trap of "recycling propaganda."
"We must inoculate ourselves against the claim of the state that if you give us your freedom, we will give you security," he said.
Hitchens said Orwell was the only writer to foresee the failure of the three great movements of the 20th century: imperialism, fascism and Stalinism.
"He was the only one to get all three of them right,"
Orwell's work serves as a lesson for young writers today, Hitchens said.
"You don't have to be a genius," he said. "You only have to mobilize what you have -- your integrity and your moral courage. Look always to language. Don't find yourself saying something dishonest, a formulation that has been handed to you by authority."
During a spirited question-and-answer session following his lecture, Hitchens spoke on everything from his arrest in Cold War-era Prague, Czech Republic, to his support of the Iraq war to his status as a self-described "anti-theist." He reiterated his belief that Islamic extremism should be defeated and denounced claims that U.S. culture is somehow responsible for inflaming Muslim opinion.
"Everything inflames jihadists," he said. "Everything we do and everything we are. The only way not to upset them is to change everything about ourselves that is different from them."
Furthermore, he said, "their defeat is an absolute certainty, as is our superiority, and all we have to do is assert it."
Sophomore Akshat Gupta is a fan of Hitchens' writing on Slate.com and Atlantic Monthly magazine.
"He has strong opinions, and he doesn't worry about political correctness," he said. "I wasn't surprised that he was so blunt tonight. I haven't read his work on Orwell; I came to hear him talk about politics, and I was impressed by his talk."
Hitchens was the inaugural speaker of a new lecture series hosted by the School of Journalism, which will bring several well-known journalists to IU each semester to deliver a lecture and interact with journalism students. Speakers are selected based on student nominations, which are reviewed by a faculty committee.
"The series will allow close contact between journalism students, both undergraduate and graduate, and professionals in the field," said Brad Hamm, dean of the School of Journalism. "We wanted this to be more than just a single speech, and we hope in the future to make this a journalist-in-residence program lasting several days."
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