George Orwell, patron saint of hacks

No argument can fail to be enhanced by an Orwell quote. That's why he's become the authority of first resort for people who don't know what they're talking about.

Alastair Harper in Prospect:

ScreenHunter_04 May. 15 09.28 Crudely put, George Orwell is anyone’s bitch. Whatever the topic, whatever the political position, he can be wheeled out in support to enunciate universal truths in a voice as compelling as the ghost in Hamlet. From voting reform to CCTV, from Trident to the debates, there’s a perfect Orwell quotation, apposite, terse and oracular, just waiting to be plucked out and flourished. I know because I’ve done it myself – writing about media interest in the death of a young British girl overseas, I used a handy line from “The Decline of the English Murder” to bolster my argument. If Saint George is with me, I need fear no controversy.

But why Orwell? Why not Dickens, George Bernard Shaw or some other safely dead and highly moral writer? Perhaps vanity has something to do with it: unlike other canonical writers, Orwell was a working hack. Take the “As I Please” essays he did for Tribune, where he talks about everything from immigration to comic books – he was no proud literary lion, but a typewriter for hire. He too would roll up his sleeves and scribble for money. Perhaps the struggling journalist invokes the saint with a faint, wistful hope that he too will be as useful to his scribbling descendants in a couple of generations.

Chiefly, though, Orwell’s ambiguity makes him useful.

More here.