In Mr. Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” he paints a very bleak and totalitarian picture. Mr. Orwell completed this famous work in 1948 and wasn’t quite sure what title it should bear and finally settled on the inversion of 1948 to 1984. The story takes place in the then distant future and Orwell needed a time that he considered far enough into the future. Of course, that time has now come and gone, but did Mr. Orwell actually predict some events and conditions in the world that have entered into our present day realities? What aspects of this chilling novel do we see today?
This fictional (yet prophetic) novel is about a society ruled by an oligarchical dictatorship in the year 1984, after a global atomic war. The central character in the book is one Winston Smith , an intellectual, a member of the” Outer Party,” who lives in the ruins of London, and who grew up in some long post-World War II England, during the revolution and the civil war after which the “Party,” assumed power. The leader of The Party is a figure known as Big Brother. Nobody knows whether Big Brother actually exists, as a person. But everywhere are posters that admonish the people to realize Big Brother Is Watching You. There are two-way “telescreens” everywhere that are not only showing government propaganda, but also watching everybody twenty four hours a day. Winston is a civil servant working in the “Ministry of Truth,” whose job it is to rewrite history using “newspeak,” the language of The Party used to distort reality toward the ends of getting the average populace , “the Proles” (shortened from the term proletariat) to conform to the goals of The Party.
Winston lives in one of three “superstates,” Oceana, Eurasia and Eastasia. Winston lives in a province of Oceana, “Airstrip One,” that used to be known as London, England before the great atomic war. At any given time, there is perpetual war between any two of these three superstates.
There are four government entities or ministries in Oceana;
Minipax reports Oceania’s perpetual war.
The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society. At present, when few human beings even have enough to eat, this problem is obviously not urgent, and it might not have become so, even if no artificial processes of destruction had been at work.
The Ministry of Plenty rations and controls food, goods, and domestic production; every fiscal quarter, the Miniplenty publishes false claims of having raised the standard of living, when it has, in fact, reduced rations, availability, and production. The Minitrue substantiates the Miniplenty claims by revising historical records to report numbers supporting the current, “increased rations”.
The Ministry of Truth controls information: news, entertainment, education, and the arts. Winston Smith works in the Minitrue RecDep (Records Department), “rectifying” historical records to concord with Big Brother’s current pronouncements, thus everything the Party says is true.
The Ministry of Love identifies, monitors, arrests, and converts real and imagined dissidents. In Winston’s experience, the dissident is beaten and tortured, then, when near-broken, is sent to Room 101 to face “the worst thing in the world”—until love for Big Brother and the Party replaces dissension.
The three main slogans of The Party are Ignorance is Strength, War is Peace and Freedom is Slavery. These slogans are examples of what Orwell, in his novel refers to as “doublethink.” Doublethink, describes the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts. It is related to, but distinct from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Its opposite is cognitive dissonance, where the two beliefs cause conflict in one’s mind.
Without turning this into a book report, with a full list of characters, plot and ending, I will now ask the question, was Orwell right? Are there aspects of Big Brother now apparent in today’s America? I will say that many similarities I see were more obvious during the Bush administration, but some aspects still remain today, especially in our right wing media and many statements and “tactics,” used by right wing politicians and the Tea Party.
The most obvious is in the area of what Mr. Orwell called “newspeak,” given the insidious nature of linguistic changes, and their psychological importance. Due to the surprizing length of this article, I will comment on language changes, or deceptions, in the comment section.
Next, would be media saturation. the advent of 24/7 cable news. Again, I will give my examples in the comment section.
Next would be the seemingly non-ending wars which we are unfortunately involved in and have been involved in.
And finally, “hate rallies,” and the promotion of perceived “internal enemies,” as is seen without end in right wing media, with FOX news heading the list. Their perceived enemies are Latin immigrants, legal and illegal, gay people, and intellectuals. (sound familiar?) And of course, anybody who is a liberal or progressive.
So I invite your thoughts and any similarities that you may see and have seen in the last ten years or so. Again, due to the length of this article, I will state what I have seen as valid comparisons to Mr. Orwell’s somewhat frightening “1984,” in the comment section.