George Orwell’s “1984” and our present reality – Muhammed Alfa Belgore

George Orwell’s 1984 (1949) is a dystopian novel set in the year of its title.

It is set in a fictional country called Oceania, where the citizens are brainwashed into mechanical obedience to their leader: Big Brother.

Orwell’s central ideas as espoused in the book have, somehow, found their way into today’s society. I will briefly outline some of these ideas and their place in our lives.

In 1984, the “Thought Police”, a branch of the ruling government: “The Party” keep constant watch over Oceania’s citizens via telescreens in their homes, offices, and public areas. The Thought Police use these to uncover any signs of dissent or, disloyalty towards “The Party”. This creates paranoia and fear because once the Thought Police apprehend you; you are punished severely for thinking out of turn. This suppresses individual thought and forces conformity among the masses.

In today’s reality, it is not the government but a faction of the masses themselves who take on the role of the Thought Police. They scour social media for any sign that a person does or may have been swayed against what they think is right. This is usually about what they presume to be political incorrectness, no matter the degree. Failure to conform is punished by “dragging” from the masses, banishment from the digital platform, “cancelling” and in severe cases a loss in employment.

A good example from 2022 is when Lindsay Ellis, a YouTuber compared “Raya and the Last Dragon” to “Avatar the Last Airbender.  Though the comparison had nothing to do with this fact, the truth is that both series take heavy inspiration from Asian Culture. They used this similarity to call her racist and a contributor to the rise in Anti-Asian rhetoric and Hate Crimes. She was harassed so viciously that she had to “quit the internet”. Here a faction of the masses found what they thought to be disloyalty towards political correctness and “cancelled” her.

Another concept Orwell explores in “1984” is the control of information. In the novel, information control is used as a vital tool in controlling the masses. The” Ministry of Truth”, another branch of The Party, scours and alters historical records, books, and all other media to align them to their ideologies and The Parties ever changing narratives. This is The Parties most important operation in my opinion. It is even explicit in their slogan. “Whoever controls the past, controls the future. And whoever controls the present controls the past.”

A quick example would be the on-going culture war in which so called “sensitive readers” is hired to read through classics and purge them of offensive words. Books being purged include works by Roald Dahl, Ian Fleming and even Chaucer.

Today we are daily inundated with a barrage of disinformation and misinformation campaigns. These are false and misleading information being spread, usually through social media, for political and financial one-upmanship. An example of this is 2016s Pizza gate, where Democratic Party officials were falsely accused of running a child trafficking and “pedo” ring out of a pizzeria.

Political events are also spun to ease the perception of poor political decisions. While these spins aren’t necessarily false, they are manipulative. Facts are withheld and language is parsed unnecessarily. For instance, during the Covid 19 pandemic, the government would emphasise the number of vaccines administered or the effectiveness of successful policies, while downplaying or downright omitting mistakes.

My last comparison is the censorship of websites and media. In countries such as China or South Korean, numerous social media applications like Facebook and Twitter or visual media are restricted from public consumption. This suppresses voices that disagree with the government’s agenda and promotes their own. While these examples aren’t as blatant, they create a similar effect of information control.

When 1984 was published it must have been seen as a hellish alternate reality. But today it reads as a clouded mirror to reality, albeit one that gets clearer each year.


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