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1984 - 30 Years Too Late

About a week ago, I was speaking with an old college buddy. He was reminiscing about a time when we both read George Orwell’s 1984 (everybody was reading it at the time). He sent me a You Tube link to a
film version released in 1956. Link

In the classic novel, Orwell describes a then-not-too-distant future where an oppressive totalitarian elite has perfected a system of social control based on perpetual warfare, manipulation of perceived reality, and total surveillance of the population. The servile obedience of the bureaucracy and the mindless poverty of the masses keeps them in power. (MHP)

Saturday night, I watched the film. I was amazed at the parallels with today’s society. It’s here, Baby!

The story takes place in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war. The action is happening in “Oceania”, one of the three blocs that evolved after the big war:

  • Oceania consists of, basically the English-speaking world, plus Southern Africa and Latin America.
  • Eurasia is, essentially, Western Europe (ex the UK) and the former Soviet Union.
  • Eastasia is China, Korea, Japan and a few other parts of Asia.

The three are constantly at war with each other.

The remainder of the world is considered “disputed” and serves as places to exploit and excuses for the wars.

The State has been anthropomorphed into an anonymous, benevolent symbol who is the source of all benefits, lovingly called “Big Brother.

A website (Modern History Project) provides a short summary of key aspects of 1984’s society



These are the defining slogans of the Party, which are inscribed on the wall of the immense white pyramid that is the symbol of its hierarchical power:

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

War for the masses = Peace for the elite

The Ministry of Peace maintains the illusion of perpetual warfare to prevent the masses from uniting against
the system, and to keep them dependent upon the Party for "security". It is the pretext for more control and greater extortion, and serves to keep the masses impoverished. Each of the global power blocs operates under the same system of control. The so-called renegade leaders are merely puppets. With the masses divided by fear and living in poverty, the global oligarchs rule them undisturbed.

"The war is merely an imposture. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is...to keep the structure of society intact. The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living."

Slavery for the masses = Freedom for the elite

The Ministry of Plenty uses a system of fiat money, taxation and wage slavery to keep the masses fully
occupied at a minimal level of existence, with the illusion of being able to "get ahead" by striving harder. They are too concerned with their daily occupations to understand or organize effectively against the system of exploitation. While the masses slave away, the oligarchs enjoy wealth and freedom at their expense.

"An all-around increase in wealth threatened the destruction of a hierarchical society. If leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings…would become literate and would learn to think for themselves. They would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would
sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance."

Ignorance for the masses = Strength for the elite

The Ministry of Truth uses control over the education system and the communications media to keep the
masses in a state of ignorance and incapable of perceiving the facts of their manipulation. By controlling all sources of information, and playing one ignorant group off against the other, they ensure that effective opposition
does not arise. While the masses attempt to make sense of the false reality fed to them in the schools and on the telescreens, the elite manipulators that write the scripts laugh at their confusion.

"All the beliefs, habits, tastes, emotions, mental attitudes that characterize our time are really designed to...prevent the true nature of present-day society from being perceived. If the 'High' are to keep their places permanently, then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity."


Once you understand that this is all going on today, it is so easy to see the parallels. The Ministry of Truth is the Mainstream Media. The Hate is directed at Muslims, Saddam, Assad, etc. The Telescreen is the equivalent of computers and cell phones. (and now they have TVs that can watch you! ). There are perpetual wars so we always have someone at which to direct our hate. The doublespeak such as who is a Terrorist and who is a Freedom Fighter goes on. “Our” dictators are benign; the others are “brutal”. The NSA is “Big Brother”. The list goes on and on. We are living 1984 right now.


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I remember seeing graffiti when I got to college that said, "1984 is only 14 years away". Then somebody had scratched out 14 years and written 13.

Looking back on the book, Orwell got a lot right. He sure understood the impulse for control of the message. But what nobody foresaw (except maybe Al Gore) was the possibility for a world wide web and the internet as it exists today.
The internet gives the ability to surveil painlessly and there's no way Orwell could have foreseen that.

On the other end, Madison Ave has made propaganda such a slick business it's hardly noticeable to the majority of the folks being subjected to it.
That part, Orwell could have foreseen but didn't and I think he got that wrong.


Fact Check

But most of you have embraced this by voting for it. You've created an inflated government that was not bound by the chains of the Constitution.


Spying Has No Party Affiliation

Nobody runs on spying on the populace as an issue.

J. Edgar Hoover's FBI(which was founded when? 1920 or so?) collected records and spied on many Americans (including elected officials) for decades and he had no party affiliation that I know of.
If any elected official encouraged him to do what he did I'd be shocked.
The CIA and the NSA grew out of the army's intelligence units. None of that was partisan in any way. It was intended to spy on the communists. I have no idea who was behind turning the apparatus on us, but it's pretty clear it happened during the Bush administration.

So when you say: "most of you have embraced this by voting for it" you appear to be referring to Obama, but I don't see any basis for that, speaking of "fact checking".


No one is immune

NSA Spying on Presidents
“…the NSA - has been listening to the telephone calls of both American presidents (Bush & Obama) whenever they have spoken with the chancellor. (Merkel)
By Andrew P. Napolitano http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article36699.htm


Point of information

I didn't vote for either of them.


Electronic Dog Tag

My point was that spying is not new. Hoover's FBI did as much as it possibly could (given the tech of the day). We know he had extensive dossiers on the Kennedys and probably everybody else in politics. He wasn't afraid to use what he knew for blackmail, if I understand correctly.
Maybe there's a more benign purpose, or even helpful reason for today's more massive surveillance. There's never been an open public debate (you can imagine how that would go) so we will never know for sure.

Going back to the meta data argument (is the NSA collecting the contents of your communications or just the where and when.): consider the electronic dog tag aspect of this.
Everywhere you take your phone or internet device you're emitting your signal. Your movements are mapable and a pattern can be established of where you go - what's your "normal" range.
We've had the experience of being in Chicago and getting a phone call from the house sitter who said our credit card company needed to hear from us. The minute our card's number was used outside our "normal" area, they knew and wanted to be sure it was us. This was a "good" use of tracking and much less inclusive than a phone or internet device.
I'm sure anyone can imagine less savory uses of such information (got pot in your house?).



He may have been the most powerful man in Washington in his day. He had something on virtually anyone who mattered. He was like a vacuum cleaner! ;-)
He hated the Kennedys.

Some cell phones will track you even when they're shut off! You need to remove the batteries to be sure.



Since I’ve become reacquainted with “1984”, I’ve been reading parts of it. (It’s available in full here: http://www.george-orwell.org/1984 )

The “Villain” in this story is not Osama Bin Laden, but Emmanuel Goldstein, the principal enemy of the state — a former member of the Inner Party – continually conspiring against the leadership of Big Brother.

Orwell uses excerpts from this book to illustrate what life in Oceania under “Ingsoc” is like. The parallels to today are scary.

For instance:
The first chapter, “Ignorance is Strength”, details the perpetual class struggle characteristic of human societies; beginning with the historical observation that societies always have hierarchically divided themselves into social classes and castes: the High (who rule by virtue of their wealth and the power that it buys); the Middle (who work for, and yearn to supplant the High), and the Low (whose goal is daily survival). Cyclically, the Middle deposed the High by enlisting the Low, however, upon assuming power, the Middle (the new High class) then recast the Low into their usual servitude. Eventually, the classes perpetually repeat the cycle.

By the year 1984, technology had rendered feasible a totalitarian society; electronic apparatus, such as the telescreen (two-way television) allowed continuous governmental monitoring of the populace: "The possibility of enforcing not only complete obedience to the will of the State, but complete uniformity of opinion on all subjects, now existed for the first time".
The mass of the populace will not revolt against the Party’s rule, because the Ministry of Truth’s (Minitrue) propaganda denies them the facts that would allow them to discover their enslavement.
To safeguard the essential beliefs in the omniscience and infallibility of Big Brother and the Party, Minitrue continually practices historical revisionism. To the end of suppressing any unorthodoxy, the Party inculcates self-deceptive habits of mind to the inner and outer members, thus crimestop ("preventive stupidity"), halts thinking at the threshold of politically-dangerous thought, and doublethink allows simultaneously holding and believing contradictory thoughts without noticing the contradiction.

In the third chapter of Goldstein’s book, “War is Peace”, a historical review describes how, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, mechanized industrial production raised "the living standards of the average human being very greatly", and that it became "clear to all thinking people that the need for human drudgery, and therefore to a great extent for human inequality, had disappeared . . . hunger, overwork, dirt, illiteracy and disease could be eliminated within a few generations" — a threat to the Party’s perpetuity, because, ". . . if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would learn to think for themselves", become politically conscious and so depose the ruling oligarchy; therefore, ". . . in the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance".

Given that large-scale, mechanized production could not be eliminated once invented, the Party arranges the destruction of surplus goods — before that makes "the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent", hence perpetual war “is always so planned as to eat up any surplus that might exist after meeting the bare needs of the population . . . It is a deliberate policy to keep even the favoured groups somewhere near the brink of hardship, because a general state of scarcity increases the importance of small privileges and thus magnifies the distinction between one group and another. ”

Thus, "the war" is "waged by the ruling party against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact", therefore, WAR IS PEACE.

Winston never has opportunity to finish reading “The Book”, and learn the "Why?" of Oceania and the world order in 1984, because the Thought Police arrest him, torture him and “correct his deficiencies”.

Here is the last paragraph of the book:
He gazed up at the enormous face. (Poster of Big Brother) Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother


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