Archive for August 6th, 2009
In the political novel 1984, George Orwell warned readers in the West that totalitarian governments would go to horrific lengths to maintain and enhance their power. In 1949, academics and members of the press in America depicted the Soviet Union as a great moral experiment. In contrast, Orwell was troubled by the widespread cruelties and oppressions he observed in the USSR, particularly how the ruling party in power used technology and the flow of information to monitor and control its citizens.
Orwell’s dystopian novel shows how technology, which generally works toward moral good, can make it possible for the most diabolical evil. Ubiquitous telescreens monitor the people’s behavior, as a constant reminder that Big Brother is watching and scrutinizing them everywhere they go. The Party also encourages the children to spy on parents, friends, and neighbors and report any disloyal activity to the Party.
Put aside Orwell’s dystopia and consider the Party of Brother O and the members of his Bread and Circuses Salvation Sideshow who have raised the clarion call for informants to help them identify scary chain emails and videos that spread “disinformation” about Obamacare. According to the communications director for the White House’s Health Reform Office there is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform being sent through chain emails or casual conversation and “we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
In the nightmare world of 1984, children are indoctrinated by Party organizations such as The Spies and the Youth League. Children who turn in their parents as traitors are regarded as heroes in the newspapers. After being struck on the neck by a catapult fired by a young miscreant, Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith ponders the resulting irony of the Party’s brainwashing; on the one hand it makes children into ungovernable savages but on the other hand it makes them devoted, fanatical, and disciplined adherents of the Party.
“All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which the ‘Times’ did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak—’child hero’ was the phrase generally used—had overheard some compromising remark and denounced his parents to the Thought Police.”—George Orwell, 1984
“Nothing is efficient in Oceania except the Thought Police.”