Nineteen Eighty Four

1984 by GeorgeOrwell

ISBN 0451524934 "Big Brother is Watching You" "1984": "Novel published in 1949 as a warning about the menaces of totalitarianism. The novel is set in an imaginary future world that is dominated by three perpetually warring totalitarian police states. The book's hero, Winston Smith, is a minor party functionary in one of these states. His longing for truth and decency leads him to secretly rebel against the government. Smith has a love affair with a like-minded woman, but they are both arrested by the Thought Police. The ensuing imprisonment, torture, and reeducation of Smith are intended not merely to break him physically or make him submit but to root out his independent mental existence and his spiritual dignity. Orwell's warning of the dangers of totalitarianism made a deep impression on his contemporaries and upon subsequent readers, and the book's title and many of its coinages, such as NEWSPEAK, became bywords for modern political abuses." -- Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, April 1, 1995 ISBN 0877790426

Vocabulary words: NewSpeak, DoubleThink, ThoughtCrime, DoublePlusGood

Available at Project Gutenberg (for Commonwealth-based readers, not those from the US) at:

A book without hope or a challenge to Reason? -- MartinNoutch

[Some comments, from a religious perspective, moved to NineteenEightyFourReligiousPerspective.]

I heard that George Orwell considered some variations of 1984. All money should be marked so that anything could be traced back and men should be made to carry devices so that their position would be known any time. It seemed so unrealistic that he dropped these ideas (did he? It's such along time since I read his book!).

Now they call these "credit card" and "mobile phone" (some countries in Europe: "Handy").

Just a thought. -- HelmutLeitner

No one is forced to use credit cards or mobile phones, so they're about as near to what you say Orwell was considering as "webcams" are to his telescreens. -- GarethMcCaughan

People use them. It doesn't make much difference whether they are forced to by a dark power or by a consumer mentality. There is the same "big brother" potential.

This argument is absurd and fallacious. There's a technology whose stated intended use enables benefits to society, but whose misuse also enables repression of humanity: therefore the technology is bad. No, the technology is what it is, and its stated use is good, and its misuse is bad. Legislation should cover misuse.

The underlying issue here (with the credit card and mobile phone technology cited, as well as much other) is personal privacy. You should be able to use technology to record events in your life, without the possibility of the information in those records being used without your permission (legitimately). You should have rights over the information that represents a record of you. In the UK the Data Protection Act provides some of this. The government should defend and uphold this right. I don't know much about US law but I don't think this is a constitutional right in the US, or a position that US governments are sympathetic to. I'd like some feedback, as its confusing. I thought US politics was heavily influenced by libertarianism and individual rights. If so why is personal privacy not constitutionally enshrined?

Because libertarians think that the way to shrink government and expand their individual rights is by not voting

It makes a huge difference.

Only if you think that consumer mentality != dark power in the first place.

I don't use either, and I see no sign of the ThoughtPolice knocking at my door. -- GarethMcCaughan

Today, yes. Tomorrow, they will say: Well, Gareth, he does not use the cell phone, he is suspect. He does not use credit cards either.... strange..... Well, I hope I'm wrong. -- ThomasHolenstein?

Let's also not forget about grocery store "club" cards that you can't eat at a reasonable price without. How much information do you think they can get from them? Also those cameras they're now putting in high crime / drug traffic areas. Sure they make the area safer but why not put them in your neighborhood too. -- Lee Nathan re the grocery club cards - there is nothing preventing you from trading yours to another customer every month, getting the discount and completely altering the profile they think has been developed Great idea! Anyone want to start a GroceryCardSwapClub?? I have one from Kash n' Karry I'd be glad to swap.

No one is forced to use credit cards or mobile phones

The problem is that, eventually, choosing not to use credit cards, mobile phones or <other clever consumer device> will be seen as eccentric / deviant / threatening. The same thing applies to avoiding non-mandatory ID cards, using encrypted communications and a multitude of other "subversive" behaviours. -- DavidMcNicol

[Try renting a car, even signing up to rent a video, without a credit card. And isn't it a crime in the US to carry more than a certain amount of cash? ] [No. Maybe you're thinking of bringing large amounts of cash into or out of the US? That's legal too, but requires a Customs declaration for large amounts. Large cash transactions are also required to be reported to some authority to help combat laundering, but they're not illegal.]

Wow, that book had the saddest ending of any book I've ever read.

Further discussion of that statement was moved to GrapesOfWrathVsNineteenEightyFour

I have just finished reading 1984 and what I found most disturbing is how it matches today's society except for how much more unaware we are. The only real difference is that of continuous consumption instead of continuous war. -- AndrewMcMeikan BraveNewWorld, then?

Nonsense. The book is a warning against totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is now endangered. Liberal Democracy is the paragon of government now and has been for some time. Governments, of course, try to manipulate the electorate's thinking, but that is not Orwellian - its politics. In the Orwellian world, everyone knows they are being manipulated, they hate it, but they cannot do a thing about it. There is no choice beyond: conform or die. You don't have to conform in the US, you can just move to California.

NineteenEightyFour is being watered down by misplaced analogy. It's going the way of ConsideredHarmful.

"Everyone knows they are being manipulated, they hate it, but they cannot do a thing about it." Everyone knows they are being manipulated, while at the same time they do not know. They do not hate it. Hating it is as clear a case of ThoughtCrime as could be envisaged. If they could have any misgivings they put them in a little box and forget them. They learn to love BigBrother. (That's Party members: the Proles are more interested in the lottery.)

Man, give someone a few decades of peace and look what he comes up with. America and its allies have been in some little attacking wars every now and again; they aren't in any major wars because they haven't found any new enemies yet. But remember that from a historical perspective, we are still in the aftermath of WWII and the cold war.

OK I guess continuous war is happening, as I said though *much more unaware*

Consumerism is the new totalitarianism. And if soma is television, then the MinistryOfTruth? is Hollywood.

"The novel is set in an imaginary future world that is dominated by three perpetually warring totalitarian police states."

I'm always left to wonder, after reading the book and seeing the movie, if there really are three police states in play, or if it's all run by one totalitarian government that uses the illusion of war to control its people. -- JeffGrigg

I agree with you completely Jeff, and always thought that there was strong evidence to support the theory that they were never really at war with anyone (in particular, Winston's activities as a librarian dealt with changing the enemy a number of times over a short period, which seemed to give credence to the notion that there was no war.) -- SeanMcNamara

I recently heard a report on NPR regarding the mass proliferation of video cameras in public places and the rise of the "reality" TV shows. I think that Orwell was a bit on the unrealistically paranoid side when he conjured the thought of "Big Brother" looking down on all of us at all times in all situations. It's unrealistic because of the impossibility to manage that volume of information in a reasonable fashion for it to be realistically useful (at least right now). However, current events seems to have done Orwell one up. Voyeurism is an integral part of the human psyche. Historically, we've been pretty effective at stemming all out "Peeping Tom"ism by establishing certain cultural taboos and laws. The current crop of web-cams, sex sites and reality based TV programs have gone a long way to legitimizing our indulgence of voyeurism. That, accompanied with the mass proliferation of cheap, good quality surveillance equipment that can be easily plugged into the net not to mention chat rooms the fact that e-mail can be snooped so easily. So, as NPR points out, instead of having one Big Brother, it turns out that we have a whole lot of "little brothers" out there. So, look out ... "Little Brother is Watching You". -- JeffSimpson

Orwell didn't say that all telescreens would be monitored all the time. Just that any of them could be monitored at any time. -- DaveHarris

And a lot of the monitoring is by the public; all you have to do is have a facial tic or be wearing distinctive shoes and someone will be turning you in.

Let's see,

I find the correlation between organized religions and states probably the most incisive comment on this page, we should expand on it.

If you believe the "ThereIsNoWar?" theory from above, then the perpetually warring police states become media generated wars, such as shown in WagTheDog, and which you may or may not believe has occurred in real life.

- In "The Blank Slate" Steven Pinker draws an interesting parallel between Postmodernism and NewSpeak. Its not equivalent to the thought police because isn't enforced by a Totalitarian regime, but the similarity of method is striking: control what people think by controlling the language they use.

Explain the lack of adulation accorded those criticizing the WarOnTerrorism then

Some criticisms of the American government are frowned upon. However, many will create adulation and a media spotlight. This is hardly proof of a 1984-style thought police.

Maybe the changes to the world post September 11th, make many of the above points worth revisiting?

Why yes. Note how the perpetually warring police states require their warfare to maintain their internal status quo. Quite applicable to the OilWar?.

"Little Brother is watching you"--At least that way, the decision of what constitutes as a ThoughtCrime is democratic.

Seriously, though, I prefer the other use of LittleBrother?. Think CoreyDoctorow?.

With all this new technology, could the Government (capitalization intentional) spy on us? Sure. But we could spy back, disrupt their feeds, jam them, and protest based on our constitutional rights. We have freedom of expression, right? We can protest. No spy program is undetectable, and no jamming is impossible with the power of open source.

How can you code, when you have no keyboard?

See BraveNewWorld AnimalFarm TheTransparentSociety

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