Tag Archives | George Orwell

Summer of Surveillance: 1984 vs. The Circle

[Editor's note: This post contains minor spoilers.]

In 1984, George Orwell presents a dystopian future in which citizens are under constant surveillance by the government, while records of the past are continuously edited and destroyed. The past becomes an abstract notion, ever shifting and strategic, and these manipulative tactics allow the ruling elite to maintain control. This is a closed system, through which pure information only flows in one direction before being heavily altered and then filtered back to the unsuspecting masses. With slogans like “WAR IS PEACE”, “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY”, and “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”, Orwell makes it quite clear that the rulers of this world mean business and will stop at nothing to ensure the continuation of their reign.

Three surveillance cameras on the corner of a building. By Hustvedt via Wikimedia Commons.

Three surveillance cameras on the corner of a building. By Hustvedt via Wikimedia Commons.

In The Circle, Dave Eggers presents an interesting contrast to Orwell’s dark and legendary vision.… Read the rest

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A Letter to George Orwell from a High School Student

The Library of Congress hosts a national reading and writing program (Letters about Literature) that invites students in grades 4-12 to write letters to an author – living or deceased. Here’s one such letter from Devi Acharya in Missouri.

via The Library of Congress blog:

George Orwell

George Orwell

To George Orwell:

You were right, you were right, you were right. I’m sorry I never saw it before, and I feel like an idiot, sitting here and penning this to you when you were so unspeakably right. You shouldn’t have published those books of yours under the guise of fiction—how could fiction be what’s happening outside my very doorstep! People get so worked up, angry at some imaginary oppressive tyrant when the very dystopias we fear and loathe are being built around us. I’m only just beginning to see them myself—brick and mortar meant to keep worlds apart, shields of hatred and arrows of intolerance, warlords arming for battle while the unwitting peasants continue to live from day to day.

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Oh, George (Orwell)

Review: Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, Metropolitan Books, 2014

Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. – George Orwell

George Orwell press photo

George Orwell

Oh, George

We need you now,
more than ever, ever
to help us wade through
new words of war by wankers
high on high tech
& fudged perceptions
in a security bubble of insecurity

We need help, George,
penetrating acronyms
of government gone wild
of spies & lies
and the madness
of the overtly clever
and covertly maniacal

Hey, Hey, NSA
How many emails did you ‘process’ today?
How many calls did you convert
into acres of unread metadata
stored somewhere in Utah
until the big roundup
that’s coming soon

Hey, Hey, NSA, why do you play
with code names
coined with a clear intent
to maim
and restrain?… Read the rest

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George Orwell Explains Why He Wrote ‘1984’ in Letter to Reader

Pic: BNUJ (PD)

Pic: BNUJ (PD)

I’ve often wondered what Orwell would think about our current surveillance state. In this letter, the author addresses whether totalitarianism is on the rise.

Via Open Culture:

Most of the twentieth century’s notable men of letters — i.e., writers of books, of essays, of reportage — seem also to have, literally, written a great deal of letters. Sometimes their correspondence reflects and shapes their “real” written work; sometimes it appears collected in book form itself. Both hold true in the case of George Orwell, a volume of whose letters, edited by Peter Davison, came out last year. In it we find this missive, also published in full at The Daily Beast, sent in 1944 to one Noel Willmett, who had asked “whether totalitarianism, leader-worship etc. are really on the up-grade” given “that they are not apparently growing in [England] and the USA”:

I must say I believe, or fear, that taking the world as a whole these things are on the increase.

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Surveillance Cameras Wearing Party Hats For George Orwell’s Birthday

Dutch artists Thomas voor ‘t Hekke and Bas van Oerle, who use the moniker FRONT404, adorned the surveillance cameras in their city of Utrecht in adorable party hats for George Orwell’s birthday:

On Tuesday June 25, to celebrate the 110th birthday of George Orwell, surveillance cameras in the center of the city of Utrecht were decorated with colorful party hats! George Orwell is best known for his book ‘1984’, in which he describes a dystopian future society where the populace is constantly watched by Big Brother. By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.

orwell's birthday

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1984 All Over Again

1984In the wake of the NSA/Snowden revelations, and the general sense of paranoia that has taken grip of the news cycle and the internet, a few pundits have assumed the roles of cultural watchdogs, taking the pulse of public taste to measure the effect of the spooky news on the hearts and minds of the people.

A number of journalists and commentators have noted that one possible side effect of the recently-revealed government snooping on personal communications has been a spike in the sales of the George Orwell classic 1984 on the mega-book-selling-site, Amazon. But, how big is the sales spike and how much of it can be attributed to Snowden’s bravery in the face of the NSA’s dubious doings? This article at Slate offers a measured interpretation:

Sales of one particular edition of George Orwell’s dystopian classic are up some 5,000 percent on Amazon.com in the past 24 hours, according to the site’s list of “movers and shakers.” The figure was as high as 7,000 earlier today.Read the rest

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The Orwellian Warfare State of Carnage and Doublethink

George OrwellAfter the bombings that killed and maimed so horribly at the Boston Marathon, our country’s politics and mass media are awash in heartfelt compassion — and reflexive “doublethink,” which George Orwell described as willingness “to forget any fact that has become inconvenient.”

In sync with media outlets across the country, the New York Times put a chilling headline on Wednesday’s front page: “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim, Officials Say.” The story reported that nails and ball bearings were stuffed into pressure cookers, “rigged to shoot sharp bits of shrapnel into anyone within reach of their blast.”

Much less crude and weighing in at 1,000 pounds, CBU-87/B warheads were in the category of “combined effects munitions” when put to use 14 years ago by a bomber named Uncle Sam. The U.S. media coverage was brief and fleeting.

One Friday, at noontime, U.S.-led NATO forces dropped cluster bombs on the city of Nis, in the vicinity of a vegetable market.… Read the rest

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Comparing Osama Bin Laden With Orwell’s ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’

disinformation editor’s note: The intent of this article is NOT to imply Osama Bin Laden is a fictional character. Please read the article in full and note it was written nearly ten years ago.

Goldstein Vs. Bin Laden

On September 19th, 2001, just one week after the 9/11 tragedies, Frothsburg State University economics professor William L. Anderson wrote a piece entitled, “Osama and Goldstein”. He spoke of a parallel between Osama Bin Laden and Emmanuel Goldstein, the contrived enemy of the state in George Orwell’s 1984. Over the past decade Bin Laden has become the face of terror throughout the western world and the focus of its people’s fear, anger, and hatred. Now that he is dead (read “dead” if you prefer), I believe it would be appropriate to revisit this article from William L. Anderson on LewRockwell.com:

In George Orwell’s classic 1984, the government of Oceania — Big Brother — tells the people that they have a common enemy — Goldstein.

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The Impending Police State

policestateabbyVia Media Roots:

In George Orwell’s 1984, Britain is depicted as a totalitarian police state that is ruled by the Party, or Big Brother — an enigmatic, ubiquitous elite that controls society through heavy surveillance, nationalist propaganda and historical revisionism.

The concept seems like a far-fetched portrayal of a Democratic nation’s demise into totalitarianism, but in America’s “post 9/11” climate of fear, the United States government has been building a comprehensive grid of surveillance and control that bears frightening similarities to Orwell’s fictional narrative.

The glaring difference between the two is that Orwell’s dystopian society is overtly totalitarian. America, conversely, operates under a “soft fascism” – an insidious, systematic method of preventative action and corporate top-down control over society’s media, economy and politics – while maintaining the necessary illusion of personal choice and freedom. A populous with little to no concept of their subjugation makes them the perfect subjects to rule.… Read the rest

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