When WHO proclaimed the COVID-19 pandemic and enforced worldwide regulations which included total governmental oversight of the public, many voices were claiming that such a globalist authoritative government is similar to that described in George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. A world in which the people are being held captive by ignorance and used as puppets by an oligarchy through propaganda and population control measures that invade every form of individuality and creative thought.
Is there anything we could learn from Orwell’s most popular piece, and could we draw analogies with certain periods in human history, or is it all just a fantasy of an estranged British journalist?
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Dictators thrive through propaganda
Oceania is a superstate “decorated” by visuals that constantly promote government. During his torture, Winston Smith, the main character was forced to adopt the slogan “2+2=5” to show his compliance with the government. However, this was the same slogan that could be found all over Moscow and throughout the Soviet Union at the time “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was written. This way, Orwell wanted to show his protest against totalitarianism in the USSR but also to warn the audience of the power of propaganda.
Propaganda tools were also used to create the cult of personality and paint the portrait of a beloved leader that cares for the impoverished people. This is another analogy to Stalinist methods implemented in the Soviet Union at that time.
The “Newspeak” principle
In Orwell’s world, people use a language based on principles similar to political correctness but much more insidious because it’s designed to restrict not only vocabulary but thought as well. If someone would look through essay examples on various American books with similar topics written by students, many would include at least a passage on the official language of Oceania and its infamy. A propaganda language that’s crafted to disable any kind of critical voice through euphemisms and inversion of meaning is much like the tone in which most pro-government media are being published in totalitarian regimes for decades in the real world.
Nowadays, a wide range of different user groups criticizes certain social media platforms for censorship of content that’s against “community standards” even if it doesn’t pose danger to anyone rather doesn’t go along the lines of what that social media outlet wishes to present as the truth regarding a certain topic.
Totalitarian governments fear criticism
To dismiss any chance of opposition, Big Brother introduced total oversight of the population, which George Orwell depicted marvelously in his book. Audio and video surveillance, undercover agents, and institutionalized mechanisms of censorship are just some of the tools that the government uses to prevent citizens from making a stand against the regime. The people were unable to communicate freely in private or participate in social relations that are not sanctioned by the ruling party.
The same methods are being used by numerous totalitarian regimes in the real world even to this day. One of the most bizarre examples is North Korea, where Kim Jong-un declared their national soccer team champions of the world even though this was far from the truth. Since there was no way for the public to check that information, there was no way for anyone to disprove the false announcement.
Police oppression is another method of preserving authority in a dictatorship depicted in “1984” like never before. Some other authors were later inspired by ideas that George Orwell shared in his work, however, totalitarian rulers still exist in countries around the world.
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A world divided into blocks
In most college students essays on Nineteen Eighty-Four, there’s a place where the division of Orwell’s fantasy world is compared with the global geopolitical situation just after WWII. Learning history from fantasy books is not the best idea, however, if we look deeper into the context there are certain correlations with the global political situation at the time. Mainly, the world is divided into blocks among three superpowers holding the balance through a constant all-out war that takes casualties but brings no value to citizens of any of the sides involved in the conflict which is so remote that citizens have difficulties relating to it.
When George Orwell started writing his novel of a dystopian future on Earth, he was already involved in the Spanish civil war and the world was heavily divided at the time. When the novel was published, NATO and Warsaw alliance already started forming the steam that propelled the engines of propaganda on both sides.
Orwell was a devoted socialist, however, he was strongly opposed to totalitarianism which spread throughout Europe in Germany, Italy, and Russia. With that in mind, it’s clear that the British novelist wanted to show how politicians can generate fear and use it to control the population.
Books can often depict real life better than any social study, however, it’s up to the audience to draw conclusions and act accordingly. Orwell’s “1984” is one of the most important literary works of the 20th century, translated in more than 60 languages and often cited when political atmosphere was endangering democracy. The messages that could be found in this book will continue to resonate in years to come and warn people of dangers that come to societies that allow too much power to the government.
Julius Sim is a freelance content writer engaged with several online publishers. Julius creates informative content that provides actionable pieces of advice that are relatable to the audience. He aims to bring practical value into the everyday lives of his readers.