George This is what the Party calls

George Orwell’s novel Nineteen-Eighty-Four is
often seen as a cautionary tale of a communist state gone wrong, but it can
also be understood as a simple warning to not let the society of the future
become the way it did in the book: A world, in which truth is lie and lie is
truth, and the government spies on its citizens. The following essay points out
similarities between the society described in Nineteen-Eighty-Four and modern Western societies by comparing the political
language and technology from the novel with language and technology in the real

First, one of the similarities in political language
has originated from the election of President Donald Trump in the US. During
his presidential campaign he popularized the now infamous phrase “fake news”. The
president mostly utilizes this phrase when the press present facts that contradict
his statements or claims, aiming to discredit their proofs. Yet, there are
occasions on which these media outlets publish news that confirm some of Trump’s
claims, which is then lauded and praised by him, even though he had just recently
called those media outlets “fake news” before. As these “true” and “untrue”
facts come from the same sources, believing some and choosing not to believe
others is essentially a lie to yourself, similar to a concept from Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four:
Here, the all-controlling Party teaches its citizens the method of
“double-think”. Orwell defines it as “to know and not to know, … to hold
simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be
contradictory …, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while
laying claim to it.” (Orwell 44). With “double-think”, citizens are able to
believe anything the government tells them, even if some of those things might
contradict themselves. As any criticism towards the Party is seen as a form of
blasphemy, “double-think” means to believe some facts when needed, but to
simply not believe those same or equal facts if told so.

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while “double-think” is one of the most famous concepts from Nineteen-Eighty-Four,
it is just part of “newspeak. This is what the Party calls its reorganization
of language, which it carries out by either eliminating words, altering their
original meaning or making up entirely new ones. “You think … that our chief
job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words, scores
of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the
bone” (Orwell 65). The Party believes that language plays a big part in shaping
the ways that people think and that by changing the vocabulary they can
influence the political and societal views of their citizens: “Don’t you see
that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we
shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in
which to express it” (Orwell 67). Similarly, in December of 2017 the United
States center of disease control and prevention (CDC) was told not to use words
such as “science-based” or “transgender” in documents for budget proposals any
more. CDC employees took this as an indirect order to not pay attention to the
issues connected with those words, as not using those certain terms and expressions
would eventually lead to the connected topics disappearing from the departments
focus altogether as there would be no trace of them in papers.

the government in Orwell’s novel not
only uses the altering of language to control its citizens, but chooses to
surveil them as well. This state of constant examination
is one of the most prominent tropes in Orwell’s novel. The government uses
monitoring to make sure that citizens are devout to the Party, while claiming
to protect their people against foreign enemies. Comparable, the fear of terror
attacks has made European politics more interested in surveillance. England is
at the forefront of this movement: There, companies must secure their clients’
data for up to twelve months and London is the city with the most surveillance
in the world, counting up to one public camera per 11 citizens (Kelly 2009). The
world of Nineteen-Eighty-Four is
equally well surveilled, but in Orwell’s novel, the government goes even
further and doesn’t stop at people’s doors: Every
house must have so called “telescreens”, which show news and propaganda but
also observe the citizens in their homes: “The telescreen received and
transmitted simultaneously. Any sound … would be picked up by it; moreover,
so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque
commanded, he could be seen …” (Orwell 5).
As Orwell wrote the book in the late 1940’s, there was no way he
could have predicted the kind of technology we have today, especially one piece
that is eerily similar to his “telescreens”: smartphones. With the right tools,
one can monitor where someone is, who they are with or what they are doing. A person
can even be recorded with their own smartphones’ built in microphone and camera,
if one is able to somehow hack it, and none of this can be noticeable to the hacking
victim while it is happening (Griffin 2015). So just like the “telescreens” in
the novel, there is always the possibility that one is being tracked, filmed or
listened in on.

conclusion, the similarities between Orwell’s society and the society of the
real world, at least in Western countries, are quite evident. The rise of using
language as a blatant manipulation tool in politics and the surge shown in
surveilling activities by states on their citizens, but also the always existing
threat of being spied on by one’s own smartphone should make everyone in these
societies concerned and skeptical of giving too much power to their respective
government. Especially as those governments have shown in the past that they do
not care for their citizen’s privacy or freedom in the face of fear, and in their
pursuit to get or stay in power. 


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