Orwellian Tale | 30th November 2021 | Virtual Wire
The term “Orwellian” gets thrown around a lot, but its true meaning is often lost. George Orwell was a political writer during the 20th century.
His most famous work is a novella called 1984, a science fiction tale of a dystopian future where society is under complete government order. The story focuses on the themes of mass surveillance, total media control, and brainwashing. The ominous ruler Big Brother controls the population through manipulation, deception, and groupthink. These methods of control are how Orwell’s society differs from a typical authoritarian society, deeming the term "Orwellian.”Big Brother controls every aspect of people’s lives. All the citizens are brainwashed to agree with the Party (those with the power) and never question authority. Groupthink is the concept where there is a deterioration in the reality of right from wrong as a result of mass pressure.
The majority is swayed in a certain direction, and if one was to go against the group they would seem insane. To prevent people from rebelling Thinkpol, or thought police, monitor the population with audio and visual surveillance. They can detect, arrest, and kill rebels or thought criminals. A thought criminal is anyone who violates a “thought crime” or has any unorthodox political thought. Even keeping a journal is punishable by death.
It may seem as if the type of “Orwellian” dystopia described in this book is one that is unlikely to occur in today’s world. Many see the book as a warning against the extreme dictatorships at the time when it was written, such as Nazism and Stalinism, and no longer
relevant in today's society. Orwell’s novel is better viewed as a cautionary tale of what could
happen should any government ever gain too much authority. In this book, the Party uses
extreme psychological techniques in order to compel the population to obey its commands.
The people are controlled and manipulated, unable even to dream of an escape. Even if a person could see it coming, if they ever speak up they will be shunned. In modern society, the internet has significantly changed the way we share information. Web connectivity has erased all barriers to communication. A story can be posted online at any time of day and will be able to reach viewers from all over the world instantly. This advanced technology brings so much power to the people, but it also brings a lot of responsibility. Issues of internet, privacy and confidentiality are on the rise, as well as a growing threat to individual freedom of speech online.
Going back to Orwell’s story, the government used devices called telescreens, which were two-way television sets. The citizens would watch propaganda videos on one side of the screen, while the other side allowed the high levels of Party members to spectate. The people were to leave these screens on in their homes at all times of the day. Big Brother could monitor even the most mundane activities, consistently keeping themselves ahead of the populace.
Today our devices essentially work as two-way screens as well. The receiving end does not
hold as much power as the Party from 1984. However, as this technology does exist, it is important to be wary of this tale and the potential of it becoming a reality. Security of information online has been a growing concern since the birth of the web. In the early years, it wasn’t as much of a worry to the general public as most data was processed as a group of information instead of a single entity, making a person’s information less likely to be singled out.
In 2005, when Google figured out that data could be more useful if processed individually, most specifically for ads. After this discovery, internet providers began to gather individual data on their users, to generate better advertisements. In the same year, 2005, the first massive customer data breach occurred, with 1.4 million credit card numbers and account records stolen. In 2018, the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal showed how personal data could be used without people’s knowledge. During this “accident” Cambridge Analytica harvested data from millions of Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.
The information was obtained by the servers when a user would partake in a survey online. The participants of this survey were not aware that their data was being collected, as well as data from their friends. This information was collected by Cambridge Analytica and used for political ad campaigns. It was gathered, analyzed, and then used to determine which ads would be most effective for a particular target.
This is a modern-day example of people being manipulated for political gain. With everyone’s information being on a public network, it is important to consider scenarios such as Orwell’s tale. Internet freedom today is being slowly pulled out from under people’s feet. Websites have the right to restrict access if a person refuses to oblige to certain policies. Some social media sites can ban users for referencing unpopular political beliefs, or information that goes against the mass narrative. While lying or spreading fake news is wrong, citizens should have a right to share alternative information as long as it is verified facts.
Picture -USA Today
This is not always the case in our world, as a person’s post can be taken down in an instant should it go against community guidelines. Currently, a person does have the ability to choose which social media and which websites they visit and can refuse to engage with ones in which they don’t agree. It is hard to imagine a world without the internet, a true necessity for our society. In view of its importance in our everyday lives, its users should be protected as much as possible. Even though hackers and malware will always be a concern, people shouldn't have to worry about governments or large corporations using private information as a means of manipulation.