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Derek Shaw

Do Orwell's predictions ring true?

George Orwell's “1984” depicts a world that has been reduced to absolute governmental control over all areas of life, banishing the freedom to love, read and even think freely. The threat of constant warfare falsely propagated by the “Party”, the single political power in the totalitarian state of Oceania, allows the government to maintain and expand its reign over the lives of its people.

Sound somewhat familiar? Well it should ...

As the likelihood of war in the Middle East continues to escalate, American citizens are slowly and methodically being stripped of some of their most fundamental civil liberties. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has successfully created an unprecedented fervor of patriotism, causing Americans to blindly hand over their freedoms in exchange for the promise of security.

Without attempting to cast any unmerited aspersions on our government or immaturely parallel a piece of fiction to reality, it is nonetheless interesting and rather eerie to compare the events in “1984” to the affairs of today.

Let's look at the facts.

In “1984”, the bold slogan of the Party is “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” This set of socio-political paradoxes serve to justify the actions of the government while forcing the population to abide by the imperishable laws. The assumed objective of protecting the nation rationalizes all violence and corruption.

The state of Oceania in “1984” is involved in an eternal war with an unclear, ever-shifting enemy. The government leads the public to believe that they are always in danger, when in fact much, if not all, of the war is fabricated. One day the enemy is Eurasia, and the next day the government announces that the enemy is Eastasia and has always been Eastasia. The people swallow the lies and digest them as truths without raising a single question. The real purpose of war is to control opposition of the government and maintain total authority by cultivating fear and hatred.

Today we are facing imminent war with Iraq. A year ago our target was al-Qaida and bin Laden. Then it became a battle within Afghanistan. And just to be sure, President George W. Bush openly labeled Iran, North Korea and Iraq as the “axis of evil.” In a later speech, he added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the growing list of nations that are allegedly seeking to obtain or develop weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, the war on terrorism has spread out of control. On Aug. 22, 2002, Bush called Saddam Hussein a threat to the civilized world and announced that it was in everyone's best interest to see him removed from power. Granted, Hussein is not the first person on most of our Christmas card mailing lists, but what has really happened in recent years to warrant such treatment? Surely it is a mere coincidence that Bush (former oil tycoon) is targeting Iraq, which just so happens to have one of the most plentiful petroleum supplies in the world.

In many ways, Bush has become the physical manifestation of Big Brother, the omnipotent, all-knowing symbol of leadership in Oceania. In “1984”, Big Brother is both feared and loved by the people. His power goes untested. Similarly, the Bush administration has sculpted an infallible image of integrity for itself, and the American people have responded with a show of faith and support. In fact, it has become accepted, if not fashionable, to show American pride with stickers, T-shirts and flags. A frenzy of nationalism has infected our country; and consequently we have put trust in the government to do all that is necessary to defend and vindicate the United States.

As a result, American freedoms are being cleverly attacked by new legislation, which is taking advantage of the vulnerability of its citizens. In “1984”, signs reading “Big Brother is watching you” constantly remind the people of Oceania that their every move is being monitored and judged. The Bush administration has enacted programs such as TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), which allows the government to recruit citizen-spies within the United States to supplement law enforcement. In addition, the USA Patriot Act now allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to expand surveillance to monitor phone conversations, Internet usage and business transactions. All the while, it eliminates the checks and balances system which allows courts to oversee the legality and integrity of the affairs.

Bush's proposal for a Department of Homeland Security, which happens to include an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, intends to combine 22 federal agencies for the purpose of fighting terrorism more effectively. It sounds good on the surface, but the problem is that many of the actions will be performed in secret — hidden from the media and the public. Bush himself outlined the goal of the operation in a speech on Oct. 17, 2001.

He announced, “Ours will be a broad campaign, fought on many fronts. It's a campaign that will be waged by day and by night, in the light and in the shadow, in battles you will see and battles you won't see.” The ambiguity of this statement is indicative of the whole war on terrorism. Just who are we fighting and why? These questions deserve answers.

Is America gradually slipping into an Orwellian society?

Maybe not, but no nation is indestructible. Bush has made it clear that war is imminent. The trend of violence is only growing stronger, and we are steadily becoming blind to the injustices perpetrated by our government in the name of freedom. So as we focus our attacks on Iraq and our rivals become more unclear and arbitrary, ask yourself, “Who is the real enemy?


Derek Shaw: ‘Do Orwell's Predictions Ring True?’
© 2002, ‘The Daily Trojan’, October 4. Original of this work is on:

Machine-readable version: O. Dag
Last modified on: 2019-12-29

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