In a move of amusing cognitive dissonance, recent parallels have been drawn between Trump and Big Brother from George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984. While these comparisons may be fair, this type of cherry-picking from the text could explain why this book is topping Amazon’s bestseller list … because it’s obviously been too long since people have read it. We’ve been comfortably living in Orwell’s dystopia for years, but nobody said anything until events no longer went as planned.
The New Republic, among others, already outlined why this novel is not the most perfect fit for our current circumstances, but authoritarianism regimes aside, our society has been barreling into Big Brother’s reality with open arms and open WiFi networks.
Quick Recap: 1984 paints a bleak picture that combines post-WW2 England with elements of USSR-inspired totalitarianism. Citizens may only express themselves in New-Speak, which are adjective-less words mandated by the government, a Thought Police assesses crimes of having thoughts that are not approved by the government, and mandatory television sets in everyone’s households are not only used to force propaganda down people’s throats but are also a way in which the government can spy on everyone.
Now that we live in a world of Alternative Facts, people are up in arms, calling it New-Speak, but this doesn’t sit comfortably when taking into account the laughably reductive “War on Terror” and “War on Drugs” we’ve experienced the last few decades. Alternative Facts are lies: “Iraq is dealing in WMDs!” “Funneling arms into the Middle East to support economic endeavors is totally okay!” “Reality TV star is the best candidate GOP has to offer!” And, outright lies are not government-mandated lingo. We have real-life advertising slogans being used to propagate the military-industrial complex that allow arms deals, NSA spying and drone attacks to flourish under bipartisan administrations, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In the Internet Age, we’ve replaced conversations with chats, and phone calls with texts. This has removed tone and context from our conversations, with trite and prescribed LOLs and TFWs substituting any type of creativity or human warmth. Can we expect the government to have a holistic approach to communication when we use reaction .gifs to express ourselves instead of complete sentences? We could view our new Internet-Speak as a grassroots campaign for New-Speak that has removed our humanity from the way in which we interact.
More important than the method of totalitarian control in 1984, would be the means. As perhaps one of the last people to be assigned Orwell in school before everyone in class had a cell phone with a camera, I have been living in a state of near-horror watching people share their locations, photos and life milestones on social media ever since. Have you ever had your cell phone in the same room while you were changing? Have you ever uploaded a photo of your baby to social media? Perhaps since it is common knowledge that device cameras can be hacked, we’ve become jaded about oversharing our personal lives on the Internet. So what if I broadcast where or when I’m traveling to my two thousand friends on Facebook, since the NSA or any teenage hacker can already follow my every move?
So, once Wars on Ideology and wars in other countries have brought us to a constant state of aggression against any ambiguous adversary, we see the Patriot Act shortly followed by the placement of cameras and microphones in the hands, pockets and laps of billions. In fact, the irony of the iPhone becoming Big Brother’s best friend a mere 20 years after Apple’s 1984 Macintosh campaign was lost on nobody:
With Netflix users getting more woke by the day after watching a few episodes of Black Mirror, perhaps we’ll start collectively becoming more conscious about our use of technology and the lengths to which we’ll go to chronicle our own stories. Political administrations will come and go, but our willingness to let Big Brother into our lives has to end. There is still time to demand privacy, instead of LIVE-streaming our existences.