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1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1 
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 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
1984 by George Orwell
Part 1


Please use this thread for discussing Part 1 of 1984 by George Orwell. There are 8 chapters in this section.

Or if you would like to create your own threads please feel free as this thread is just to help give this discussion forum some structure.

You can read 1984 for FREE here.



Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:59 pm
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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
Somebody has to start, so I will.

The opening line is a great one: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen....” Clocks in this world are designed to tell military time (thirteen hundred hours). And 13 is a symbolically ominous number. One of my favorite opening lines.

I think one of the reasons this book remains so popular is because readers everywhere can draw parallels between their own world and the world of the novel. Big Brother exists in all societies, in some form. Thought crime, doublethink--these are universal concepts. Also, the book changes for the reader over time. Big Brother meant one thing to me when I was younger, now it means something quite different.

Now I’m off to read news, to see what Big Brother has been doing today.


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
Yes, there is a lot of thought policing going on these days. The one that's been on my mind was the Federalist Society. Instead of looking for insight and intellect, as with Justice Scalia, they simply screen for doctrine. As a result we have the completely foolish recent decision that public employees may not be required to pay for the cost of collective bargaining (overturning a previous unanimous ruling).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus_v._AFSCME

The requirement of paying up on union dues, if negotiated, has stood a long test of time. Collective bargaining benefits all the workers (who would otherwise be single individuals facing "you can be replaced.") Permitting free riding by some employees is analogous to permitting someone to have the protection of the U.S. armed forces but refusing to pay taxes to support them because that person does not believe in militarism.

Oddly, the majority cited the First Amendment as the basis for allowing this free riding. Of course similar findings have permitted conscientious objectors from being required to fight, but they have been assigned alternate service, often similarly dangerous. No wonder Kennedy felt it was time to retire. His mind is obviously going.



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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
This is an interesting article asserting that current Australian politics is Orwellian, especially in the state of Victoria.
Who knows how the Victorian government’s Orwellian social experiment will end?
JANET ALBRECHTSEN
COLUMNIST

AUGUST 11, 2018
467 COMMENTS
George Orwell: “We’re destroying words — scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone …“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.
My son is studying George Orwell and we chatted about Nineteen Eighty-Four over breakfast this week. If he chooses to look, this book is jumping to life all around him. Books are cleansed of words that must not be said. Books by Enid Blyton, mind you. And Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn,too.
Speaking at university has become dangerous if you don’t repeat ortho-dox thinking. Comics have given up playing to snowflake student audiences. Words such as sexual assault and sexual harassment are being defined down to include the telling of a bad joke. At his school, boys were told not to use the word moist because it could offend girls. The cleansing of language and ideas has become disturbingly quotidian.
And this week’s live-streaming of Nineteen Eighty-Four comes to us from Australia’s biggest social laboratory where the Andrews Labor government has a tighter grip on thought crimes than on it does on marauding South Sudan¬ese gangs. On Thursday, Victorian Minister for Transport (and censorship) Jacinta Allan banned Sky News from television screens at Metro Trains stations because one host conducted one interview with far-right ratbag Blair Cottrell last Sunday. Sky News apologised and leading Sky names such as David Speers rightly condemned giving a platform to a moron who likes Hitler. But the Labor government banned an entire news organisation so that train commuters “can see something they may be a bit more comfortable with”, to quote Allan, who maybe hasn’t spent much time perusing her portfolio platforms. The Cottrell interview was not part of the Sky News feed that plays at train station screens.
Allan has snookered herself with her hysterical over-reaction. The Transport Minister can’t switch platform TVs to an ABC news feed or the Seven Network or Ten because all of them have aired or tried to air Cottrell. Perhaps a 24-hour stream of E! News and Kimmy K will keep commuters “comfortable”. When the state decides to censor for comfortable ideas, we have reached a deeper level of trouble for our liberty.
Victoria’s Nineteen Eighty-Four moment a week earlier involved the state’s Department of Health and Human Services telling public servants what pronouns to use, with the first Wednesday of each month set aside as “They Day”.
A video for public servants made by public servants features enforcement officer Naomi Shimoda and others talking about the need for inclusive gender-neutral pronouns. It allows people to “self-define” and to “make space so their pronouns are legitimate and respected.”
Some will say that people should be able to choose whatever pronoun they want and that it is only polite that others respect that choice. Others will say “blah, blah, blah” and wave the kerfuffle away as just another episode of nutty political correctness by busybody social activists. The sceptics know to be beware of the blah, blah, blah because the battle over gender-neutral pronouns in other countries is a hint of where we may be headed. Not for nothing, the self-appointed pronoun police behind the “They Day” video included an enforcement officer. Silly-sounding nonsense has a habit of attracting enforcers, be they vigilante-style citizens or bureaucrats and legislators, who tell us what we are allowed to say, read, watch, even laugh at. And inevitably, what we are allowed to think. It is the death of liberty by a thousand cuts.
Language police in the ACT Labor caucus want to do away with references to Mr, Miss, Mrs or Ms in the ACT parliament. No more Madam Speaker. And it is Member Smith instead of Mr Smith. The Bolsheviks wanted to do away with gender too, so why not just call him Comrade Smith, source some bleak-coloured Bolshevik uniforms and declare victory?
Labor’s proposals are not about respecting diversity. This is an agenda to force the same grey and genderless linguistic uniform on everyone. Cleansing gender from pronouns is about killing difference. Being polite is one thing; but political correctness moved beyond civility long ago, if that was ever the aim. When the cleansing of language is backed by directives, regulations or laws, it compels us to speak in one particular way. By stopping us from speaking freely, the aim is to stop us thinking freely. And that is antithetical to freedom in a liberal society.
An obscure Canadian psychologist became a cultural rock star because he explained, in a calm and reasoned manner, why he would not be forced to use speech prescribed by the state. Nor would he stop using words proscribed by the state. Less than two years ago, Jordan Peterson took a stand against Canada’s proposed Bill C-16, which effectively compels the use of gender-neutral pronouns by adding legal protection to “gender identity” and “gender expression”.
Peterson was on to something long before the rest of us. Within six months of the bill becoming law, Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, was called into a university administrator’s office and condemned by professors for showing a clip that was “threatening” and “transphobic”. Her professorial accusers said it created a “toxic climate” for students and was the equivalent of “neutrally playing a speech by Hitler”. She was accused of breaching C-16 laws. Shepherd’s crime was to show her students — during a tutorial on how language affects society — a televised debate between two people with different views about gender and pronouns. One of the speakers was Peterson.
We know the details because a teary Shepherd recorded the meeting, which could be slotted seamlessly into chapter 5 of Nineteen Eighty-Four just before Winston discusses with Syme, a specialist in Newspeak, how the dictionary of approved language is progressing. C-16 has weaponised gender-neutral pronouns in the hands of human rights bureaucrats and complainants, and that is a chilling threat to freedom.
Ten years ago, the Alberta Human Rights Commission investigated a complaint brought against Ezra Levant for publishing the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. The complaint was dropped, but not before a bur¬eaucrat questioned Levant about his intention in publishing the cartoons. The interrogation reminded Levant of Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”.
“No six-foot brown shirt here, no police cell at midnight,” he wrote. “Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she’ll write up a report about it, and recommend that the government do this or that to me … I had half-expected a combative, missionary-style interrogator. I found, instead, a limp clerk who was just punching the clock … In a way, that’s more terrifying.”
O Canada! How it has made a mockery of being “The True North, strong and free”. A free society is curtailed by stealth when out-of-sight bur-eaucrats investigate the free expression of words, ideas and cartoons. And freedom lost is not easily reinstated. An Australian law compelling us to use certain pronouns may not be far off because we have followed Canada before. We pick¬ed up Canada’s gift to the world, multiculturalism. And just as the Canadian Human Rights Commission has gone awry, accused by founder Alan Borovoy for falling into disrepute, our own Australian Human Rights Commission has wrecked its reputation, too. When was the last time the AHRC focused on core human rights such as free speech or property rights? Instead, it is a bloated bureaucracy whose enforcers protect hurt feelings, not human rights.
And dob-in-a-dissident was sanctioned when Race Commissar — oops, Commissioner — Tim Soutphommasane touted for business when The Australian’s Bill Leak drew a cartoon that threw into sharp relief the complex issues of individual responsibility and the dismal plight of indigenous children. Yet Soutphommasane had nothing to say about a dance performance in Melbourne this year where white people were told to wait in the lobby while the performance began inside the theatre. His departure is a blessing for anyone committed to genuine human rights.
The AHRC’s wretched handling of complaints against three Queensland University of Technology students who posted on Facebook about the absurdity of racial segregation only confirmed its role as an anti-human rights bureaucracy. The career epitaph of former commission boss Gillian Triggs should read: “Sadly you can say what you like around the kitchen table at home.”
Examples abound of bureaucracies that have run amok when armed with social engineering laws that were once seen as innocuous nonsense. Applauding the recent decision of the US to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council, Liberal MP Julian Leeser has pointed out that this council is not some harmless bureaucracy.
Delivering the 2018 B’nai B’rith Human Rights Address, Leeser said that human rights had often been hijacked and “in the (UN) Human Rights Council we see a blatant attempt by those who oppose liberal democratic ideals to commandeer the apparatus of human rights so that they might hide and obstruct its abuses”.
“We read Orwell as a warning; they read Orwell as a textbook,” he said. The young MP then took aim at the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, established by Kevin Rudd’s Labor government. Leeser, who has served on the committee for two years, called for its abolition on the grounds that it is not really a committee of the parliament.
“It is a bureaucracy that has appropriated the name of the parliament. The committee is about bureaucrats judging parliament, rather than the parliament judging human rights.” And just about every report attacks the government’s legislative agenda “in the form of rehashed talking points from left-wing and social justice groups that have no connection to ‘real’ human rights”.
In 1994, before he became prime minister, John Howard warned about the rise of cultural McCarthyism in this country. Talk about mission creep. Who could have foreseen their reach and influence? Short of securing legislative wins, social engineers under¬stand that getting, holding and extending their power through unelected bureaucracies is critical to the pursuit of creating public-free zones where real power vests, far away from prying democratic processes. No one knows how the current batch of social experiments will end. But history shows that something that sounds harmless, like a friendly video about gender-neutral pronouns put out by bureaucrats, can end up curtailing our liberty.


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
Thought Police. It raises the interesting question of policing. Normally policing is for crimes. The idea of thought being a crime raises the issue of systems organized around certain thought pictures. It is of course the fear that a certain type of expression will lead to overt effects, whether a challenge to the structure in place, or perhaps a reversion to nasty social oppression of the past, that leads people to conclude that free expression might cause criminal acts.

When systems are in conflict, thought police are likely to show up. I have been instructed numerous times on-line about what I need to think, to support the good and true.

In Germany it is against the law to use Nazi symbols or to deny the Holocaust. I think their fear is well-founded. In America, the ACLU is probably the foremost protector of rights to such odious expression. It expresses a certain faith in humanity, and in verification of facts, to suppose that the most sensible values will be able to appeal to people without the need of enforcement. If I lived in 1950s Germany, I would not have had such faith.

So that raises the question. Why is the Federalist Society afraid of judges who think for themselves? Why are the diversity police afraid of people using traditional normative language? Why are the Mainstream Media afraid of facts (if, indeed, they are)? It seems to me when systems are in conflict and we charge thought policing, we are engaging with some obligation to explain why we think enforcement is required by those policing, and why freedom will undermine the goals that motivate those police.



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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
I just finished reading Part 1. Not sure how to "discuss" the book. It's been a part of my thinking for a long time, the concepts always there. But I'm glad to be reading it again because I'm sure I've conflated it with lots of other dystopian works. Philip K. Dick comes to mind. Long after I read Orwell I read Dick's works, and I expect I've mixed some memories of 1984 with Galactic Pot-Healer. Time to get things sorted out.

Thanks for the article on Newspeak in Australia, Robert. In the US we're told that we can not only self-identify our gender, but our race as well. Mr. O'Toole can choose to be Chinese today, and if you object, well then you're just doubleplusungood.

A short video about ESL students (English Second Language) being educated on gender pronouns. Save your copies of it, folks, before Youtube pulls it down:

youtube.com/watch?v=IzNGkwGYE4E&fea ... e=youtu.be

The ACLU no longer defends conservative causes, or they rarely do. An article from a couple months ago:

The ACLU Retreats From Free Expression

The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm “marginalized” groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.”

wsj.com/articles/the-aclu-retreats-from ... 1529533065

A pdf of their new guidelines is here:

online.wsj.com/public/resources/documen ... 21ACLU.pdf


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
KindaSkolarly wrote:
The ACLU no longer defends conservative causes, or they rarely do. An article from a couple months ago:

The ACLU Retreats From Free Expression

The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm “marginalized” groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.”

We already knew, and the ACLU has long ago acknowledged, that some speech harms marginalized groups. This is typical WSJ op-ed stuff. I couldn't read the WSJ link due to paywall, but it distorts (and I suspect you have further distorted) what the policy says. In fact the pdf clearly states that the content of speech should not be decisive and that it intends to continue defending the speech rights of scurrilous groups such as white supremacists.

Of course we don't really know if anything has changed until we see how their policy plays out over time, but on the face of it, there is no change here.



Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:52 am
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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
I was rather gratified that the article from Australia didn't detail prescribed speech efforts by the U.S. government. There probably are some, but perhaps we're somewhat more insulated than those Commonwealth countries. The speech codes on college campuses here, we're all familiar with.

I trust we won't forget during this discussion that sales of 1984 spiked a couple of years ago, and the reason had nothing to do with legislating pronoun use or nonsense on campuses.



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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
Orwell's writing is taut and spare, and he's especially good at creating a prevailing atmosphere of decay and hopelessness amid the distinct menace of the fascist state. Orwell takes good advantage of the suspense potential in Winston Smith's predicament. When will the bad-thinking Smith be found out and whisked away? The execution of any piece of writing is always the primary thing I look for, the themes are secondary. It's possible for a novel to be famous for its themes yet be a poor novel. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is for me an example.

Orwell's police state didn't come to be; we know that 35 years after the date Orwell chose in his setting. But that of course misses the point and doesn't mean Orwell was wrong. There is a large element of satire in 1984 just as there is in Animal Farm. We will not be arriving at Oceania's Airstrip One at any time, probably. Satire takes little germs of things and imagines them bigger and simpler than they really are. Orwell paints in one color in 1984 in order to deliver a focused vision of a future, unencumbered by the realist novelist's need to show the multiplicity of life, all the shades and shadows. We'd be wrong to disregard warnings in 1984 just because we find ourselves in a world that is, materially, far different from that of Orwell's nightmare.

Well, such a political novel will inevitably elicit political commentary. We've had a little so far, and of course we know that Orwell wrote with an eye to what was going on in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s and what had happened in Germany. Did he also see tendencies to go that way in Western countries? It would seem so.

As for the book's rise in popularity over the past several years, it's not all Donald Trump. The 2013 surveillance scare might have been the first impetus. Then, in early 2017, Kellyanne Conway's claim that Sean Spicer gave "alternative facts" regarding the size of Trump's inauguration crowd, caused sales to spike. Going back into the Obama years, we can probably find intimations of Orwell in the doings of our government. Of course, The Vietnam era was full of government propaganda and lies. In a documentary of WW I, I saw how hard citizens fell for propaganda urging them to drop their isolationism. So perhaps 1984 is really about a desire by government to control us that is not new, but is given more power by technology. Witness 1984's telescreens.

To mention contemporary affairs, I see a bit of similarity between the Two Minutes Hate and the president whipping the crowd into a fury against the press, who are sitting in the middle of the arena. The president needs enemies just as Oceania does; he selects immigrants and various countries, with the exception of most authoritarian ones. He tries to make Hillary Clinton his Goldstein. His administration shows a decided preference for "alternative facts." It supports propagandist notions such as the Deep State.



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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
Comments on 1984

Bleak. Depressing. Invasive. Frightening. Oppressive.

The first chapter of 1984 sets the scene of the bleak, depressing, invasive, frightening and oppressive dystopia that George Orwell prophesied for our world in modern times. How much of his vision came true is hard to say. He certainly picked up big trends and trajectories, and his confronting picture has done much to generate moral caution about the power of the state and the tendencies towards conformist control.

Western Civilization claims a focus on the American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, against which 1984 stands as a blunt warning of the perilous danger that these moral principles are being hollowed out by large economic, political and cultural forces.

Thin cabbage soup is one of the first smells we encounter on page one. A sense of grinding poverty and hypocrisy pervades the air. The totalitarian antinomies, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, are introduced on page three.

An antinomy is a contradiction between two apparently equally valid principles, or a fundamental and apparently unresolvable conflict or contradiction. Orwell equates the opposites in the three slogans of the Party to illustrate the fundamental confusions of modern politics flowing from strategic observations that security requires vigilance and stability requires conformity.

The joy of fiction is that tendencies can be presented in extreme form, in ways that could never be sustained because their logical paradox is presented as clear irrational assertion. By flatly making untrue claims, the Party uses the Newspeak principle of blackwhite to demand cowering obedience. Against an organisation that says war is peace, mere reasoned argument is helpless.

When slavery gets called freedom in the brave new world, people are bullied into a bewildered sense that even though their subjective experience seems to be enslaved, they must be unaware of a higher truth in which their oppression is justified, through the objective omniscience of Big Brother.


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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
I will have more to say later, but the discussion of the antimonies reminded me of my all-time favorite comic (not just the strip in general, but that particular one is the best)

https://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/1985/01/27



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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
DWill wrote:
The execution of any piece of writing is always the primary thing I look for, the themes are secondary. It's possible for a novel to be famous for its themes yet be a poor novel. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is for me an example.
I am also watching how Orwell does things. By the time this was written he was a past master of arranging ideas and words, yet it reaches beyond what he had done before.

DWill wrote:
Orwell's police state didn't come to be; we know that 35 years after the date Orwell chose in his setting. But that of course misses the point and doesn't mean Orwell was wrong.
The Western world evolved in the opposite direction, with people claiming all sorts of individual freedom that seemed almost unimaginable in 1948. Yet the seemingly dated urge to fascism seems not to have gone away at all, and we now have cause to question the argument that such impulses can only take root in soil that lacks the depth of time and experience.

DWill wrote:
We will not be arriving at Oceania's Airstrip One at any time, probably. Satire takes little germs of things and imagines them bigger and simpler than they really are. Orwell paints in one color in 1984 in order to deliver a focused vision of a future,

I have not read far into the novel yet, and it has been a long, long time since I read it last. The two minutes hate episode was one I remembered from my youth. But it really came alive for me now. Not only because of the rallies with "Lock Her Up!" and "Drain The Swamp!"
which bring back the Leni Riefenstahl imagery used in the film Orwell imagines, but also from understandings learned with things like "The Third Wave" classroom experience of the attractiveness of fascism en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave_(e ... xperiment)
and drug-enhanced club dancing.

It was fascinating how the main character experienced both assent and dissent in the same few minutes. One suspects that Orwell was drawing on interviews with people who had been part of mass movements, and perhaps his own experience (with the church?). The mind is not infinitely malleable, but it is easier to shape and to mold than most people realize.

It was also interesting to see Smith's observation of his own reaction to film footage of scary threats. It made him tune in emotionally to the scapegoating process and to actually experience fear about the supposed conspiracies around them all, the Brotherhood that was trying to undermine society, etc. I have been aware for some time that fear is part of the authoritarian formula, but it helped to make the connection when Winston Smith observed being caught up in it as well. Presumably Orwell's sources had some experience on which to base his narrative of ambivalence.
DWill wrote:
unencumbered by the realist novelist's need to show the multiplicity of life, all the shades and shadows.

We'd be wrong to disregard warnings in 1984 just because we find ourselves in a world that is, materially, far different from that of Orwell's nightmare.

To me the biggest message of 1984 is that "the shades and shadows" gave way before the organized process of authoritarian manipulation that was fascism. It took different forms in Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan and Spain - each had its own version. Yet the struggle between a controlling elite and the free-wheeling natural society was similar in each case. I don't think we have a handle yet on the extent to which these things are made possible by modern technology, or the extent to which the modern pace of change ("Future Shock") causes the fear that drives the artificial solidarity.

DWill wrote:
To mention contemporary affairs, I see a bit of similarity between the Two Minutes Hate and the president whipping the crowd into a fury against the press, who are sitting in the middle of the arena. The president needs enemies just as Oceania does; he selects immigrants and various countries, with the exception of most authoritarian ones. He tries to make Hillary Clinton his Goldstein. His administration shows a decided preference for "alternative facts." It supports propagandist notions such as the Deep State.

The Deep State is Trump's "Brotherhood." I can't think Trump ever studied 1984 but I would not at all be surprised to find Viktor Orban, who is now hanging around with Steve Bannon, start to use some of the same methods, of hate rallies and conspiracy theories (oops, he was doing that before Bannon) and, oh well, I guess he is also already targeting the dissenting press and making use of the Big Lie. Goebbels lives, not because people hope to emulate Goebbels but because his methods capture something deep in the psyche.



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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
George Orwell wrote:
Behind Winston’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, 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 as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time.

This vision of the complete destruction of privacy is an aspect of the Orwellian world that the internet and mobile telephony have partly enabled. The ability of private companies to secretly listen to conversations and target advertising based on internet activity, together with the deep state information gathered by the National Security Agency, illustrates these fears.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/4295350/d ... every-day/
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Fri Sep 07, 2018 7:41 pm
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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
I am only up to page 55 (sigh) but again I feel some stirring of ideas that want to be sorted out. I am reading about Winston Smith's work in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth. What snagged my attention first was that one of his assignments to "rectify" the records, manufacturing some new fake news to replace the old fake news, was "complex."

It seems to me there is a fundamental contradiction between the Party wanting people like Smith to do their work "mindlessly" and asking them to do work that is complex. I have long suspected that a fundamentally zero-sum mindset, which nearly every dictator has, is incompatible with a truly productive economy. It isn't so much that the dictator fears anyone else having a valuable role, so that they are not completely subject to his will (it's always a "him", isn't it?) though I think that is part of it. Nor is it that the dictator cannot envision a system of mutual benefit, though that probably plays a role in generating cognitive dissonance when people make noises about "Win-Win" outcomes (which our Dear Leader apparently thinks of as happy talk to provide a smokescreen for a liberal power grab).

It's more, I think, that the dictator does not care about anything that can't be converted into the currency of his own power. That is, dictators may not feel an instinct calling on them to suppress valuable contributions by others, but their zero-sum view will lead them to oppose any actual reward going to such a contribution. A reward going to others (unless he grants it) must almost automatically correspond to a reduction in his power.

There is a difference between a corrupt "imperial" system which taxes the productivity of others in order to pay for power, and a system whose entire point is to control all power. This is what I remember from my previous reading of the book, in middle school: the chilling lack of interest by O'Brien and the Inner Party in anything except power. To say it is sadism is just a cliché. To consider the implications for all of human welfare is a complex task. The kind that power is unlikely to want to reward, if it only conceives of power for its own sake.

The implication is that the Party must enlist the individual in doublethink, in which one's natural effort to use the mind is overridden by an instinct for appearing to follow party policy (which is to say, for submitting). Religions have managed to do a certain amount of that - getting a person to censor themselves and rule over their own unruly curiosity rather than risk offending the Cosmic Snoop. But it was always understood that this was for some larger, loving purpose, and only the most ruthless religious systems have gotten people to completely abandon their own sense of supporting such a purpose.

It was interesting to read "The Orphan Master's Son" (OMS) about life in North Korea because it brought such a society to life. The lack of initiative and creativity was as much a function of pervasive poverty, in that version, as it was of the madness of power by the Dear Leader and his henchmen. But the working out of its mechanisms, whether completely imaginative or based partly on reports from within the DPRK, was fascinating.

As Orwell intuited, the creativity involved in anticipating what the Party was looking for was one of the greatest challenges to which the NK minds might be put. Adam Johnson, the author of OMS, may have gotten the insight from Orwell rather than actual knowledge of NK society, I don't know. But he does a great job with the theme.

The flip side of this repression of human creativity is the generation of reading material for the proles, which is the other thing that struck me in this section. Orwell is partly commenting on the lack of interest in "public affairs" by the proletariat: their divorce from anything deeper or more important than the amusements of ordinary life, such as romance, sex, sports and crime. (Any resemblance to the business model of Rupert Murdoch is surely accidental.) But the formulaic quality of the material turned out for them is a feature, not a bug.

I once heard a talk by a successful Romance writer on whether the "Sin, Suffer, Repent" formula was outliving its popularity. The writer's conclusion was, "Never." People have a hunger for certain kinds of stories that set up tensions representing the inner tensions in their own lives, and then resolve them in a reassuring way. It is as predictable and necessary as "the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift" in chord progressions.

I fear I am a long way from knowing whether the kind of mind and personality who feels at home in such repetition is a recurring type which leads to being in the "proles" or whether the stress of being at the bottom of the pyramid makes people crave the formulaic repetition. It may be some mix of the two that is even now undergoing some kind of change as conditions evolve.



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DWill
Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:56 pm
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Post Re: 1984 by George Orwell - a discussion of Part 1
Robert Tulip wrote:
This vision of the complete destruction of privacy is an aspect of the Orwellian world that the internet and mobile telephony have partly enabled.
I turn those features off, because this stuff gives me the creeps, but I realize even my browser is watching me. In some sense the Big Data economy is innocuous, because targeting ads is a long way from controlling people. But as the Economist noted, the Cambridge Analytica scandal moved things up to a different level because the manipulation of people "on average" is quite potent in the aggregate, just as voter turnout campaigns are.

The first best solution is for people to inform themselves and think carefully about things, with lots of nice discussion on the internet to spice the process up. But we may have to settle for some kind of second best which gives individuals power over the types of uses to which their data records may be put. Europe has moved in that direction, and nobody thinks it will significantly decrease the efficiency of social media advertising spending.

Personally I would not mind going to a paid system of social media. I pay for our news, and while it is not a trivial amount of money it gives me a sense of empowering the forces of truth in the world. If Facebook gave me an option of paying 20 dollars a month and in exchange they would forget everything about me, I think I would probably take it. Same for email, at least if Gmail would get better at filtering spam.



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