June 10th, 2019
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
We are living with a new kind of regime that didn’t exist in Orwell’s time. It combines hard nationalism—the diversion of frustration and cynicism into xenophobia and hatred—with soft distraction and confusion: a blend of Orwell and Huxley, cruelty and entertainment. The state of mind that the Party enforces through terror in 1984, where truth becomes so unstable that it ceases to exist, we now induce in ourselves. Totalitarian propaganda unifies control over all information, until reality is what the Party says it is—the goal of Newspeak is to impoverish language so that politically incorrect thoughts are no longer possible. Today the problem is too much information from too many sources, with a resulting plague of fragmentation and division—not excessive authority but its disappearance, which leaves ordinary people to work out the facts for themselves, at the mercy of their own prejudices and delusions.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, propagandists at a Russian troll farm used social media to disseminate a meme: “ ‘The People Will Believe What the Media Tells Them They Believe.’ — George Orwell.” But Orwell never said this. The moral authority of his name was stolen and turned into a lie toward that most Orwellian end: the destruction of belief in truth. The Russians needed partners in this effort and found them by the millions, especially among America’s non-elites. In 1984, working-class people are called “proles,” and Winston believes they’re the only hope for the future. As Lynskey points out, Orwell didn’t foresee “that the common man and woman would embrace doublethink as enthusiastically as the intellectuals and, without the need for terror or torture, would choose to believe that two plus two was whatever they wanted it to be.”