Referring to "1984" during talks of politics always seems to do a fine job of nipping the conversation in the bud. I find that referring all political arguments to this book is a succinct and effective tool for summing up my belief, or lack thereof, of politicians in general and political parties specifically.
The main character of the story is Winston Smith, who has the job of re-writing history in all available formats when one of the three existing superpowers is at war with another. By doing this, Big Brother keeps the citizens of Oceania brainwashed as to true world events. The other two superpowers, Eastasia and Eurasia, undoubtably operate in the same way as Oceania. One would think that such brain-washing would be unlikely, if not entirely impossible, except that Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin used mind control devices quite effectively during their regimes.
We learn of Big Brother's control of Winstom Smith's life from the very beginning of the story, when he is roused from slumber by his monitoring screen (telescreen). Big Brother has these mounted in every nook and cranny throughout Oceania and is watching for deviants from the acceptable behavior of Big Brother.
Our character, Winston, falls away from the acceptable norms of Oceania by thinking for himself. He falls in love with a co-worker and they try to form a plan to get out from under the watchful eye of Big Brother. Big Brother finds out and this is where the brutality of a totalitarian government is exposed.
I think about "1984" often, I see it as prophetic and genius. Orwell included some pretty ingenius contraptions in his tale. Located in the walls of Winston's building at work were waste disposals for incinerating the old news, there were vacuum tubes being used to transfer Winston's work assignments to and from his desk. It seemed that he worked on the internet - though it wasn't actually what we have these days, but it could be viewed as such in a loose sense of the word.
As for contemporary times and changing the news, how could that happen these days with so many web pages being uploaded daily? I suppose monitoring would be key. I imagine that given enough "Big Brother" employees, each page could easily be censored before being approved for display.
My lesson from "1984" was that I don't want any Big Brother watching me, I don't want Big Brother to be responsible for my food, clothing, shelter, or my health. Thank you Mr. Orwell for helping make my political conversations so simple.
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