1984
(Society,Politics)
Mike Hauser (17 July 2020 18:02:00)
Mike Hauser

In 1949, George Orwell wrote a book called Nineteen Eighty Four. You may have read it. If not, you should.

Nineteen Eighty Four is about a dystopian future world in which the protagonist, Winston Smith, while working for the government, despises it, and is eventually forced by the state to love it instead. This book was such an important work of literature that many of its concepts have entered our culture as independent ideas, and are known to people who have never read the book. What's important is that, although our modern world isn't the world of that book, in some ways it frighteningly resembles the world of that book.

Winston works in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, one of the ministries of "The Party" which runs the superstate of Oceania, where he lives. His job is to rewrite historical records and literature to conform to whatever the Party currently mandates as acceptable. This is one of many ways in which the Ministry of Truth seeks to shape the thinking of the populace. They also redefine language toward the same end. Shaping the language serves to shape thought, which must at all time conform to the agenda of the Party. Those who do not conform are known as "thought criminals", and are either tortured and brainwashed to accept the Party's agenda, or killed and removed from history.

The following are some of the ways the Party coerces the cooperation and acceptance of the populace of Oceania, and how these ideas show up in our real world.

Constant Surveillance

Citizens of Oceania are being constantly surveilled by the Party. Every home has a "telescreen" in it, which not only shows news and entertainment (like a television), but also allows the Party to monitor the private activities of its citizens. It's like a TV with a webcam you can't control.

If you own a laptop or a webcam, that same telescreen device potentially exists in your home. It is known that a webcam can be used by nefarious persons or entities to spy on you, without your knowledge. A similar thing is true for your cell phone. Is it being used by the government to spy on you? Unlikely. But what about your cell phone company? What about your internet service provider (ISP)? Could they use your devices to monitor your activities? Yes. Would they? Who knows?

Consider that if you have GPS working in your cell phone, your cell provider can track your movements. Certain applications insist on accessing your location in order to work. And it is also possible for hackers to use this capability as well.

But, you say, I'm not a criminal. So what if they know where I am? Why should anyone care? Fair enough. The point is not whether someone does use your devices to spy on you. The point is that they could. You think they probably wouldn't, because, after all, who are you? Which works up to the point where you catch the attention of someone or some entity which has a less than humanitarian agenda. Let's say a movement starts to target people who shop at Walmart. (Don't deny this out of hand. Walmart has taken a lot of heat from various groups for various reasons.) The people behind this movement hire hackers to monitor the locations of people in and around Walmart via their phones. This goes on for a while, and they capture the identities of thousands of Walmart shoppers. You are now one of the people on their list. What could they do? Perhaps their intent is benign; they simply want to sell you things. So they use your association with Walmart to advertise various specific goods on your cell phone.

But let's say their intent is not so benign. You may know that it is possible to gather a tremendous amount of data on a person on the Internet. Your social security number, height, weight, where you went to school, how old you are, what political affiliation you have, where you live, who your friends are. Don't believe me?

Last night, I was at a birthday party for my daughter. My teenage granddaughter was there. A hunky musician took the stage, with a sign next to him, giving his name. From this, my granddaughter was able to locate him on social media, and find out numerous things about him, some of which he might not have wanted to have known. And she's just a teenager with a cell phone. Imagine what a dedicated hacker could do.

But you persist-- you're a nobody and you've done nothing wrong. No one should care about what you do. Well, did you ever do anything to anyone or say anything which you probably shouldn't have? Celebrities have been fired when it was found that they made some offhand offensive remark years earlier. That could be you. Do you vote Democrat? Republican? Do you go to church? Do you work at a company other people might not like, even for idiotic reasons?

Interestingly, in 1973, a case referred to as "Roe v Wade" was decided by the Supreme Court. This case was about the right to have an abortion. The court decided that abortion was legal. In order to support that decision, they invented a "right to privacy". Abortion was a private matter, thus not subject to scrutiny by the government. We'll set aside the morality of abortion for the moment. The point is that the right to privacy became a law at that point.

When you sign up for a social media account, you give those companies a lot of personal information on yourself. Whether you know it or not, your privacy is being invaded constantly by companies who monitor your activities on the Internet and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.). Ostensibly, this monitoring (surveillance) is so that they can serve advertisements tailored to your tastes. Notice the word "ostensibly". The information gathered by these companies can be and is bought and sold on a daily basis, and no one looks very hard at who is buying it. For all you know, it could be Islamic Jihad.

Also worth noting is that in some places, particularly London, England, there are surveillance cameras almost everywhere. London is the most surveilled city in the world. Ostensibly, this is about reducing crime.

And don't forget, the NSA has taps into most of the telephone infrastructure of the United States. A few years ago, they built a brand new huge data center in Utah to hold all the data they capture. We don't know how much of Internet traffic is being captured by the NSA. But if you were running the NSA, wouldn't you capture all the Internet data you could, emails included?

When you think about surveillance as science fiction writers and most others write about it, you think in terms of surveillance by the government (as in London). But factually, you're being surveilled on a constant basis by Google, Amazon, Microsoft and a dozen other companies. You don't get a vote on what information these companies gather, nor what they do with it. And if someone ever wanted to target a certain group, like brown eyed women with tattoos, they could do so rather easily. You can use your imagination regarding what they might want to do.

Ever hear of the Fourth Amendment to the American constitution? It goes like this:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Doublethink/Doublespeak

In Nineteen Eighty Four, the Ministry of Truth constantly tampers with the language used for public discourse in an effort to alter the thinking and actions of the populace. The language is called Newspeak. One of the tactics used is to juxtapose two opposite ideas together and force citizens to accept both as true. It's called "doublethink" or "doublespeak". This, of course, results in confusion until one learns to simply accept the contradiction. Some examples from the book: "Freedom is slavery." "War is peace." "Ignorance is strength."

Naturally, this type of thing creates a contradiction in the mind which normally cannot be resolved. If a person is forced to accept the two opposite premises as true and accept the contradiction, their ability to think logically is lessened. Continue this for a long time, and their ability to think is all but obliterated. The state or the Party or whoever can say anything they like and you will accept it.

One of the peculiarities of human thought is that humans will try to make things make sense in their minds, even if they are nonsensical. "Bill the dwarf reached up and touched the top of the tree." Wait a minute. How could a dwarf (a very short person) touch the top of a tree (a very tall object)? Doesn't make sense. But what if Bill was a very tall dwarf? What if he was standing on a table or a ladder? What if it was a very short tree? The original statement is nonsense. But here you are trying invent ways to make it make sense. This is a bad habit of thought. Incidentally, this juxtaposition of contradictory things is behind a lot of our humor. Our laughter is a sign of our rejection of the juxtaposition. But if you've been trained to accept such opposites, humor naturally dies.

A few years back, when Obamacare was under consideration in Congress, Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House of Representatives) was asked what was in the bill. Her answer was that they would have to pass the bill to know what was in it. Seriously? Congress' job is to pass bills. To do that, you really should know what's in it first. Clearly, she didn't know, but was advocating for its passage so that we could then see what was in it. This is, of course, completely backward. It makes no sense, yet you were supposed to accept it. Some of us laughed at the absurdity of the statement. Congress apparently lacked a sense of humor.

Politicians are particularly guilty of this kind of speech.

Propaganda by redefinition of words

When I studied Russian in college, my instructor told me that the Soviets (this was before the fall of the Soviet Union) had a habit of redefining words for propaganda purposes. Related to this is the habit of replacing certain words with preferred other terms. This habit is not confined to the old Soviet Union. We see it today. During Obama's term as president, the word "oriental" was struck from federal legislation and regulations. For specious reasons, it had somehow, to a small percentage of people, become a slur. The preferred term was now "asian". In fact, "oriental" never had any derogatory component to it. Neither did the word "negro". Yet both have been replaced. Both are now considered slurs.

"Capitalist" was originally a person who makes income from the interest on money loaned to others. It still holds this definition in economics. Later, it has come to mean a wealthy person who invested in businesses as an owner. Now it is someone who exploits others, encourages war and holds workers down. This was not a natural change in the language, but propaganda forwarded by one group or another to suit an agenda.

A more relevant example is "marriage". For the whole history of Man, marriage has been defined as the sexual union of a man and a woman. But recently there has been a push by the 4% of the population which is homosexual to change the definition of marriage to include the sexual union of people of the same sex. I make no judgment here on homosexuality either way. But the agenda at play here was to "normalize" something which is not normal. Nothing common to only 4% of the population could be considered normal. This does not mean it's bad; simply not normal. Like left-handedness, which comes in at 10% of the population. Not bad, but not normal.

Curtailment of free speech

This is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes, and it is becoming a hallmark of ours. And again, the government isn't to blame here. It is generally grievance groups, and particularly those on social media. If you weren't aware, social media companies have become agenda driven, rather than being conduits for any content one wishes to post. They have become actively involved in taking down content which doesn't fit the narrative they share. If you don't believe in the WHO's narrative about COVID-19, your video is taken down. If you spout conservative conspiracy theories, your content is taken down (or your channel closed). Oddly, people who forward the flat earth conspiracy are left untouched.

There are numerous grievance groups and special interests who have an agenda involving the change or destruction of society in one way or another. Their rhetoric is filled with humanitarian platitudes and altruistic motives. But in fact, this is usually a ruse. If you knew what they actually wanted, you would shut them down immediately. Their actual intentions are generally revealed in what they do, not in what they say. But because you wouldn't put up with their actual agenda, they must shut down your free speech when it attempts to counter their narrative.

They believe that the ends justify the means. This actually translates to doing whatever is necessary, illegal, immoral or unethical, so long as it achieves the goal. This would be analogous to a soccer (football) team constantly fouling the opposing team's players to win the match.

And generally, that means shutting down your free speech. This is called censorship. When you see it, find out who did it and expose them.

Rewriting history

A hero's statue is taken down by or as a result of a group of complainers. A famous and influential 19th century author's books are edited to remove what some believe are offensive words (but which were not offensive when written).

These are examples of rewriting history. Winston Smith's job was precisely this. When the agenda of the Party changed, history and literature had to be changed to match it. People who were murdered by the Party were written out of the history books as though they had never existed.

From the book:

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered, and the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

Altering history is adding a lie to it.

My dorm in college was renamed because the fellow it was named after had apparently owned slaves. For all I know, he saved the world from nuclear holocaust. Maybe he cheated on his wife. Maybe he saved an old lady from being eaten by cougars. Maybe he smoked Luckys. But he owned slaves, so his name shall not be spoken again.

There is no legitimate reason ever to alter history. History is or should be the truth of our past, good, bad or indifferent. When you see it being rewritten, understand it is being done to satisfy some agenda you probably wouldn't agree to.

No, you don't live in Birmingham, Alabama, so it doesn't matter to you. True enough. But what happens when it comes to your town? When the statue of your great great grandfather the war hero, is targeted for removal?

You never read Tom Sawyer anyway, so who cares? Okay. But what happens when they decide to edit your Bible? What happens when they come for your college dissertation? Oh that would never happen. Really?

Three classes of believers

There are three classes of people who flock to a cause. The first are true believers. They are devoted to the cause, they sign up as full members of the Communist party, for example. They read the Communist Manifesto and believe every word. Then there are the fellow travelers. These people are sympathetic to the cause, but unwilling to go all the way and sign up for membership in the group. Someone told them what was in the communist manifesto, and they think that's sort of okay. (I'm using communism as an example only here. Substitute "Black Lives Matter", GLAAD, AFL-CIO or any other grievance group you like.) Last, there are the useful idiots. These are people who advocate for a cause without really understanding its goals. They are used by the leaders of the movement.

Most people walk around with little or no political awareness and a very shallow understanding of any movement. In fact, they don't want to be involved in politics. They want to vote for their leaders (sometimes grudgingly), and have them do the job, without themselves having to be involved in the process of government. These people are most prone to being useful idiots. If a cause sounds reasonable on the surface they will make some effort at promoting it. That is, if they get involved at all. They really don't want to think about this stuff. They just want to go to work, watch TV and take a vacation every year. Government and political movements are something far from them which they'd rather ignore.

Then there are people, mostly young people, who haven't been forced to confront the real world yet. They see things which they believe should change, and believe that it is part of their job to make some change in the world they see. College campuses are a breeding ground for these people, as there are so many others there like them. They actually choose causes to fight for. They read some of the literature and talk to their friends about it. They want to save the earth, stop pollution, end racial discrimination, and ensure everyone has a minimum livable income. They are foot soldiers, duped by the slick rhetoric of the true believers. But the truth is, they have never considered what the world would be like if their side actually won.

And then there are the true believers. Up to date on all the latest propaganda on their side, most or all of which they believe. But in general, their attitude is, "the ends justify the means". In reality, this translates to doing anything and everything, illegal immoral or unethical to win the day for their cause. If it means publishing the name and address of someone they violently disagree with. If it means getting a bunch of their friends together and complaining to Patreon that some person on that platform is spouting dangerous rhetoric. Whatever works. In point of fact, any arguments these people could make in favor of their cause are generally vacuous and specious. Try to argue with them, and sooner or later they will resort to an ad hominem argument. That is, they don't argue the point any more; they attack you for taking your position. At that point, you have won. Get so far down in the scaffolding of their logic, and you will find the illogical or false idea which causes the whole thing to collapse.

In conclusion

All of the things mentioned above, from a prophetic book written over 70 years ago are currently happening in our world today. But in our case, they aren't being promoted by our government. They're being promoted by people who have an insincere agenda, people who are lying about what they're trying to do. Listen to what they say, then watch what they do. Then consider what would happen if they won. How would their victory affect the rest of our society?

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