Class 10, October 30th, “Nineteen eighty four review and assessment”

I.- Text 1

JUNE 11, 2013

So Are We Living in 1984?

Since last week’s revelations of the scope of the United States’ domestic surveillance operations, George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” which was published sixty-four years ago this past Saturday, has enjoyed a massive spike in sales. The book has been invoked by voices as disparate as Nicholas Kristof and Glenn Beck. Even Edward Snowden, the twenty-nine-year-old former intelligence contractor turned leaker, sounded, in the Guardian interview in which he came forward, like he’d been guided by Orwell’s pen. But what will all the new readers and rereaders of Orwell’s classic find when their copy arrives? Is Obama Big Brother, at once omnipresent and opaque? And are we doomed to either submit to the safety of unthinking orthodoxy or endure re-education and face what horrors lie within the dreaded Room 101? With Orwell once again joining a culture-wide consideration of communication, privacy, and security, it seemed worthwhile to take another look at his most influential novel.

“Nineteen Eighty-Four” begins on a cold April morning in a deteriorated London, the major city of Airstrip One, a province of Oceania, where, despite advances in technology, the weather is still lousy and residents endure a seemingly endless austerity. The narrator introduces Winston, a thirty-nine-year-old man beset by the fatigue of someone older, who lives in an apartment building that smells of “boiled cabbage” and works as a drone in the Ministry of Truth, which spreads public falsehoods. The first few pages contain all the political realities of this future society: the Police Patrol snoops in people’s windows, and Thought Police, with more insidious power, linger elsewhere. Big Brother, the totalitarian figurehead, stares out from posters plastered throughout the city, and private telescreens broadcast the Party’s platform and its constant stream of infotainment. Everyone simply assumes that they are always being watched, and most no longer know to care. Except for Winston, who is different, compelled as if by muscle memory to court danger by writing longhand in a real paper journal.

Thinking about Edward Snowden on Sunday, it wasn’t much of a leap to imagine him and his colleagues working in some version of Oceania’s Ministry of Truth, gliding through banal office gigs whose veneer of nine-to-five technocratic normality helped to hide their more sinister reality. Holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong, Snowden seemed, if you squinted a bit, like Orwell’s protagonist-hero Winston, had he been a bit more ambitious, and considerably more lucky, and managed to defect from Oceania to its enemy Eastasia and sneak a message to the telescreens back home. In fact, at one point in his interview with the Guardian, Snowden could be channelling the novel’s narrator, or at least delivering a spirited synopsis of the book:

If living unfreely but comfortably is something you’re willing to accept, and I think many of us are, it’s the human nature, you can get up every day, you can go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows. But if you realize that’s the world that you helped create, and it’s going to get worse with the next generation, and the next generation, who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk, and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied.

Are we living in “Nineteen Eighty-Four”? The technological possibilities of surveillance and data collection and storage surely surpass what Orwell imagined. Oceania’s surveillance state operates out in the open, since total power has removed any need for subterfuge: “As for sending a letter through the mails, it was out of the question. By a routine that was not even secret, all letters were opened in transit,” the narrator explains. This sounds like an analogue version of what Snowden describes: “The N.S.A., specifically, targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default.” That seems like a safe operating assumption about e-mails, texts, or telephone calls—even if a person is not saying anything interesting or controversial, and even if no one is actually monitoring our communication, the notion that one’s personal digital messages would remain inviolably private forever, or that they would not be saved or stored, was probably naïve. Regardless of the actual scope of the government’s snooping programs, the notion of digital privacy must now, finally and forever, seem a mostly quaint one.

Meanwhile, words, as Amy Davidson points out, are manipulated by the three branches of government to make what might seem illegal legal—leading to something of a parallel language that rivals Orwell’s Newspeak for its soulless, obfuscated meaning. And, indeed, there has been a hint of something vaguely Big Brotherian in Obama’s response to the public outcry about domestic surveillance, as though, by his calm manner and clear intelligence, the President is asking the people to merely trust his beneficence—which many of us might be inclined to do. Even Winston, after all, learns to love Big Brother in the end.

Still, all but the most outré of political thinkers would have to grant that we are far from the crushing, violent, single-party totalitarian regime of Orwell’s imagination. In one of the more chilling passages in the novel, the evil Party hack O’Brien explains, “We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about.” The N.S.A., on the other hand, is primarily interested in overt acts, of terrorism and its threats, and presumably—or at least hopefully—less so in the thoughts themselves. The war on terror has been compared to Orwell’s critique of “the special mental atmosphere” created by perpetual war, but recently Obama made gestures toward bringing it to an end. That is not to say, of course, that we should not be troubled by the government’s means, nor is it clear that the ends will remain as generally benevolent as they seem today. But Orwell’s central image of unrestrained political power, a “boot stamping on a human face—forever,” is not the reality of our age.

While it’s tempting to hold the present moment up beside Orwell’s 1984, the book is more than a political totem, and overlooking its profound expressions of emotion robs it of most of its real power. Some novels have both the good and bad fortune of being given over to wider history, inspiring idiomatic phrases that instantly communicate a commonly understood idea. Through this transformation, books become blunt and unsubtle, losing something of their art. We might call it the Catch-22 of “Catch-22,” or, in this case, of “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

“Nineteen Eighty-Four” is not simply a cold counterfactual. Instead, it is a love story between Winston and Julia, a younger member of the civil service, and, like many great novels, some of its high points can be found in the minor moments shared between these two characters. Their first real meeting, because of its implicit danger, is one of the more breathtakingly romantic scenes in modern literature—a mixture of lust and decorum like something out of Austen. In the office hallway, Julia slips Winston a piece of paper, a dangerous act. Filled with nervous excitement, he returns to his desk and waits a full eight minutes to look at it. When he does, the words appear as a jolt: “I love you.” They arrange to meet in a crowd in order to remain anonymous. Among a mass of people, standing close, their hands touch. A love affair follows—they go to the countryside, like Adam and Eve attempting to push their way back into Eden. Later, they keep a small flat. The Party’s stamping out of sex is an essential mode of control. But love, it seems, may exist in a place beyond the government’s reach:

They could lay bare in the utmost detail everything that you had done or said or thought; but the inner heart, whose workings were mysterious even to yourself, remained impregnable.

But, in the end, even that place can be found—love is also a political act, and so it must be destroyed, and Orwell uses its dissolution as final, terrible evidence of the scope of oppression. Winston and Julia are broken by the Party, forced to inform on each other and, later, made to live on with the memory of having done so. The two meet a final time, and share a muted exchange, akin to one of the clipped, inarticulate breakup scenes from Hemingway, in which, bruised by heartache, no one can quite think of the right thing to say. Julia explains that by denouncing Winston, she has somehow obliterated him:

“And after that, you don’t feel the same toward the other person any longer.”

“No,” he said, “you don’t feel the same.”

Were this just a novel, rather than ideological novel with an aim to warn and instruct, it might have ended here, in ambivalence, leaving out the clever and rather heavy-handed turn of Winston’s final conversion. If so, its political utility might be less clear, but we would be left instead with its artistic force and mysterious inner workings.

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II.- Text 2

Noam Chomsky – “10 strategies of manipulation” by the media

Renowned critic and always MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, one of the classic voices of  intellectual dissent in the last decade, has compiled a list of the ten most common and effective strategies resorted to by the agendas “hidden” to establish a manipulation of the population through the media.Historically the media have proven highly efficient to mold public opinion. Thanks to the media paraphernalia and propaganda, have been created or destroyed social movements, justified wars, tempered financial crisis, spurred on some other ideological currents, and even given the phenomenon of media as producers of reality within the collective psyche. But how to detect the most common strategies for understanding these psychosocial tools which, surely, we participate? Fortunately Chomsky has been given the task of synthesizing and expose these practices, some more obvious and more sophisticated, but apparently all equally effective and, from a certain point of view, demeaning. Encourage stupidity, promote a sense of guilt, promote distraction, or construct artificial problems and then magically, solve them, are just some of these tactics.

The strategy of distraction

The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, by the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information. distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public interest in the essential knowledge in the area of the science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics. “Maintaining public attention diverted away from the real social problems, captivated by matters of no real importance. Keep the public busy, busy, busy, no time to think, back to farm and other animals (quote from text Silent Weapons for Quiet War ).”

Create problems, then offer solutions

This method is also called “problem -reaction- solution. “It creates a problem, a “situation” referred to cause some reaction in the audience, so this is the principal of the steps that you want to accept. For example: let it unfold and intensify urban violence, or arrange for bloody attacks in order that the public is the applicant‟s security laws and policies to the detriment of freedom. Or: create an economic crisis to accept as a necessary evil retreat of social rights and the dismantling of public services.

The gradual strategy

acceptance to an unacceptable degree, just apply it gradually, dropper, for consecutive years. That is how they radically new socioeconomic conditions ( neoliberalism ) were imposed during the 1980s and 1990s: the minimal state, privatization, precariousness, flexibility, massive unemployment, wages, and do not guarantee a decent income, so many changes that have brought about a revolution if they had been applied once.

The strategy of deferring

Another way to accept an unpopular decision is to present it as “painful and necessary”, gaining public acceptance, at the time for future application. It is easier to accept that a future sacrifice of immediate slaughter. First, because the effort is not used immediately. Then, because the public, masses, is always the tendency to expect naively that “everything will be better tomorrow” and that the sacrifice required may be avoided. This gives the public more time to get used to the idea of change and accept it with resignation when the time comes.

Go to the public as a little child

Most of the advertising to the general public uses speech, argument, people and particularly children‟s intonation, often close to the weakness, as if the viewer were a little child or a mentally deficient. The harder one tries to deceive the viewer look, the more it tends to adopt a tone infantilising. Why? “If one goes to a person as if she had the age of 12 years or less, then, because of suggestion, she tends with a certain probability that a response or reaction also devoid of a critical sense as a person 12 years or younger (see Silent Weapons for Quiet War ).”

 Use the emotional side more than the reflection

Making use of the emotional aspect is a classic technique for causing a short circuit on rational analysis , and finally to the critical sense of the individual. Furthermore, the use of emotional register to open the door to the unconscious for implantation or grafting ideas , desires, fears and anxieties , compulsions, or induce behaviors …

Keep the public in ignorance and mediocrity

Making the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used to control and enslavement. “The quality of education given to the lower social classes must be the poor and mediocre as possible so that the gap of ignorance it plans among the lower classes and upper classes is and remains impossible to attain for the lower classes (See „ Silent Weapons for Quiet War ).”

To encourage the public to be complacent with mediocrity

Promote the public to believe that the fact is fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and uneducated…

Self-blame Strengthen

To let individual blame for their misfortune, because of the failure of their intelligence, their abilities, or their efforts. So, instead of rebelling against the economic system, the individual auto-devaluate and guilt, which creates a depression, one of whose effects is to inhibit its action. And, without action, there is no revolution!

Getting to know the individuals better than they know themselves

Over the past 50 years, advances of accelerated science has generated a growing gap between public knowledge and those owned and operated by dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology and applied psychology, the “system” has enjoyed a sophisticated understanding of human beings, both physically and psychologically. The system has gotten better acquainted with the common man more than he knows himself. This means that, in most cases, the system exerts greater control and great power over individuals, greater than that of individuals about themselves.

III.- Assessment:

Assessment 1984

For an example of an article, refer to the following link:


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