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Is 2017 the new 1984?

1984, by George Orwell

The novel 1984, by George Orwell, is a dystopian novel set in the year 1984 in the nation of Oceania. The novel follows the life of the protagonist, Winston Smith, who begins a secret rebellion against the party and Big Brother. Big Brother is the face of the party, his posters are plastered across the city with the caption “Big Brother is watching you”. Big Brother symbolizes the oppressiveness of the totalitarian party, and represents all that is important to the citizens of Oceania. Winston begins his quiet rebellion by keeping a secret diary, in which he writes down his thoughts, which is a “thought crime” and is punishable by death. In a world where the media and party control history, thoughts, relationships, and people’s lives, Winston seeks freedom from Big Brother and the rules of the party.

In a way we are living in a modern day 1984, reading the novel you can’t help but notice the striking similarities to today’s world. The heavy influence of the media, government surveillance, and the use of propaganda as seen in 1984 is also apparent in today’s society. Today the media serves as our main source of information, and plays a major role in the shaping of our society and our public opinions. Sometimes we don’t even question the information we are being fed, we accept it as the truth, and place our trust in the media. In 1984, the citizens of Oceania do the same, they never question the party, and they believe whatever information is fed to them.

In the novel, all mail is opened and inspected, similar to how the NSA listens in on our phone calls, and reads through our texts and emails. Our own government is constantly keeping surveillance over its own citizens. And when the public cries out in anger, it’s told to calm down, and to “trust in the government”, that “they’re doing it for the good of the people”. Our government is like the party in 1984, our President being the face of our nation, serves as our own Big Brother, who calms us with his presidential addresses, which convince us to place our trust in him and the government. (Though the idea of Trump as our Big Brother is quite a scary thought).

In the novel, the party uses propaganda to form a strong sense of nation hood within Oceania, by creating a common enemy for its citizens to hate. Today we see propaganda being used to instill fear and hatred within people, in order to get them to support the actions and ideas of our government.

1984 must have seemed somewhat far fetched during Orwell’s time, but the fictional world today, provides some intriguing parallels which forces you to question yourself, your government, and society. Is it possible we’re heading down a path to a world similar to that in 1984? Or are we already living in it? Or maybe like the citizens of Oceania we either don’t notice, or we just don’t question it.

-Gabrielle O’Connor

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