In the final analysis, how accurate was Orwell in his vision of the future? In what ways does our contemporary society compare to his idea of society in 1984? Are there examples in which he was...

In the final analysis, how accurate was Orwell in his vision of the future? In what ways does our contemporary society compare to his idea of society in 1984? Are there examples in which he was correct? What is most contrary? Do you see a potential for aspects of Orwell's "vision" to come true? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interestingly, George Orwell was a socialist, but when he became aware of what he deduced as flaws in this ideology, he wrote against it. England, France, Sweden, Norway, Germany nowadays are considered European socialist/democracies, and America seems to be moving in this same direction. So, there are some aspects that parallel what is contained in the text of 1984.

  • "Big Brother is Watching You"

While these European countries and the U.S. differ from the socialist/communist state of Oceania, there are similarities these contemporary societies. In the United States, there is "political correctness" which prohibits people from using certain words that are racially or size or gender offensive or not in line with the "conventional wisdom" of the time.

It has not been too long ago that "Big Brother Is Watching You" was the by-word after the NSA scandal: 

The ACLU accused the U.S. government of continuing to collect Americans’ call records until end of year when federal court has ruled prohibits exactly this gathering of personal information.

In one headline,

New documents released suggest communications between top officials including Angela Merkel were intercepted by the US spy agency:

The US National Security Agency tapped phone calls involving German chancellor Angela Merkel and her closest advisers for years and spied on the staff of her predecessors, according to WikiLeaks.

Judicial Watch has recently reported that under The Freedom of Information law it has obtained documents from the Internal Revenue Service that confirm that the IRS used donor lists to tax-exempt those donors for audits. Of those which were audited, 100% were "right-leaning." While the IRS is supposed to be a non-political department of the government there are two positions appointed by the executive branch of the U.S. Government:  IRS Commissioner and the General Counsel. Incidentally, by her own admission, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit, Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS targeted the Tea Party, a politically conservative group. Also, pro-Israel group was also targeted by the IRS by this agency's own admission.

In 1984 children can turn in their parents to the Thought Police if these adults say anything against the government. Similarly, in today's American society, children can report their parents for mistreatment or neglect, whether or not they have really done anything, and they will be questioned. In fact, there have been documented cases of step-fathers serving jail time for sexual abuse when they were innocent of these charges, but were charged by girls who resented or disliked them intensely.

  • The Ministry of Truth

It is common knowledge that certain news agencies have at times "edited" or reported partial news or even neglected to report news. One example was the Benghazi scandal which NBC gave minimal coverage. 

In his political commentary of July 17, 2014, Charles Krauthammer, who writes for the Washington Post made this observation about the truth of attacks upon Israel by Hamas being rewritten, just as the Ministry of Truth does in 1984:

Apologist for Hamas attribute the bloodlust to the "Israeli occupation" and blockade. "Occupation"? Does no one remember anything? It was less than ten years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling diehard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinian. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza.

Some view the change of America's alliance with Israel as Orwellian. And, with the treaty made with Iran, a country that has long called for the annihilation of Israel and "Death to America," and who hold American hostages today, along with the terrorism of ISIS, there is confusion in the minds of many citizens about the true relationship of the U.S. to countries in the Middle East.

  • The Confusion of War

In 1984 Oceania is at war with one country, then at peace with it, and at war with another so that there is total unrest. Warfare keeps citizens in constant fear and disruption, so that they will submit to the control of the Party, thus allowing the Party to control supply and demand, ensuring its power.

 In U.S. history, there has been many a war waged, at least one to involve every generation. Certainly, there are those who give credence to government conspiracies, such as that of the Bay of Tonkin Incident's being staged in order to get the U.S. to enter into war with North Vietnam, especially in light of McNamara's asking for forgiveness regarding the Bay of Tonkin and for escalating the Vietnam Conflict. At any rate, there has long been the Military Industrial Complex [military establishment and large arms industry coupled with political arrangements] and profits made from war. In his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against this huge "industrial and military machinery of defense," 

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

However, C. Wright Mills, a sociologist, contended in his book The Power Elite, that a class of military, business, and political leaders, in the interests of profiting on their own parts, were the veritable leaders of the country, and, in effect beyond democratic control, not unlike the Party leaders of 1984.

  • Doublespeak

Doublespeak in 1984 is intentionally misleading language. 

"That depends upon what the meaning of is is," spoke President Bill Clinton in the late 1990's when questioned before a grand jury--an infamous use of doublespeak.

Without doubt, there are many U.S. Press Secretaries and politicos of late who have used doublespeak, the changing, distortion, or switching of words, and many a politician has used such speech. One recent "word" which reporters have remarked upon is "24/7" spoken in regard to the Iran treaty. These reporters point out that people use the term "24/7" meaning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whereas the "24/7" with regard to the Iran treaty means Iran can have a 24 days, not hours, to prepare for inspection.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Evidence that our society is NOT like that in 1984?

  • We are still a democracy with a Constitution which guarantees individual's rights. So, when people are oppressed by threats to the First Amendment rights, for instance, they do have recourse to the courts. For example, AT&T has been guilty of invasion of privacy and on citizens' behalf The Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing them.
  • We have not come to the point in which people spy on one another as in 1984
  • Of course, there is no Room 101 in which people are tortured and brain washed as poor Winston is to the point that he thinks 2+2=5. 
  • History is altered, but not on a daily basis and to the extremes of the society of 1984
peacehugs | Student

Orwell's depiction of reality was remarkably accurate in that it illustrated ways that technologies (which were only nascent in Orwell's own time) could be used to manifest a common and perhaps ever-present debilitating scourge of mankind - manipulation by those in positions of power. This is something that certainly happened in his day, in its own contemporary way, and Orwell recognized it and found a way to vilify it in one of the most creative and predictive ways that it has ever been done.

Orwell was only innacurate in his exact representation of that future (i.e. in the amount and exact manifestation of the implemented and obvious control). However, this is something that is quite literally impossible to get exactly right.

Perhaps the best way to honor the meaning of Orwell's 1984 would be to write your own 1984, call it 2084. DEFEAT future manipulators by WARNING the public of WHAT WILL BE POSSIBLE, IN YOUR VIEW. Some of you will inevitably be (almost) right.