1984 Questions and Answers
by George Orwell

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How does everybody in Oceania forget certain things existed in 1984? I'm just confused on how the Party is able to create such obvious lies into truth and nobody questions anything.

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I think it's important to consider our own social context in order to grasp how this could happen. Regardless of political affiliation, you often hear people claiming that the media is perpetuating "false news" segments for television and print. In fact, I once witnessed this locally. National news organizations were reporting riots in a town near me when no rioting was actually happening; it appeared that they used old clips from previous conflicts. It may surprise you to know that this is not a new media strategy. Orwell himself fought as a resistance fighter in Spain and noticed that newspaper articles often portrayed inaccurate information. Sometimes they would report battles that hadn't existed, and at other times they reported no battles when many men had been injured. So without actually seeing the reported events happen, how can anyone know the truth? Perhaps this life experience laid the foundation for Winston Smith's job in 1984.

Winston works at the Ministry of Truth as a records editor. His job is to go into old newspaper articles and rewrite them so that they support the Party. The actual facts are then destroyed, never seen again.

This could seem a stretch at first thought, but consider how this could change over time. If people were hired to constantly revise all written records of history, altering them to fit the needs of the government, how long would it take before people who recalled a different history began to question it themselves? Because the details of history are so extensive, it would be impossible for any one person to recall all of it, and we rely on written records to aid our recall. Once those written records are no longer reliable, history becomes messy.

In some ways, history is always being rewritten, with new voices emerging from different cultures and contexts to bring a varied perspective to light. And most often, these new voices are valid and represent an attempt to deepen the truths of history. But occasionally, people emerge who try to recreate the events of history with less noble causes. This can be quite dangerous.

The citizens in 1984 have great loyalty to the Party (and great reason to fear speaking out against it). With no real way to discern fact from modified history, they are left living in the present and simply accepting what their government portrays as the truth. This shows a truth of human nature: Often what people believe to be the truth is a more powerful force than the facts of the actual truth.

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