Since Libya was a totalitarian regime during the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan society during his period of rule almost inevitably bore some resemblance to the kind of society described by George Orwell in his famous anti-totalitarian novel 1984. Some similarities between the two societies included the following:
- Gaddafi liked to call himself “the brother leader,” among other titles, thus resembling the “Big Brother” emphasized in Orwell’s novel.
- Gaddafi’s rule was rooted in a particular ideology described in his so-called “Green Book.” Similarly, in 1984, the ruling “party” has its own ideology and makes sure that that ideology is publicized and enforced.
- Gaddafi’s regime was very concerned (like the regime in 1984) with suppressing dissent and opposition.
- Just as the regime in 1984 works to erase and/or rewrite history, so Gaddafi (for instance) abolished the Christian calendar previously used in Libya and replaced it with a calendar he himself devised.
- Just as government surveillance of society is stressed in 1984, so surveillance by “revolutionary committees” became very important under Gaddafi’s rule. As The New York Times noted in its obituary on Gaddafi, during his rule
Colonel Qaddafi . . . introduced Orwellian revolutionary committees in every neighborhood to purge the country of the ideologically unsound, calling it “people power.”
- Just as dissenters in 1984 face the prospect of death, so the same was true of dissenters under Gaddafi.
- Just as the regime in 1984 is engaged in constant warfare with other countries, so Gaddafi was in a sense engaged in perpetual hostilities with the west (especially the United States). Open war between Libya and Chad occurred in the 1980s.
Many differences, of course, existed between Gaddafi’s rule and that of the rulers in 1984. For instance, the possibility of U. S. attacks on Gaddafi’s Libya after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iran caused Gaddafi to abolish, quite suddenly, his own weapons of mass destruction program. Thus there were restraints on Gaddafi’s power that do not seem to exist in 1984. Nevertheless, many similarities did indeed exist between Gaddafi’s regime and the regime depicted by Orwell.