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Books: 21st Century Orwellian 1984 Culture

George Orwell 1984 First Edition Cover

In the days and weeks ahead, it is likely to come to pass the revelation of the numerous technological violations of the law, both in Egypt and with the collaboration of American tech companies who created the equipment. In Orwell’s 1984, he writes of the infatigable power of technology, a cold heartless system ruthlessly invading areas a human being, in reality, if confronted personally, physically present with the opportunity to do the same, would turn from the prospect, either due to fear of legal repercussions, or a moral fabric would prevent the invasion. The fusion of technology and political pursuit has created an atmosphere that brings with it protests of an entire nation, that follows with those of an entire continent and a spirit felt worldwide. Freedoms are those ideals which when left unguarded are lost, quickly.

“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism as I know it,” said Orwell ten years after his time in Spain during the 1937 fight against Franco and his Nazi supported fascists.

Orwell, known for his left of left political views, mostly because he was not part of the British Labour Party, that in his view was already fascist, wrote a story in the book 1984 that little did we understand in the year of the same name how in the 21st Century we would be living double-think. Thomas Pynchon’s foreword in the book points out Emmanuel Goldstein’s The Theory and Practice of Oligarchial Collectivism does a thorough job of describing double-think as a discipline where believing two contradictory truths to be true at the same time, or the ability to compartmentalize — psychologists call it cognitive dissonance.

Technology is 2011’s double-think. It is at once good and bad. The consequence of the tech is in the hands of the moral fiber behind it. Society can on the one hand spur an entire movement to upend a brutal regime, and on the other with real-time traffic intelligence smack those freedoms down with brutal detentions and GPS’ing and monitoring of International news crews and dissidents’ communications. Disturbing imagery from these protests are very powerful in the creation of international support. In an instant, a Blackberry video can go viral on the Net, creating a genuine empathetic backing of a people seeking freedom from brutality. Perhaps those who know most about the double-think of technology are the Egyptian protestors currently, and historically dissidents in China.

The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent massacre were the direct result of the power of dissent under a regime. While the Beijing students began their rebellion with an outpouring of support for a revered political leader, they did not yet have the advantage of technology like those in Egypt do right now. Even still, today the Tiananmen Square massacre is a banned subject on the Chinese Internet. Squashing dissent was easy in 1989, but is even easier in the 21st Century with the invention of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), content-filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track and target content from Internet users and mobile phones as it passes through routers on the Web. Technology is a road that could lead to the rabbit hole.

“Oceania was at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete. Reports and records of all kinds, newspapers, books, pamphlets, films, soundtracks, photographs—all had to be rectified at lightning speed. Although no directive was ever issued, it was known that the chiefs of the Department intended that within one week no reference to the war with Eurasia, or the alliance with Eastasia, should remain in existence anywhere,” said Orwell’s 1984.

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