Forms of Control: 1984

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Warning, Love George Orwell.
George Orwell once said that “writing a novel is agony”; however as excruciating as it may have been for him to write it (probably since he was so ill at the time), 1984 stands to be one of the greatest examples of dystopian literature read today. It is a strong novel that draws on concepts like totalitarianism, class and caste systems, rebellion and many other concepts that seem far off from the society that exists today. On the contrary, Orwell himself states that this story can be perceived as a “warning” on how society will evolve from a simple one to a more complex one. From beginning to end, subtle signs are embedded to forebode the arrival of destructive ideas. One idea in specific is the introduction of new forms of control to watch over the masses. There is a variety of mediums used throughout the story, ranging from technological control to linguistic moderation to war and propaganda. The three that are most apparent in 1984 and the most relatable to the current era are the notions of surveillance, linguistic control and propaganda. What seems like a fictional plotline is actually valid in modern society is so accurately predicted that it is almost frightening. One of the first few, and often repeated, forms of control in the novel is surveillance. Surveillance is really just close observation, with a focus on suspected criminals or planned situations. However the issue at hand lies in the limits that surveillance ignores, like the freedom to privacy, which is constantly stomped on throughout the novel and in many cases seen today. The example of surveillance in the novel can be illustrated with the use of various techniques like telescreens, the thoughtpolice and junior spies. Telescreens are described as a multipurpose technology; they combine the use and functions of a camera and a television. The main function of this was so Big Brother (the dictator of Oceania, the country) could monitor and control the thoughts and actions of those living in his nation, and correct those who tried to conspire against him. When it was a television, it spouted propaganda against enemies and preached love for Oceania and moreover, Big Brother. In addition, it served a second purpose as a sort of security camera. The concept of the telescreen is introduced early in the first chapter to the audience. Orwell writes, “It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. ...They could plug into your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live...in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized” (Orwell, 5). This quote is self-explanatory on how the telescreen works as a supervising tool, and how privacy is breached regardless of who a person is in the community. The idea that Big Brother and his Inner Party members had the right to plug into anybody’s telescreen and see, hear and sense every word and movement is without a doubt very invasive. This is how Oceania is monitored and kept the way Big Brother wishes it to be. The idea of invasion and surveillance seems ludicrous and only okay for a book to have such extreme measures; unfortunately this is not limited to the pages of a bound novel. There have been various cases of surveillance that isn’t carried out lawfully and violates people’s rights to their privacy. Some surveillance has become a norm for a majority of society, things like cameras in corners of stores and websites tracking history and browsing is no longer a topic of shock. Yet, similar to the novel, there are cases in which confidentiality of somebody’s life is ignored. One case that can prove to be a great comparison is the monitoring of many Muslim people in America post the September 11th attacks that took place. Since the attacks, the FBI and New York Police Departments has engaged in many that have been criticized; warrantless spying, entrapment and the detention of Muslims in the US. Phone calls were...
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