Class Discussion: Contemporary Connections to ‘1984’

2017 has been “doubleplusgood” for sales of George Orwell’s “1984.”
“George Orwell’s ‘1984’ Hits Bestseller List Again”

Sales of Nineteen Eighty-Four have been soaring recently. Why is there so much interest in this dystopian novel, published almost 70 years ago? What is its relevance now, to our lives in 2017? Why/how does this speak to the conditions that we find ourselves in, today?

We’ll use this space to discuss contemporary connections to Nineteen Eighty-Four. This is your opportunity to be creative, to be critical, and to put our own lives (and world) in dialogue with the ideas of the novel. Drop comments about connections you make, and provide links to sources that we can check out to learn more (e.g., news stories, images, movies, advertisement, songs, etc.).

6 thoughts on “Class Discussion: Contemporary Connections to ‘1984’

  1. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a story that revolves around information control. We as humans make decisions based on what information we have. Despite popular belief made a norm in movies, there are very few people who would make a wild guess with no information. The scenario in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a fictional world where all information is controlled by a government known as the party. The party has the means to change historic documents, make people disappear and monitor all activities of its citizens. This is something that the people of the real world are all too familiar with. We are constantly being monitored and our government is doing everything in its power to monitor our private lives. There are also those who would control what information we have access to. It was not long ago that our government tried to limit what information is made available to us. This was something we criticized China for and years later our government wants to do the same to us.
    The popularity of Nineteen Eighty-Four is likely due to the comparisons that can be made to our real lives. This was a set of science fiction books published in 1949. The story depicts a fictional world in 1984 but it looks so much like what our reality. The rise in popularity of this story is due to recent events and actions taken by their government.

  2. The book Nineteen Eighty-Four is a story about how a man who has a dislike for the society that he is apart of which is Oceania. In the book there are wars that are constant throughout between the different countries and also in Oceania, it controls the lives of the people through constant methods of surveillance and fear as well. The people in a way do not have a right to express themselves and because of that they are just living by and hoping that they survive and avoid punishments. It is no surprise that a concept and story like this would make the book sell because in real life there are somewhat similar situations in which countries throughout have people who are powerless to do anything about the government and live under oppression as well. It applies to our lives as well because we also live in various situations that we have no control over. Like for example despite the fact that people protest or try to put a stop to, murder and other crimes are still going on and also police brutality as well. Also the same can be said for the recent immigration policy against Muslims and illegal immigrants because even though the people fight hard against it, it is still going on and affecting families and that is because there could not be anything to do because the president issued that policy. A movie that can relate to the concept of Nineteen EIghty-Four could be “V for Vendetta”, which is a science fiction movie that has a story that revolves around an oppressive type of government.

  3. In recent news,”Vault 7″ a CIA information leak: https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/
    Vault 7 is a publication of the CIA activity and history for the public knowledge. It ranges from cyber attacks, spying on individuals, and false flag attack. Why is this relevant to 1984?

    It is relevant to 1984 because the CIA uses smartphones and smart TVs to monitor individuals when ever is necessary, even using ‘fake off mode’ where the TV is turn off but is not and continue to monitor the individual. Just like 1984 where they had telescreen everywhere and monitor everyone and it can never be turned off.

    The CIA also false flag attack, but it did not say to whom they did it to yet. Wiki Leaks describe it as “misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.” They can attack a nation and make it look like another nation attack it leaving behind evidence of the other nation. Similarly to 1984, Oceania was at war with Eurasia in the beginning of the novel and toward the end Oceania switches it target to Eastasia. Oceania even erased all the evidence and implanted new ones saying that they were never at war with Eurasia.

    This was just the beginning, maybe our world isn’t far off from 1984 world. The CIA in a way is similar to the thought police monitoring individuals at anytime they wanted.

  4. This is the video that I mentioned in class last Thursday, in which Mayim Bialik (one of the stars of ‘The Big Bang Theory’) is railing against the use of “girl” to describe women. In doing so, she is arguing that the way we talk about things, the words we use to describe people, all these things are crucial to our construction of reality. She is claiming that language constructs our reality. See the following excerpt, from the first minute of the video:

    “Sorry folks, I have to do this. We have to stop calling women, girls. Why? Because it matters what we call people. Language matters. Words have meaning. And the ways we used words changes the way we frame things in our mind. Google Sapir-Whorf if you don’t believe me. It’s science.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mayim-bialik-word-describe-women_us_58d56373e4b03692bea596df)

    This video is interesting to consider in relation to the goals of Newspeak in the novel, which aims at the “destruction of language” in order to control thought and only allow Party-sanctioned ideas to be conceived and expressed. Consider Syme’s comments on the goals of Newspeak:

    “‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. [. . .]. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction” (53-4).

    Also, the description of Newspeak in the Appendix helps to clarify this connection further:

    “The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper o the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought–that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc–should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. [. . .]. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum” (309-310).

  5. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the citizen of Oceanic is being watched in their homes, on the street, at work by telescreens. I would say that it’s no different that what’s going on in the world today. Places like New York City, London and Britain have CCTV camera everywhere. You can find some them located on street corner, train station, public buses and there ton more hidden in plain sight. Our world is not as bad as Oceanic as the camera is there to protect us from unlawful events, but our privacy is surely being affected and if not careful watch will get to the standards of Oceanic.

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