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article imageOp-Ed: How close are we to 1984?

By Justin King     Apr 8, 2014 in World
With every step in the march towards tyranny, some muffled voice in the media decries the move as “Orwellian.” It happens so often that George Orwell’s novel may have lost its power as a cautionary tale.
It may be time to conduct an inventory of society and see how well we match the dystopian prediction. George Orwell was an unrelenting social critic constantly tormented by a vision of the future that he imagined. In what many consider his masterpiece work, 1984, he brings this vision to life.
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.
The novel (spoiler alert) follows Winston through his life living under the watchful eye of Big Brother, an ever-present and fictional figurehead that takes care of the constantly warring nation. Most citizens truly adore Big Brother, and the constant surveillance makes certain those that don’t at least behave as though they do. Winston commits acts of mental rebellion with the encouragement of a colleague named O’Brian. He falls in love, with another young thought criminal named Julia. In the end, O’Brian turns out to be working for Big Brother and Julia and Winston are sent to the Ministry of Love for imprisonment, torture, and reeducation.
More disturbing than the actual plot is the amazing detail Orwell uses to describe the society and the mechanisms by which the ruling elite maintain control. It provides a ready description of mechanisms that citizens should be wary of, or a ready template for an oppressor to establish a government.
Those mechanisms and their modern counterparts are discussed below.
The Telescreen
Telescreens exist everywhere in the world of 1984 and the devices were screens by which the viewer would receive information. Telescreens were also equipped with cameras that constantly kept people under surveillance. The population knew that there was no way the government was watching all of them 24 hours a day, but the population knew that they might be watching. That knowledge was enough to intimidate the people, and caused most to submit.
Activists decorated surveillance cameras to celebrate George (1984) Orwell s birthday on June 25  20...
Activists decorated surveillance cameras to celebrate George (1984) Orwell's birthday on June 25, 2013.
Anonymous Art of Revolution
Reading this article on most devices today, you are faced with a camera. The knowledge that the National Security Agency of the United States has the ability to remotely activate that camera to watch and listen in on activities around the device is enough to give anyone pause. Certainly, the myriad of revelations about NSA surveillance has led to everyone rethinking their online activities.
Statistics of Victory
Big Brother’s empire constantly needed propaganda to feed the complacent masses. Propaganda requires the proper numbers. Winston himself earned his pay by creating and editing the statistics to be released to the press to reassure the people of the impending victory of Big Brother’s armies.
In the United States today, the statistics the government releases to the public and uses to makes decisions are false. It’s not a secret that the country’s unemployment figures might as well have been written by Winston himself, the figures related to cybercrime are laughably inaccurate, even something as simple as sex education has become fodder for federal government propaganda. There is no doubt that the facts and figures used to shape the public’s narrative are false and worthy of Big Brother’s stamp of approval.
Income inequality
In the world of 1984, the society is divided into three classes: the inner party, the outer party, and the proles. The inner party amounted to roughly 1 percent of the population and included the wealthiest and most powerful members of society. The outer party is made up of the enforcement class of society. All of the bureaucrats, police, firefighters, spies, teachers, soldiers, and others whose job it is to keep control of the proles. The proles make up 85% of the population and for the most part live and die outside of the watchful eye of the thought police, only meeting the control system’s personnel if they cross the line and begin to threaten the party.
A common slogan that is being used during the Occupy protests
A common slogan that is being used during the Occupy protests
The distribution of wealth and power in 1984 is a mirror image of the current situation in the United States. Although the US proles do not live in abject poverty, the distribution of resources is the same and the top 1 percent of the nation have the political access they need to live above the law in every regard, as the child molesting DuPont heir just confirmed when he received probation for his crime because “he would not fare well” in prison.
Kangaroo Courts
In addition to the obvious treatment the inner party receives in the United States, it is equally as telling to look at the chances for proving one’s innocence in a federal courtroom if a prole or outer party member is unfortunate enough to raise the ire of the federal government. If accused in a federal courtroom, the lesser beings in the country have less than a 7 percent chance of defeating even one of the charges in a typically multi-count indictment. The evidence in such cases is typically little more than people bullied into testifying by federal prosecutors.
The reality of O’Brian
When Winston first begins to rebel in his thoughts against the status quo, he was one man with no resources, training, or even a plan beyond thinking for himself freely. Then he meets O’Brian, and receives everything he needs to truly rebel in his mind, the ultimate crime in an unfree society.
The J. Edgar Hoover building, FBI headquarters
Photo by Aude (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Today in the United States, the headlines are filled with case after case of the Federal Bureau of Investigation providing people that would never have been able to gain access to the necessary equipment with everything they need to conduct a terror attack, only to arrest them for following a plan cooked up by FBI agents. The entrapment schemes in use today in the land of the free make O’Brian’s simple bait and switch seem poorly executed.
Every neighbor a spy
Paramount in Big Brother’s control system is the desire to destroy any sense of community or any loyalty to anything but the control system. The society is arranged to make certain that those that inform on their neighbors are rewarded and that anyone that steps outside the bounds of what Big Brother deems as acceptable is punished.
Man using binoculars
Man using binoculars
By erlos
The Department of Homeland Security in the United States has developed and implemented a program called “see something, say something” that encourages citizens to report any suspicious activity to the government. DHS uses the standby of protecting the citizens from terrorists as the excuse for enhancing its domestic surveillance apparatus, but in reality communities even establish programs like this to protect themselves from the dangerous peril of 4th of July celebrations.
Additional video surveillance
Even when away from the telescreens, Winston had to contend with additional surveillance from helicopters flying through neighborhoods and hidden cameras on light posts.
Drones are being used by DHS to monitor drug trafficking  illegal immigration and other criminal act...
Drones are being used by DHS to monitor drug trafficking, illegal immigration and other criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA(
The helicopters have been updated and replaced with cheaper more efficient drone technology and the average city-dwelling American is videotaped going about their daily lives over 75 times per day. Big Brother is indeed watching.
Those that don’t love Big Brother
Those that would question the infallibility of Big Brother were shipped off to the Ministry of Love to be reeducated and learn to love Big Brother again.
Those that would expose the crimes of the United States and the infallibility of the leaders of the nation are hiding in Eurasia like Edward Snowden or a serving decades long sentences like Bradley Manning.
Bradley Manning  whistleblower  jailed for releasing the Colateral Murder video to WikiLeaks.
Bradley Manning, whistleblower, jailed for releasing the Colateral Murder video to WikiLeaks.
United States Army
Room 101
The end of the journey for dissidents under Big Brother’s rule is a room where their greatest fear is foisted upon them. For the American dissident concerned with preventing a totalitarian state, Room 101 is just outside their own front door. A critical view of the United States reveals a society where Big Brother is loved, and the infrastructure necessary to bring the entire nation under the boot of an oppressive regime is in place. The dissidents now wait for the inevitable charismatic leader that promises to save the country from some boogeyman that will destroy the freedom of nation. In the panic, the American people will gladly sign away the very freedoms they hope to protect.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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