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The Party’s plans—the abolition of the family, laughter, art, literature, curiosity, pleasure, in favor of a “boot stamping down on a human face forever”—are never achieved because Newspeak fails to take. Because it was too difficult to translate Oldspeak literature into Newspeak.The text Orwell singles out to exemplify this, intriguingly, is the Declaration of Independence.
All this may seem to be the endgame of indiscriminate data mining, surveillance, and duplicitous government control.
We look to 1984 as a clear cautionary tale, even a prophecy, of systematic abuse of power taken to the end of the line.
However, we are surrounded by examples of technology used to question the status quo: Twitter and the Arab Spring is one example, Wikileaks is another, and so is Snowden.
When Orwell wrote 1984, he was responding to the Cold War, not contemporary terrorism.
Is Obama Big Brother, at once omnipresent and opaque?
And are we doomed to either submit to the safety of unthinking orthodoxy or endure re-education and face what horrors lie within the dreaded Room 101?
With Orwell once again joining a culture-wide consideration of communication, privacy, and security, it seemed worthwhile to take another look at his most influential novel.“Nineteen Eighty-Four” begins on a cold April morning in a deteriorated London, the major city of Airstrip One, a province of Oceania, where, despite advances in technology, the weather is still lousy and residents endure a seemingly endless austerity.
The narrator introduces Winston, a thirty-nine-year-old man beset by the fatigue of someone older, who lives in an apartment building that smells of “boiled cabbage” and works as a drone in the Ministry of Truth, which spreads public falsehoods.
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” including practices like imprisoning people “for years without trial,“ Orwell writes.
If the main story of 1984 is language and freedom of thought, a crucial part of the Snowden case is technology as a conduit of ideas.