Was George Orwell Right?

The author's classic novel about the dangers of totalitarian government—1984—celebrated its 63rd birthday on Friday, June 8.

(Editor's note: Welcome to the first installment of On The Arts, a weekly column designed to provide the space for a virtual discussion of a particular book, play, movie or other work of art. Have an idea of what you'd like to see discussed here? Let us know in the comments. Our inaugural column focuses on George Orwell's "1984.")

Is it possible to make the argument that the totalitarian society George Orwell envisioned in his classic novel 1984 is slowly coming to fruition?

The classical dystopian novel—published on June 8, 1949—tells readers about the dangers of an all-encompassing and all-powerful government that monitors all aspects of its citizens' lives. The book's title suggests that Orwell thought that such a government could be in place as soon as 35 years after the novel was published. 

But where are we today? 

It seems all but certain that President Barack Obama will be challenged by former Governor Mitt Romney in this fall's presidential election. Sure, there are third-party candidates such as former Governor Gary Johnson, heading the Libertarian ticket, who are running to become the leader of the free world as well.

But any knowledgeable betting man has his money on Obama or Romney. 

At face value, Obama, a Democrat, and Romney, a Republican, appear to be at different ends of the spectrum. Obama supports a woman's right to choose; Romney is pro-life. Obama ; Romney says marriage is between a man and a woman. Obama has been hesitant on drilling for oil on untapped American soil; Romney says, if elected, he'll drill

While Americans to the left might disagree with those on the right—some argue Romney's election would be bad for America while others argue —there's a growing voice who see the two mainstream parties as being essentially the same in many regards.

This voice—that of the "anti-Republicrat," according to Robin Koerner—argues against "the mainstream of both parties, which have for years been eliminating our civil rights, sponsoring and benefiting from a crony corporatist economic system, and operating a militaristic foreign policy, seemingly to the benefit of a military industrial complex more than ... to the benefit of the nation." 

Is the choice between Obama and Romney really that much of a choice? 

The government Orwell imagined controlled information and history, kept surveillance on its citizens and also controlled their bodies, making sure they could be arrested and detained for the slightest facial twitch or "incorrect" thought. 

Earlier this year, Congress that some say would have allowed the government to censor the Internet, controlling information. While drones are used to fight American wars in the Middle East, there's been talk of using drones to monitor Americans domestically, ostensibly conducting surveillance on law-abiding citizens. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed legislation to ban the sale of sugary drinks over 16 ounces, controlling what is allowed in one's body. Last year, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, legislation which allowed the government to detain anyone—including American citizens—indefinitely, without granting them the right to a lawyer, assuming the government suspected that individual of having ties to terrorism. (A U.S. District judge recently ruled that provision in the bill was unconstitutional.)

So was the novel that made "Big Brother" and "doublethink" part of the American vernacular the work of an author who, whether he knew it, was quasi-prophetic? Or are all of these occurrences just merely coincidences?

What does this book mean to you? When do you read it? What kind of lasting effect has it had on you?

Paul Alexander June 09, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Oh...be sure to get a few copies before it is banned or burned.
Paul Alexander June 09, 2012 at 04:34 PM
One last thought... EXCELLENT choice Justin to begin your new column with. Can't wait to see what else you write about.
John Munro June 09, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Certainly the media is more complicit when the Orwellian actions are undertaken by a Democrat administration. Case in point, George W. was roundly criticized for "torture" with his use of water boarding, but President Obama has essentially been given a free pass for his executive order that authorized the killing of an American citizen in Yemen. The first such authorized killing in American history. Certainly the Obama order is more drastic than what Bush orderred. Yet the sycophantic press refuses to criticize. Can you say hypocrisy?
Paul Alexander June 09, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Digital High Five John! I was water boarded. Twice. It is effective and compelling . I think I can say there were no negative physical or emotional effects other than a STRONG desire never to go through it again. A Hellfire lobbed into my home or car though might be a different story. Oh, and you left out "Nobel Peace Prize WINNING President Obama.
MAC July 19, 2012 at 12:24 AM
In November 2008 when Obama was elected, I dreaded what would come, which would likely be a BAD and radical "remaking of America." That view resulted from being among the millions of Americans who were not fooled by Obama's calculated and deceitful rhetoric, or the lamestream media cheerleaders for Obama. Because I informed myself by reading many alternative sources on line, as well as listening to the warnings from conservative and freedom loving commentators, I knew that the consequences of Obama's election would be closer to dystopia than prosperity. In addition to usurping powers not his and defying the "Rule of Law" with Holder, "crony corporatist" Obama has "taken" our country and virtually thrown it over a FISCAL CLIFF!! For just a few clues as to why Obama has done this, watch or read Romney's excellent and passionate speech yesterday in PA! http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/romney-gets-aggressive-against-obama-wants-americans-ashamed-190113055.html?_esi=1 Romney did not cover this, but Obama wants a PERMANENT under class of people who will always look to government to be their DADDY, and thus they will always vote for DEMS, the party of BIG government!! He achieves that by making them dependent on food stamps, UEC, welfare, disability, section 8 housing, etc. etc. and destroying people's incentive to work in order to provide for themselves. Has he not succeeded in that?


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