Big Brother 2016: Beyond Orwell’s wildest dreams
Media is doling out in bite-sized bits what we already knew: we are being tracked and traced, recorded and stored.
The Guardian recently told us that – shock – Google is storing lots of information about us; meanwhile, the wildly different Independent gently awakens us to the fact that Facebook is doing something almost identical. Both articles contain instructions on how to appear to thwart these intrusions.
Oh well, click, click, yawn. Safe again.
An Orwellian present
Most people who read my column will have read Orwell’s 1984. And most who haven’t will have seen the film (the one with John Hurt, I hope). If you haven’t done either, go and do one of them right now.
Orwell’s famous dystopian vision describes a world in which the State knows everything about you. He had entitled his book The Last Man– meaning by that: The last true man left on earth. It was changed – perhaps fortuitously – by the publisher.
The book fed a slew of references into the culture, seemingly understood even by those who had never read it: Big Brother, Doublespeak, Sex Crime, Winston Smith.
The world Winston inhabits is physically viler and more obviously brutal that ours – at least if you live outside the perimeters of the wars the US is waging directly or indirectly. Its architecture and ambiance are, likewise, orders of magnitude darker and more depressing than ours – parts of inner cities excepted.
Orwell’s Doublespeak is more directly relevant to our experience today. With things now routinely called by something other than their proper names – men ‘identifying’as women, women ‘identifying’as men, men ‘identifying’as dogs, and forty-six-year-old fathers ‘identifying’as six-year-old girls – our world is littered with an increasing number of obvious truths which must be resolutely ignored on the grounds of political necessity.
Doublespeak has hamstrung academia – rendering whole swathes of it inoperative, and much of the rest of it either irrelevant, farcical or pernicious.