1984 style totalitarianism, how likely is it to happen?

Okay, I recently read 1984 by George Orwell, and a rather thought that feels both haunting and annoying;

How likely is Big Brother gonna knock on the world's front door?

I know North Korea has a rather similar government to 1984's Oceania, from what I gather they're both totalitarian governments and they're both pretty militaristic, Kim Jong-il may be on the sort of power trip that would make him the Big Brother of our world. I could be wrong though.

But let's get back on topic, shall we? I wanted your thoughts on some of the concepts in the novel that I'm abit worried about:

first off, Newspeak. seems like an interesting concept, for those that think with words, but it feels abit bizarre, I think a group like The Party would have to be downright determined to cut down chances of- oh wait, they are, but even then, Newspeak seems like the sort of language you'd have to be bored out of your mind to make, But I have absolutely no idea if any governments they pull off censorship would try to destroy words and replace them with words like those in Newspeak, and whenever I verbally say any Newspeak words, like say; 'Doubleplusgood', makes me feel silly.

Also, Doublethink, that thinking technique that has you essentially taking any thoughts that go against the Party and blocking them out, or sweeping them aside like they're annoying flies. Now that seems like a difficult thing to pull off, I mean, Don't we all develope different methods of thinking as we mature? making it law to have every citizen go by a single method of thinking can seem abit overzealous, that's why Doublethink is a concept I'm skeptical on, not as something an individual can pull off, but something that you can ingrain to an entire population? I'm just not convinced that it could happen.

... okay, Unfortunately, that's all I got, but overall, I want your thoughts, how likely is a Big Brother-ish totalitarian government gonna happen? any concepts in the novel I didn't mention that involve that sort of government are because I can see the logic in them, though modern-day technology may be may not make Telescreens possible, I suggest we don't dwell on that.

Regarding "Newspeak", alterations of language to serve political goals that has gone on before 1984 was even written, and an instance has even been analysed. Orwell just magnified a common linguistical tactic so everyone could understand it. A replacement happening as overtly and to the extent of 1984 is not feasible though, it only works when people don't notice it.

As for "Doublethink", same magnification of subtle conditioning so get everyone on board on what it's about. Like "newspeak", it would never work in the depicted overt and obvious form either though.

So the totalitarian government Orwell depicted is unlikely to ever come about, but the underlying concepts are already at work, and have been ever since relying on violence against and total ignorance amongst populations became unfeasible.

There is certainly power to words and social dogmas.

Unlikely - there'd be controversy, to say the least. The democratic system means that any party attempting to introduce such repressive measures would simply be voted out, unless they decided to seize absolute power, in which case the people, and likely a good chunk of the military would rise up and overthrow them.

The novel has the Oceanian system rising out of the ashes of an implied massive global conflict, which would be necessary to generate the kind of social upheaval to allow a new power structure to assert itself. Looking at it that way, it's possible in the event of World War III, but improbable still, because a government would need a massive amount of control over its citizens to be able to enforce such a regime, which in this case they would not.

Saw this the other day, seems relevent to the discussion:

Are we likely to end up in an Orwellian distopia? Probably not, but the wheels of social control are always turning, for better or worse.

-m

The Big Brother setting in 1984 is far too obvious to ever really become a reality, I think. As has been said above, Orwell used extreme examples to highlight things that were already going on. If you want a modern example of Newspeak, just look at the way people in business (especially management and PR) speak to each other and to the public. They can spout a hundred word sentence to you, yet give you less than one word of actual meaning.

As Matt_LPR said above, Brave New World is probably a better totalitarian state to look at, in regards to the feasability of such a regime ever occuring. The best way for a bad guy to take control of the masses is to convince everyone he's the good guy. Hell, he will probably be convinced himself that he is the good guy. No political party has ever said "yes, we are the oppresive bad guys who want to control the masses, bully the weak, and paint everything grey." They try and convince you that they're progressive, forward thinking, and ultimately have your best interests at heart.

If you look at what's happening now, you can actually see this strange, awful mixture of the two different kinds of dystopia seeping into reality (or at least, you can in the UK). People are addicted to easy, quick pleasures, to the point where X-Factor isn't just the most popular TV show, it makes the front page headlines practically every day! Everywhere you walk, it's not speakers blaring out how Big Brother is watching you, it's adverts telling you how much you need this brand of shampoo, or how you will just love this new kind of toothpaste. We are bombarded every day with adverts and programmes that are designed to keep us apathetic, to keep us focused on our own petty little pleasures, and to forget the larger issues that threaten to fuck us over.

And this is where Orwell comes in. While the society we live in now is, on the surface, a much more colourful place than the setting of 1984, look behind the facade and you start to see some of the nastier stuff that he wrote about. The media being in service of the government (watch any BBC or Sky News report on the Student Protests, then hit Google to find out what really happened). The increased surveillance (David Cameron recently decided to allow two UAV spy vehicles to patrol UK airspace). The ambiguously worded legislature which, whilst championing social reform, actually takes us back a few decades.

TLDR: Mix Huxley and Orwell, and you'll get an idea of where we're heading. Big Brother hiding behind a colourful mask.

The book 1984 was actually a commentary of Great Briton in the year of 1948, so the author thought his nation was heading in that direction.

Apparently he wasn't the only one as Sting's hit, "I'll Be Watching You" was also about the government spying on its people (and all this time you thought it was about a stalker).

Yes, things from both 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World are both true because they are both projections based on observing the real world. But truth is stranger than fiction and 1984 was always supposed to be a dark comedy rather than an accurate prediction of the future.

I'll say that the more detached you are from the mainstream western culture, the more you see 1984, but the more you are into that culture, the more you see Brave New World.

Ah, I think we're pretty safe from 1984 brand totalitarianism.

1984 shows us a post-revolution society where the government can't be overthrown because they have everything, including the thoughts of their people, under almost complete control. And I just can't imagine our modern societies in the quote-unquote "West" letting that happen. With all of our intellectual and legal freedoms and rights; our luxuries, our comforts and distractions... the event that would inspire us to willingly give any of that up--or the force that would be necessary to make us--would have to be tremendous.

I can't imagine a government so efficient as to make control absolute. And, silly as the sentiment is, I also can't imagine people lacking in empathy enough to allow such a regime to exist unopposed. Surely every Nazi Germany has its Oskar Schindlers and Colonel Stauffenbergs, right?..

The idea of newspeak and doublethink are more insidious; language definitely influences our ways of thinking, and vice-versa. And both can change on a massive scale for reasons political or otherwise. But I doubt we'll ever see an organization effective enough to thoroughly control the ebb and flow of, say, the English language, never mind people's ways of thinking. For every person taken in by political rhetoric (from either end of the spectrum), or commercial manipulation, or whatever, there is someone else who isn't. So long as there are people of differing opinions and bents, so long as there are people holding governments and organizations and other people accountable for stuff, so long as there are people willing and able to identify and pick apart weasel-words and biases, I think we'll be safe from BB.

On the other hand, I can see Huxley's Brave New World being a more likely and less overt candidate for a modern dystopia..

Matt_LRR:
Saw this the other day, seems relevent to the discussion:

Are we likely to end up in an Orwellian distopia? Probably not, but the wheels of social control are always turning, for better or worse.

-m

Thanks for posting that! I'm not the biggest Neil Postman fan (dude is kind of a luddite), but he brings up excellent points.

Unlikely, at least in Western, and European countries.

There would be a large revolt.

Heh, I think Brave New World is much more likely to happen than 1984. TV = Soma and all that. Dumbing down people to make them docile works much better than violently forcing them to behave in a certain way. Time to cut education again, folks. And make secondary education unaffordable except for the elites. We wouldn't want any vertical mobility and critical thinking, now would we?!

EDIT: Ah, I see I've been ninja'd. Great cartoon Matt_LRR posted, that's mostly what I meant.

Matt_LRR:
Saw this the other day, seems relevent to the discussion:

Are we likely to end up in an Orwellian distopia? Probably not, but the wheels of social control are always turning, for better or worse.

-m

Agreed, but I've been a huge Neil Postman fan since university. It's really scary how accurate Amusing Ourselves to Death, a social studies book that's almost 30 years old, still is today. (I'm tempted to call it prophetic.)

I'd throw in a bit of Fahrenheit 451 for good measure: as a society, there's a danger we'll self-censor anything remotely offensive until there's nothing left to challenge whatever beliefs have been indoctrinated into us by the culture.

Maybe it starts with Wikileaks?

I mean, like the thought for them is "Only people should have secrets!" and then maybe it starts to devolve into "Why do you have secrets? What are you hiding?".

Just a thought I had, not a real belief of mine or anything.

Matt_LRR:
Saw this the other day, seems relevent to the discussion:

Are we likely to end up in an Orwellian distopia? Probably not, but the wheels of social control are always turning, for better or worse.

-m

That comic actually scared me. Thanks a lot.

I really don't have much to add, since I do think that the lack of valuable information has pushed us into Huxley's vision. I'm just waiting for my pills now.

In the normally considered "civilized" countries, I don't think it IS likely to happen, because information flows too freely.

Kobie:
In the normally considered "civilized" countries, I don't think it IS likely to happen, because information flows too freely.

You say that, but consider ACTA, DMCA, DEB, and soon Ed Vaisey's "adult content filter". Governments are moving ever closer to controlling the internet, hell, one US Senator came close to killing off Wikileaks just by having a quiet word with his corporate pals.

The worst of it is, they've convinced huge swathes of the population that it's for our own good. Business must be protected. We must be protected. Secrets must be protected. Won't somebody please think of the children! And the NIMBYs, the Mothers, the religious right all march in lockstep.

I think we're at a fulcrum point, either people wake up from the nightmare of corporate consumerism soon, or somebody is going to realise how easily pacified we are as a group, and take advantage of that flaw. I would argue that some already are.

Matt_LRR:
Saw this the other day, seems relevent to the discussion:

Are we likely to end up in an Orwellian distopia? Probably not, but the wheels of social control are always turning, for better or worse.

-m

Brave New World is very similar to the Anti-Christ Prophecy.

Or am I the only one to notice that?

 

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