Thursday, July 24, 2014

Almost Palindrome

I asked myself this morning an odd question.  Where did Orwell's vision in 1984 get things wrong, as a forecast of how things are today?  I want to note first that his purpose wasn't to forecast but to warn people where things were headed at the time that he did write, which was 1948.  Then the specter of  totalitarianism was visible, embodied in the Soviet Union.  The Cold War was fought, in some sense, to drive that spirit away.  Alas, though the Soviets lost the Cold War, the specter may have triumphed after all.  Here is how things look to me now.

  1. There is not one Big Brother.  There are many of them.  They seem to be multiplying at alarming speed.
  2. The entry requirements to become Big Brother are having some power and some economic means. 
  3. It matters not the form of government.  There can and are Big Brothers in democratic governments. 
  4. Government itself is not necessary to be Big Brother.  A cabal of plutocrats can become Big Brother.  A military strong man can become Big Brother.
  5. The critical features of Big Brother are these:
    1. Staying on message irrespective of the facts on the ground or dissenting voices from below.
    2. Heavy handed attempts to control the narrative.
    3. Total disdain for contrary opinion.
The communication channels over the Internet that enable Big Brother feature something else that wasn't in Orwell - an enormous amount of blather, a combination of Tabloid and People's Magazine on steroids.  Big Brother's message is delivered within the blather, not distinct from it.

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