The Dystopian Reality In Dictatorships
Imagine living in a world where history can be rewritten to benefit those in power and truth is nothing more than an elaborate construct. George Orwell’s novel, 1984, shows that dystopian reality through the viewpoint of the protagonist, Winston Smith. Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, where he and many others revise historical records to benefit the Party. Even though Winston works for the Party, he has a different motive. Winston wants to rebel against the Party. He meets seemingly like-minded people and forms a group. However, his actions cause him to be arrested and mercilessly tortured. In his novel, 1984, George Orwell informs readers that dictators gain and keep their powers by manipulating and oppressing citizens through revising history to fit their narratives, spreading false information through propaganda campaigns, and finally surveilling and spying on their citizens.
George Orwell shows how dictators oppress their citizens by revising history. In the novel, 1984, Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, where he and many others alter historical records, documents, and the media. This constant revision of historical records, documents, and the media, degrades the truth and enables the Party to better oppress its citizens. One example of how the Party oppresses its citizens is when they revise historical records so that it would seem like “the chocolate ration [was] raised to twenty grams a week.” This is in complete contrast to the reality where “the ration was REDUCED to twenty grams a week.” This revision of history is portrayed in the novel in a way that makes it seem commonplace. This suggests that similar scenarios have occurred multiple times in the past. This further degrades the truth and allows the Party to oppress its citizens more effectively. The Party also revises the media to improve Big Brother’s outward appearance. One occurrence of this is when they rewrite “a paragraph of Big Brother’s speech […] to make him predict the thing that had actually happened.” This causes the citizens of Oceania to believe Big Brother is a wise, knowledgeable, and insightful leader. These actions the Party takes almost resemble what the Chinese government attempts to do. The Chinese government conceals and actively censors information regarding the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Although most democracies do not partake in revising history, some have attempted to do so in the past. The Canadian government attempted to conceal residential schools from the public. They hid it from the curriculum and mainstream media, and they only recently publicly talked about these residential schools. Although these actions do not exactly resemble what happened in 1984, these actions could have been the stepping stones toward the society portrayed in 1984. George Orwell demonstrates how dictators oppress their citizens by revising history.
Dictatorships manipulate their citizens by spreading propaganda through images, text, and music. Propaganda is information or ideas, whether true or false, that are spread to promote or injure a cause, movement, nation, etc. In the novel, 1984, Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, which is described to be an enormous building that is shaped like a pyramid and stands out from everything in view. Visible to everyone, the three slogans of the Party can be found on the Ministry of Truth, “WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.” These contradictory slogans are ingrained into the minds of all the citizens. The citizens learn to accept how the Party presents contradictory concepts as truth. This allows the Party to normalize extreme distortions of reality. The Party also schedules a Two Minutes Hate every day. During this Two Minutes Hate, the telescreens display images like “the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People.” The Two Minutes Hate allows the Party to channel the anger and hatred of its citizens towards a specific person. This manipulation of emotions allows the Party to reinforce its ideologies and values. Just like the Party in 1984, many dictatorships now and in the past use propaganda to spread their messages, ideals, and values. One notable example of a dictator that frequently used propaganda is Adolf Hitler. During his time ruling Nazi Germany, he employed many different examples of propaganda. They created books like the Mein Kampf where Hitler’s beliefs are detailed. They created posters that made the soldiers seem like heroes and Jews seem like enemies. This is almost like the displays of Emmanuel Goldstein during the Two Minutes Hate in 1984. George Orwell demonstrates how dictators manipulate their citizens by spreading propaganda through images, text, and music.
George Orwell demonstrates how dictators oppress their citizens by surveilling and monitoring their citizens. Throughout the novel, the Party shows its ability to constantly monitor the citizens of Oceania. This constant supervision leads to an atmosphere of fear, a loss of privacy, and more. One example of the Party breaching its citizens’ privacy and creating an atmosphere of fear is during an exercise routine. During the exercise routine, a female instructor directs everyone to do various exercises, when suddenly a voice calls out, “6079 Smith W.! Yes, YOU! Bend lower, please!” This shows that the Party is capable of monitoring all its citizens and likely has a group of workers watching the footage for anything deviating from the Party’s standards. The Party also creates posters and images which help to reinforce the atmosphere of fear. One example of a poster that can be found throughout Oceania is “the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall […] BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” The posters and the caption reinforce the atmosphere of fear by creating a constant feeling of being watched. This atmosphere of fear causes the citizens to become highly conscious of their words, actions, and thoughts as they could lead to severe consequences. This leads to the citizens suppressing their true feelings and opinions. This surveillance by the Party almost resembles the surveillance the CCP does. In China, surveillance cameras can be found almost everywhere. Whether they are on the side of a building or on a traffic light, they can be found almost everywhere. These cameras are connected to a system that the government uses for many different purposes, one of the most frivolous of which is to publicly shame “jaywalkers and list the names of people who don’t pay their debts.” Although this system is currently being used to shame people for doing minor crimes, it can be easily reprogrammed to find people who practice a certain religion or people who fall in a certain demographic. This system’s uses are constantly evolving and it has been proven that it can be used like the systems in 1984 that monitor people for deviating from the Party’s ideology. George Orwell shows how dictators oppress their citizens by surveilling and monitoring their citizens.
In his novel, 1984, George Orwell shows readers that dictators gain and keep their power by manipulating and oppressing citizens through revising history to fit their narratives, spreading false information through propaganda campaigns, and finally surveilling and spying on their citizens. 1984 shows the terrible consequences when leaders have unchecked power and total control over every aspect of people’s lives. People living in countries that work to protect their freedom should be thankful they are not in the dystopian society portrayed in 1984. People need to work together to stop government leaders who are greedy for power and people need to defend their freedom.
Remorseless Manipulation Within Dictatorships
Throughout past and present eras of the world, dictatorships have employed a variety of manipulative methods to attain and keep power. A fictional demonstration of these methods is shown in the novel 1984 by George Orwell. 1984 takes place in a dystopian time, where Big Brother controls every aspect of citizens’ lives. A man named Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites historical documents to align events with the political ideology of Oceania’s totalitarian government. He develops hatred towards Oceania’s totalitarian government and joins a group to pursue a seemingly ambitious rebellion. However, he becomes jailed, tortured, and brainwashed as a result of his actions. In the novel 1984, George Orwell informs readers that dictators attain and keep their powers by revising history to fit their narratives, spreading false information through propaganda campaigns, and surveilling their citizens.
Dictators often attain and keep their powers by revising historical content. By revising history, dictators are able to glorify their political ideology while vilifying opponents. This strategy is illustrated throughout Winston Smith’s perspective in the novel 1984. As a member of the Ministry of Truth, Winston rewrites historical documents to align events with the political ideology of Oceania’s totalitarian government. In the March seventeenth edition of ‘The Times,’ Big Brother forecasts that a “Eurasian offensive would shortly be launched in North Africa.” However, Eurasia instead “launche[s] its offensive in South India and [leaves] North Africa alone.” As a result, Winston must “rewrite a paragraph of Big Brother’s speech, in such a way as to make him predict the thing that had actually happened.” By completing this task, Oceania citizens become convinced of Big Brother’s extraordinary wisdom. Later in the novel, party member Comrade Withers commits a political crime and is declared an unperson. In order to conceal this incident in public records, Winston fabricates a story about an individual named Comrade Ogilvy, “who had recently died in battle, in heroic circumstances.” Notably, historical manipulation has been implemented in past totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany. In Nazi Germany, about six million Jewish individuals were murdered in the Holocaust. However, Nazis often denied the existence of the Holocaust and burned books that opposed their political ideology. Throughout the novel 1984, George Orwell demonstrates how dictators often attain and keep their powers through the revision of historical content.
Apart from revising history, dictators also attain and keep their powers by spreading misinformation through propaganda campaigns. These propaganda campaigns serve as a method to manipulate citizens’ political views and fabricate false realities. In the novel 1984, one propaganda method displayed is the omnipresence of Oceania’s government party slogan: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” This slogan suggests that war may equate to stability, while liberty and independence may lead to misery. Another compelling propaganda method shown is the daily ‘Two Minutes Hate’ program, where citizens voice hateful messages toward Oceania’s political enemies. One of Oceania’s notable enemies is Emmanuel Goldstein, who advocates for “freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, [and] freedom of thought.” When Oceania’s government plays a video of Goldstein’s political ideology during the ‘Two Minutes Hate’ program, citizens “leap up and down in their places and shout at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen.” During the program, “one [is not] obliged to act part, but it [is] impossible to avoid joining in.” By spreading these forms of propaganda, Oceania’s government is able to convince citizens about their political ideologies. Such forms of propaganda are present in modern dictatorships like North Korea, where posters, slogans, and programs praise Kim Jong Un while denouncing enemies like the United States. In the novel 1984, George Orwell successfully demonstrates how dictators often attain and keep their powers through the spread of propaganda campaigns.
Dictators also attain and preserve their powers by surveilling citizens. Throughout dictatorships, surveillance is utilized to suppress dissent and establish fear within rebels. This strategy is underscored in the novel 1984, where the Thought Police use ubiquitous telescreens to monitor the behavior of Oceanian citizens. Within homes, “every sound [one] ma[kes] [is] overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinized.” As a result, citizens fear speaking against Oceania’s ideology to avoid possible punishments such as torture. In addition to telescreens, Oceania’s government also monitors their citizens through the employment of undercover agents who appear to rebel. In the novel, Winston and Julia meet O’Brien, who appears to be a member of a rebellious group called the Brotherhood. Winston and Julia admit that they “disbelieve in the principles of Ingsoc, [and] are thought-criminals.” However, O’Brien reveals that he is an agent of the Thought Police, and subjects Winston to torture for attempting to rebel. By utilizing these forms of surveillance, Oceania’s government is able to avoid any widespread developments of rebellion. These forms of surveillance show a resemblance to East Germany, which captured audio and video recordings of citizens to maintain political and ideological control while suppressing rebels. In the novel 1984, George Orwell successfully demonstrates how dictators often attain and keep their powers through surveillance.
In the novel 1984, George Orwell aims to convey the message that dictators attain and keep their powers through historical distortion, the spread of propaganda campaigns, and the oppressive surveillance of citizens. Canadians are fortunate not to live in 1984’s totalitarian dystopia filled with misery for free-thinking citizens. However, one must recognize that democracies can easily fall into dictatorships as a result of power abuse. For example, Germany became a dictatorship during Hitler’s Nazi regime, as a result of strategies such as historical manipulation and propaganda campaigns. Therefore, Canadians must be alert, and pay attention to signs of dictatorship to protect their democracy in the future.