Welcome to Episode Sixteen of our nightly audio adventure, Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell's portrait of a land of 24/7 surveillance-state thought-control. So a bit of pure escapism that's nothing to do with our world.
A couple of nights ago, we were exploring the panopticon state's attitude to sex - which prompted me to remark:
Hmm: The uses of pornography for a totalitarian regime.
Janet Long, a Missouri member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes:
At least we're not in danger of an 'Anti-Sex League' with Biden's penchant for hair sniffing and a touchy-feely approach to the females around him. Of course, that label is now forbidden, even for him to use.
On the other hand, here's Joseph, a First Month Founding Member from Virginia:
Well, if I remember, the last item on the 'Evil Overlord List' was this:
'Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.'
I'd say Orwell's distinction in Nineteen Eighty-Four - state-produced pornography for the proles, the "Anti-Sex League" for their betters - is about where we are today:
On the one hand, sexual specialities once the preserve of only the most rarefied are now mainstream, with predictable consequences for general social dysfunction.
On the other hand, in the highest social circles of the ruling ideology, senior figures are randomly #MeTooed pour encourager les autres: You produced more chick flicks than anyone in the history of motion pictures and were cozy with the Clintons, but you're gonna die in gaol. You're a leftie who hosted a beloved lNPR pseudo-variety show for decades, but your hand touched the small of a woman's back and you're gone. You starred in the very inferior American remake of House of Cards and the entire political class thought it a work of genius, but you're vaporized too and you're not coming back...
All that's pretty much as Orwell foresaw: Porn and licentiousness as mass diversion, and for those above the rabble such social relations as remain between the sexes are ever more perilous. Thus the world of 2021: The proles are their own porn stars and upload to PornHub with impunity, but "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a rapist's charter.
In tonight's episode of Nineteen Eighty-Four Hate Week is approaching and people are vanishing:
Syme had vanished. A morning came, and he was missing from work: a few thoughtless people commented on his absence. On the next day nobody mentioned him. On the third day Winston went into the vestibule of the Records Department to look at the notice-board. One of the notices carried a printed list of the members of the Chess Committee, of whom Syme had been one. It looked almost exactly as it had looked before--nothing had been crossed out--but it was one name shorter. It was enough. Syme had ceased to exist: he had never existed.
The weather was baking hot. In the labyrinthine Ministry the windowless, air-conditioned rooms kept their normal temperature, but outside the pavements scorched one's feet and the stench of the Tubes at the rush hours was a horror. The preparations for Hate Week were in full swing, and the staffs of all the Ministries were working overtime. Processions, meetings, military parades, lectures, waxworks, displays, film shows, telescreen programmes all had to be organized; stands had to be erected, effigies built, slogans coined, songs written, rumours circulated, photographs faked. Julia's unit in the Fiction Department had been taken off the production of novels and was rushing out a series of atrocity pamphlets. Winston, in addition to his regular work, spent long periods every day in going through back files of 'The Times' and altering and embellishing news items which were to be quoted in speeches. Late at night, when crowds of rowdy proles roamed the streets, the town had a curiously febrile air. The rocket bombs crashed oftener than ever, and sometimes in the far distance there were enormous explosions which no one could explain and about which there were wild rumours.
The new tune which was to be the theme-song of Hate Week (the Hate Song, it was called) had already been composed and was being endlessly plugged on the telescreens. It had a savage, barking rhythm which could not exactly be called music, but resembled the beating of a drum. Roared out by hundreds of voices to the tramp of marching feet, it was terrifying. The proles had taken a fancy to it, and in the midnight streets it competed with the still-popular 'It was only a hopeless fancy'.
Almost all the phenomena Orwell lists are now present in our own world - including, most recently, "altering and embellishing news items" in the back files of the newspapers. Both The Boston Globe and The Washington Post have in recent days decided to go back and rewrite old stories to help them conform to the needs of the present. That's literally Orwellian: It's Winston Smith's job in Nineteen Eighty-Four. But we have a media class too parochial and ill-read (despite dropping six figures on the Columbia School of Journalism) even to know who they're mimicking.
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