Welcome to Part Thirty-One of our latest audio entertainment: Nineteen Eighty-Four, a too timely tale by George Orwell. David London, a Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Airstrip One, writes of our theme music - late, broken Prokofiev - and my various voices:
The music is an inspired choice. A chilling reveille that sets the emotional scene perfectly.
It seems to me that Mark's voicings have been crafted to reflect the way in which social class continues to underpin the power hierarchies of the modern world. In England/London/Airstrip One that means the dominant/ruling class speaks in the patrician, upper-class voice of O'Brien, and the proles speak (and sing) in the garrulous cockney vernacular of the working class. Winston and Julia are the much put-upon middle classes who bear the full brunt of the ideological coercion and bullying. Their cowed, submissive vocal mannerisms, even in the passionate throes of their love affair, are thus cleverly observed, even if they do sound a little counter-intuitive at first.
Thank you for that, David. Very generous. In tonight's episode of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith comes to grasp the totality of the Party's control:
He knew now that for seven years the Thought Police had watched him like a beetle under a magnifying glass. There was no physical act, no word spoken aloud, that they had not noticed, no train of thought that they had not been able to infer. Even the speck of whitish dust on the cover of his diary they had carefully replaced. They had played sound-tracks to him, shown him photographs. Some of them were photographs of Julia and himself. Yes, even... He could not fight against the Party any longer. Besides, the Party was in the right. It must be so; how could the immortal, collective brain be mistaken?
To be watched like a beetle for seven years was a fanciful conceit when Orwell wrote his novel in 1948. But it's routine now: If ever the Thought Police come for you, they know your every Tweet or Instagram post from a decade ago. Meanwhile, the notion of an "immortal, collective brain" directing the ruthlessly enforced Big Social consensus seems also to be taken, implicitly, for granted. Who really cancels you other than the collective? The Facebook "team", the Twitter "birdwatch".
We'll be right back here on Wednesday evening (after my stint on Fox News Primetime) with the another instalment of Nineteen Eighty-Four. If you're minded to join us in The Mark Steyn Club, you're more than welcome. You can find more information here. And, if you have a chum you think might enjoy Tales for Our Time (so far, we've covered Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Dickens, Conrad, Kipling, Kafka, Gogol, Jack London, Baroness Orczy, Victor Hugo, O Henry, John Buchan, Scott Fitzgerald and more), we have a special Gift Membership that makes for a super-romantic Valentine present.