Striving to silence voices with which the mainstream media disagrees, the New York Times has urged President Joe Biden to appoint a “reality czar” to lead the fight against “disinformation and domestic extremism.”
But to trace out the history of the whole period, to say who was fighting whom at any given moment, would have been utterly impossible, since no written record, and no spoken word, ever made mention of any other alignment than the existing one. At this moment, for example, in 1984 (if it was 1984), Oceania was at war with Eurasia and in alliance with Eastasia. In no public or private utterance was it ever admitted that the three powers had at any time been grouped along different lines. Actually, as Winston well knew, it was only four years since Oceania had been at war with Eastasia and in alliance with Eurasia. But that was merely a piece of furtive knowledge which he happened to possess because his memory was not satisfactorily under control. Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible.
The frightening thing, he reflected for the ten thousandth time as he forced his shoulders painfully backward (with hands on hips, they were gyrating their bodies from the waist, an exercise that was supposed to be good for the back muscles) — the frightening thing was that it might all be true. If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death.
The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed — if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
— George Orwell, 1984 (pages 31-32 in the Signet reprint of the 1949 hardcover).
If all records are made to tell the same (lying) tale, then the memory of the past can be altered for the purposes of exercising control over others. Drawing a veil over the memory of the past, and imposing a false picture of the past in its place, is a tremendously powerful weapon — as George Orwell dramatizes in 1984.
“We need to introduce new ground rules for political discourse.”
(November 8, 2007)
NEW YORK – In his novel 1984, George Orwell chillingly described a totalitarian regime in which all communication is controlled by a Ministry of Truth and dissidents are persecuted by political police. The United States remains a democracy governed by a constitution and the rule of law, with pluralistic media, yet there are disturbing signs that the propaganda methods Orwell described have taken root here.
“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance-it is the illusion of knowledge.”-Daniel Boorstin
In George Orwell’s 1984 the Outer Party comprised a mere thirteen percent of the population and was subject to the ideological filters in play at the Ministry of Truth and the broader bureaucratic structure. A specific language and way of thinking were closely adhered to. Given their political import, Outer Party members were the most heavily indoctrinated and controlled inhabitants of Oceania. The majority Proles who constituted the remainder of the population was of little consequence so long as their political awareness remained underdeveloped.
It is estimated that one in three CIA drone strikes in Pakistan kills a child . Between 2004 and 2011 at least 168 children have been killed in America’s drone war in that country alone.
In the purported digital age one is frequently presented with the notion that communication will inevitably make society a more coherent whole. Yet media technology has failed to conquer the combined obstacles of the censorial use of language and geographic distance when it comes to relating the many horrors of modern warfare. Instead, such technology has reinforced a now familiar tradition of language games that cleanses atrocities from the popular memory.