Why 2024 Is More Like 1984 Than We Realise, Fergus Kelly Daily Express

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Why 2024 Is More Like 1984 Than We Realise, Fergus Kelly Daily Express

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TIMELESS WARNING: Author George Orwell, main. Inset right, his iconic novel
Daily Express Monday 24th June 2024 - not published online

https://politicsthisweek.wordpress.com/ ... sling-196/

Three-quarters of a century after publication of his most famous novel, George Orwell's bleak dystopian vision remains a clarion call for everything we must strive to avoid ... even as its reality inches ever closer, warns FERGUS KELLY
WHEN I first read George Orwell's 1984 in the Seventies, I thought it could never happen here. That's despite the fact it was the height of the Cold War at the time. And that the West's adversary in that conflict, the Soviet Union, epitomised the grim, one-party tyranny Orwell had depicted so chillingly in his most famous novel. Yet now, 75 years after its first publication, the chilling concepts introduced in 1984 - of Newspeak and doublethink, unperson and telescreen, the Two-Minutes Hate and the Party's insistence that 2+2=5- appear only too prescient.
The Britain of the 1970s in which I grew up had plenty of woes. When rubbish piled up and the bodies went unburied during the so-called winter of discontent, it might even have resembled the drabness and neglect of the Britain renamed Airstrip One in 1984.
But the prospect of us becoming a Big Brother state back then seemed no more likely to my mid-teen self than the Anarchy in the UK that the Sex Pistols were predicting would prevail at around the same time. Or as remote as the dystopia of Diamond Dogs, the album David Bowie partly based on Orwell's classic (which itself marks a 50th anniversary this year).
Today, mercifully, it would still be absurd to suggest we are prey to the murderous extremes of Soviet -style communism, in which countless people perished in secret police cells or labour camps, and valiant dissidents were hurled into psychiatric hospitals and damned as mentally ill.
But in many other significant ways, from facial recognition cameras to algorithms predicting crimes before they happen, we have become worryingly more like the sort of society Orwell portrayed in 1984.
Take, for instance, the ever shifting speech codes which are designed not just to make people hesitate before talking out on any subject, but succeed in narrowing the parameters of debate on most given subjects to the point of silencing them.
Such codes only ever move in one censorious direction - just as in Orwell's 1984, the official language of Newspeak simplified grammar and limited vocabulary precisely to render critical thinking ever less likely. Censorship of this kind is straight from the totalitarian script adopted by the Soviet Union, China, and every other communist state of the past century, as well as the fascist regimes that represented the other side of the same coin.
The exiled Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei today regards political censorship in the West as ever more similar to that of his former homeland, so that, "Society becomes so timid, to really avoid any kind of questioning or argument". Then there is the ruling party's assertion in 1984 that, to subordinate objective truths to its political will, two plus two must equal five. Orwell first tackled such reality-denying by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
He wrote: "Nazi theory, indeed, specifically denies that such a thing as 'the truth' exists. The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future, but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, 'It never happened' - well, it never happened. If he says that 'two and two are five' - well, two and two are five."
In his ninth novel, published on June 8 1949, the final book completed in his lifetime, this process of indoctrination is called doublethink.
But in the West today we see numerous real-life examples of the same phenomenon. At the more harmless - and gormless - end of the scale, it's evident in the Duke of Sussex's claim in his memoir, Spare, when he writes: "There's just as much truth in what I remember and how I remember it as there is in so-called objective facts."
It becomes more serious on subjects like climate change. Here, proponents of the theory of "climate extinction", insist that "the science" is settled, when the most cursory reading of the many sources of research into the subject confirm it is anything but.
But, as far as what passes for a guiding philosophy for the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil is concerned, there is not just no debate; anyone with the temerity to question the theory is morally wrong, smeared as a "denier" - a grotesque perversion of a term only previously used to describe those who claimed the Holocaust never took place. We see it too in the absurd contortions which the majority of our political leaders performed while trying to placate the trans ideology. Biological fact and rational thought were suspended. We had politicians actually insisting some women could have a penis, claims some Labour MPs still seem strangely reluctant to backtrack over. Author and commentator Douglas Murray says: "All the time now there are things which we're told to believe that nobody believed yesterday. Biological reality is denied in order to remain in what passes for polite society."
While the courageous JK Rowling, who has been vilified and physically threatened over her pro-woman campaigning, wrote this weekend of the battle for "vulnerable women and girls, for single-sex spaces, for the right to speak about our own bodies as we please, and to retain the ability to call a man as a man, without which no analysis or activism around sex-based issues and inequalities is possible". How frightening that, for many, these issues are still not nailed down by the likeliest next government.
We might not yet have reached the point, as in 1984, when everyone must have a telescreen in their home - the two-way video device that allowed the Party to indoctrinate and also put them under round-the-clock surveillance.
Yet who can deny most of us are already chained to our smart-phones which, while offering previously undreamt of opportunities for learning and entertainment, through their software monitor our every move and second-guess our thoughts and desires?
Perhaps the most insidious aspect of the new online world is social media. For the first time in history, it has enabled thousands, millions even, to directly vilify and persecute at the same time individuals for their beliefs. At worst, these virtual lynch mobs demand either a criminal sanction or at the very least a loss of livelihood for their victims. And they resemble nothing so much as the Two Minutes Hate that Orwell described in 1984, when Party members were compelled to vent their hatred for enemies, depicted in specifically prepared footage at mass screenings.
The actual year of 1984 came and went without Orwell's nightmarish vision becoming reality, at least here. Only a few years after that same year, that spectre appeared to recede with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
But three-quarters of a century since its publication, it is the West - home of the supposed victors against that dismal ideology - that is in danger of forgetting his novel's warnings.
Express 1984 Orwell Fergus Kelly article June 2024-small.jpg
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