ministryoftruth

dan

From top: The Ministry of Truth in ‘1984‘ (1956); Dan Boyle

With so many of George Orwell’s predictions having come to pass, have we any hope of bringing about a more sane, more just World?

Dan Boyle writes:

In 1948 George Orwell wrote his dystopian novel ‘1984’, the title of which was a slight re-ordering of the year when he was writing his work.

Written as a prophetic warning on the dangers of authoritarianism, I suspect he would now be saddened at how many of his fears have come to be realised. How distant the World has become detached from his cherished ideals of social democracy.

Big Brother has become very very real.
An all pervasive surveillance, as revealed through the whistleblowing of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, has seen the commodification of personal information to the extent that unseen, distant forces now know more about of us than we often know about ourselves.

The extent of how much information on the individual has been accumulated now means the fear that exists for many, is that it is not the direct fear of exposure most are afraid of, but the awareness that those who have acquired this information get to decide the context in which it is set thus controlling its interpretation.

Our post factual World is sadly being being mirrored in Orwell’s concepts of Newspeak and the Ministry of Truth. Words are weapons manipulated by their authors to distort far more than to inform.

Truth has become divisible. It deliberately is being attributed as lacking in depth. This truth by its nature can never be fixed and must ever be transient. Truth in this cheapened form has become a currency.

Even when prognosticating on the geopolitical World of 1984 Orwell seemed fairly on the money. He envisioned three superpowers of Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. Oceania being the US and its European vassal states, with Britain designated as Airstrip One. Eurasia was Russia with its Eastern European satellites. Orwell was most impressive in predicting the superpower status of China as Eastasia, particularly as Mao Tse Tung had yet to take power there in 1948.

Among the scarier of predictions Orwell made on these superpowers was on the fluidity of their interactions with each other. Wars of convenience would be constantly fought between them with ever shifting alliances. This seems a fairly close approximation of what’s happening at the moment in Syria and in Yemen.

Of course these wars became deniable when their theatres and the alliances fighting them changed.

With so many of Orwell’s predicaions having come to pass, have we any hope of bringing about a more sane, more just World? The unquenchably hopeful idiot in me wants to get Orwell to ghost write a utopian novel pointing a better way ahead. Come in 2061 your time is now.

Help rid us of infotainment. Gives us back our real time information. Let us be able to think again on the basis of facts that are proven not supposed. Give us some truth.

If it isn’t asking too much maybe we could return to a World where knowledge is gained through reading books, rather than by watching YouTube videos.

Orwell wrote most of 1984 on a remote island off the coast of Scotland. Perhaps an island off the coast of Ireland could be the place in which the antidote to 1984 can be written?

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: MGM

57 thoughts on “2061

  1. chris

    Will the General Data Protection Regulation coming in in May 2018 be of any use? It is the EU putting personal data protection on to the level of a basic human right I think.

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Gee, Dan, thanks for this riveting expose which the rest of us dumb animals would NEVER have twigged. Particularly obliged for you pointing out the 1948-1984 thing.

  2. nellyb

    I believe it’s a mistake to blame tech for lack of critical thinking in humans. Lazy human consuming printed content is no wiser than lazy human consuming digital content. Please point your fingers to mammies and daddies, Dan. As well as department of education struggling with appropriate curriculum.

    1. f_lawless

      but isn’t there a difference when technology (or those behind it) is controlling what information you are exposed to – eg tailored/filtered search results, etc?

  3. AdvertisingOnPoliceCars

    ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley is a more realistic reflection on what we have become, obsessed with body and consumption (soma). ‘1984’ is far too typical and lazy as an analogy as it was meant to be a cautionary tale against Communism.

    1. nellyb

      ‘1984’ is way more than some reaction to a phenomenon in history, communism example was a perfect setting for most readers to understand.
      This is from Rowan William’s piece in the Guardian on what Dan is covering from his angle. It’s very contemporary:
      “In 1967, Merton published an essay on “War and the Crisis of Language”, in which he develops a distinctly Orwellian polemic against the corruption of writing itself by certain aspects of modernity. The speech of military strategists and of politicians is characterized by a narcissistic finality. There can be no real reply to the careful and reasonable calculation of the balance of mass killing in a nuclear war, because everything is so organised that you are persuaded not to notice what it is you are talking about. And when that happens, you cannot intelligently converse or argue: all there is is the definitive language imposed by those who have power. It is a natural extension of the language habitually used to describe the processes of other kinds of war. Merton relished the comment of an American commander in Vietnam: “In order to save the village, it became necessary to destroy it”, and memorably summed up the philosophy of many supporters of the Vietnam intervention:
      “The Asian whose future we are about to decide is either a bad guy or a good guy. If he is a bad guy, he obviously has to be killed. If he is a good guy, he is on our side and he ought to be ready to die for freedom. We will provide an opportunity for him to do so: we will kill him to prevent him falling under the tyranny of a demonic enemy.”
      more in here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/12/words-on-war-a-summons-to-writers-orwell-lecture

  4. Clampers Outside!

    “Truth has become divisible. It deliberately is being attributed as lacking in depth. This truth by its nature can never be fixed and must ever be transient. Truth in this cheapened form has become a currency.”

    Aye that, the ‘post-truth’ era where sound-bites, opinion and “feelings” count as truth; the growth in the regressive left and their desire for the control of language / free speech; where ideology trumps facts.
    The lefts policing of liberal and moderate Muslims is a fine example of this. Facebook bans them, Twitter bans them, the SPLC logs them as “extremists” (https://www.splcenter.org/ – I don’t trust this site, it’s pure regressive propaganda of the liberal left, IMO. A champion in shutting down free speech. Just because it does some good work, doesn’t mean ‘all’ it does is good work!).
    The shutting down of those Muslim voices who speak up against the negative side of Islam is jaw dropping in its ignorance. The desire of the left to be seen to be putting out the correct virtue signals, has the effect of shutting down any real debate about the issues inherent in Islam.

    Fascists rise from the left as well as the right.

    – – – – –
    Anyone who would like to see those moderate Muslims and ex-Muslims removed from the “anti-Muslim Extremists” lists on the SPLC website can sign a petition to have them removed, it’s worth a go, if you believe in free speech – https://www.jihadwatch.org/2016/10/remove-13-freedom-fighters-from-the-splcs-list-of-anti-muslim-extremists

    1. Nigel

      The SPLC – the Southern Poverty Law Centre, folks, – is a regressive left organisation, but jihadwatch, from the guy behind Stop The Islamization Of America, is your trusted source on who is extreme and who isn’t? I see Pamela Gellar is on that list. I do not have a problem with Pamela Geller being labeled an anti-Muslim extemist.

      1. Nigel

        Oh, wow, and that guy who said Birmingham is a no-go area for non-Muslims! Nothing ‘post-truth’ about this guy!

        1. Nigel

          ‘Sorry if I upset you’ is a ploppy, meaningless troll gambit, Clamps. Just so you know.

          I’m waiting to hear why the ones I’ve mentioned should NOT be considered anti-Muslim extemists, thanks.

          Actually I’m not waiting I’m off for a walk. Bye!

          1. Nigel

            So some of these people are looking forward to a Muslim registry, the deportation of Muslims and the banning of Muslims for the US, or, at least to excoriating Trump when he fails to implement these to their satisfaction, but you’re castigating the ‘regressive left’ because a moderate Muslim may be on a list that does nothing but provide information about them for journalists to use or not use as they see fit.
            Think you need a walk more than I do.

          2. Clampers Outside!

            “So some of these people are looking forward to a Muslim registry, the deportation of Muslims and the banning of Muslims for the US, or, at least to excoriating Trump when he fails to implement these to their satisfaction….”

            You’re worse than a conspiracy theorist. You never comment on what was said by others, only what you wish to have been said, and then peppered with your imagination :)

            That’s a genuine smiley.

      2. Nigel

        And Frank Gaffney: “Watch this space as we identify and consider various, ominous and far more clear-cut acts of submission to Shariah by President Obama.”

        Nah he’s not an ant-Muslim extremist! (Trump may or may not be eyeing him up for the transition team, folks!)

        Good one, Clamps. The SPLC must be off their meds or something.

          1. Nigel

            I can tell your sources there are the vanguard of the post-truth world. College Fix? New York Post? You are wasting my valuable time. And my time is not that valuable.

          2. Clampers Outside!

            Nigel, the fact they didn’t report over 2,000 hate crimes can be found on many sites. Google it. Hell, there’s quotes from the SPLC admitting they did it on the link I provided. But instead of acknowledging they have bias… you attack the link …. fupping gas!

            Here, I’ll save you googling it… “SPLC ignored 2,000 hate crimes post trump” search is in link below, pick a media organisation you like from that and read it there….. or get back to your echo chamber where you won’t have to read stuff you don’t like or approve of.

            https://www.google.ie/search?q=SPLC+ignored+2,000+hate+cfrimes+post+trump&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gws_rd=cr&ei=up9JWL3vCsPQgAak-a_gAg#q=SPLC+ignored+2%2C000+hate+crimes+post+trump

    2. Listrade

      I guess it’s worth mentioning a few points. The SPLC list is clearly described on the site and the guide itself. It gives the names, what they are on record as saying and is designed for journalists to use when they are speaking to or reporting on those people. I.e, here’s what they have said, don’t let their comments go unchecked.
      No call for them to be silenced, banned or in any other way restricted so the argument of restricting free speech is moot. The SPLC is only flagging up those with extreme views and hateful messages (their main site lists White and Black Power leaders as well as Muslim as well as Jewish extremists). The list referenced is additional information where they hope journalists will challenge these people on their message and not let them speak unchecked. Challenging someone’s views is not restricting free speech. Not even remotely.
      Maybe the left is suppressing moderate islam, after all:
      “There is no moderate Islam. … [T]here’s really only one Islam, defined as submission to the will of God. There’s nothing moderate about it.”
      Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that. Yeah, she seems reasonable and not at all prone to extremist anti-muslim rhetoric. Sure, she’s just a moderate (who lied about her background and was kicked out of the Dutch Parliament) who is being suppressed by the left.
      Can we see a list of all these moderates banned from facebook and twitter? Last I saw facebook was more concerned about nipples in a picture than what is posted and twitter has been unilaterally useless at banning anyone even for direct threats to an individual.

      1. Clampers Outside!

        Fair points Listrade on the effect of the SPLC, in that it is just a list without enforcement. But when the media, MSM that is, is all on the left, then these people on the list won’t even get heard by people because the MSM won’t entertain conflicting views to their own bias…. which was seen in the US election, as an example.

        The Dutch citizenship is not as black and white as you paint it. And she had the full support of “all major parties supported a motion requesting the Minister [Dutch PM] to explore the possibility of special circumstances in Hirsi Ali’s case.”
        Getting all the parties on your side in Holland to look at your case is no mean feat. And her original application had some lies on it, which she her self had already exposed before entering parliament. Some might call the TV documentary “exposé” of her immigration application as a ‘witch hunt’ by the left, considering the vast majority of that exposé was already revealed four years earlier, by herself in both an interview and a book – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaan_Hirsi_Ali#Dutch_citizenship_fallout

        I think your use of that quote is out of context. “Islam”, the word, if you translate it directly from Arabic means “submission”. And if you re-read the quote, that’s all that she has said – that it is not ‘moderate’ but about ‘submission’.
        “Anti-muslim” and “extremist” are not the same. One can be anti any religion and not be an extremist. Please don’t equate the two so readily. That’s part of the regressive liberal left’s goal, to muddle the two.

        No… I looked… can’t find the list of those banned. I did see a list of names in an article…. which I can’t locate now (Plse don’t make a response specifically about this omission, that’d be tired and boring).

        Again, you make a fair point Listrade, but I don’t agree with all you’ve said.

        1. Listrade

          One thing to disagree with is the likes of MSM, BBC, etc often give voice to extreme views in an attempt to be balanced (or as I suspect anger up the liberal blood with obviously extreme stuff and prevent any actual genuine counter to liberal views), which is why the list is important.

          It is important to know what she has said so that we can judge if she can present a balanced view. That’s what the list does.

          Let’s not split hairs over the context of her quote, I doubt she was really discussing the dictionary definition of Islam, she was implying that there can be no moderate muslims, so she’s hardly a voice for them.

          I’ve no doubt there are people banned by FB and Twitter, but it really isn’t that widespread, but the accusation is. Not that I’m likely to be believed, but I was genuinely interested in the scale of banning and if there was a record of banning. Reddit on the other hand has admitted its role in amending posts. But then Reddit is the most wretched hive of scum and villainy ever, left and right.

          Personally, I think being Anti Religion is kinda extreme. I’m an atheist, I’m pro-separation of state and religion, pro human right, etc, but I’m not anti religion. Anti Religion stretches into thought crimes. That is extreme.

          It is hard to untangle anti-muslim from the cultural, ethical and racial aspects of muslims, as it is Judaism, even Catholicism. Strong influential religions that became more about culture than the religion itself. and to be honest, opponents of Islam don’t even try to untangle the cultural from the damaging religious rhetoric. The left isn’t muddying that in isolation.

          I’m not even sure this has much to do with Dan’s piece, but it is interesting to discuss. I do know that in my socialist youth I was alone in liking Orwell. I don’t think they forgave him for being posh or for using Communism to make a point.

          1. Junkface

            You make very sensible points. I’m an Atheist myself but I don’t want to destroy all relgions. They just need to be kept separated from Government and law if we are to truly develop as mankind.

    3. Unlucky in locks

      In fairness, the right to free speech does not include a right to be listened to or to have your opinion respected.

      I believe it’s disingenuous to say free speech is being shut down.

      No, an organisation has made a decision about what it chooses to listen to or respect.

      Breda O’Brien is someone who consistently misunderstands the right to free speech as being the right to being respected.

      Another thing that this reminds me of, is how those who use phrases like “regressive left” and “MSM” with apparent scorn are very keen to mock so-called safe spaces and call liberals snowflakes, but then get very upset when they think no one is listening to them or respecting them. Not saying you’ve done this by any stretch, it just reminded me of it

      1. Clampers Outside!

        Fair enough Unlucky, I get where you’re coming from.

        But on one note in that… on ‘Safe Spaces’….. I’m sorry, but they should be mocked, as it works counter to a healthy recovery in the manner that it is used by the feminist / left movements on campuses and else where. Safe Spaces in their original use (in the army) is fine, not for everyday life like going to college or work.

        Safe Spaces as they are used on campuses actually work against a healthy mental recovery, perpetuates the ‘triggering’ problem by avoiding facing it, and can lead to infantilising of the individual through the encouragement of the ‘power’ of victimhood.
        No amount of made up pseudo science from the faux academic musings of feminism can change that fact. Ask a shrink, counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist… someone who actually works in the field, just don’t ask some twit with a humanities degree.

        I use “regressive left” where appropriate or at least I do try, and I believe it was appropriate use above. I also think it is important that everyone understand the difference between MSM and independent media, that should be a given. I like to try get my news from as wide a number of sources as possible, as should everyone these days, in order to avoid echo chambers and the hysteria of ‘righteousness’ which was so prevalent in the run up to the US election.

        1. Unlucky in locks

          We fundamentally disagree here.

          It’s undeniable that there’s groups in society that have traditionally been marginalised or actively persecuted, and to say how they should or shouldn’t behave without having any experience of their existence demonstrates, in my view, a lack of empathy with their situation.

          I don’t think it’s about the power of victimhood, but rather providing a platform. You’ve previously criticised others for holding a black and white view point, I think that’s what you’re doing here though. This is the internet so feel free to disbelieve me, but I know clinical psychologists who would fundamentally disagree with you. “Toughing it out” is not necessarily a good approach to the struggles of some of these groups (I realise you never said this, but I felt it was implied). White men (which I am) have had a very good run of it. No, this is not the fault of every white man alive today, and no, I’m not suggesting white men (or just people) are necessarily the problem. But there is pushback against that today, and a subsequent pushback from white men against this pushback (I don’t have a thesaurus handy). And in my opinion this is where a lot of the most virulent rhetoric we see online come from, rather than the “regressive left”. Interestingly, that term originally only referred to liberals who were deemed reluctant to criticise Islamic extremism, but now seems to be applied to anyone who doesn’t agree with Milo Yiannopoulos (to a certain extent).

          With regards to getting news from as wide a number of sources as possible, I think an important caveat there is that this is fine as long as the source is based in facts, which is not the case as you cast your net wider (Breitbart being the most topical example). Personally, the BBC is the go-to for objective news

          1. Clampers Outside!

            Aye, yes, a wide variety of sources and those sources checked for fact credibility regardless of political bent. I don’t go for this idea that ‘if it’s right, it’s no good’ like many on here.
            Onto the other… I’m not dictating how people should or shouldn’t behave, please no, no intention if that. I’m concerned with how ‘safe spaces’ and ‘trigger warnings’ are used… or abused. Look at how they’re used in universities how it affects examination questions, lecturers use of language, etc…

            ….honestly I’m all stuffed up with a head cold, on a bus now…., this guy explains it a lot better, and you’ll see how and where ‘regressive left’ is genuinely more pervasive than you may currently think, and that it’s not a crackpot phrase thrown about by ‘alt right’ types but something genuine in that it affects discourse adversely….

            https://areomagazine.com/2016/12/08/peter-boghossian-on-critical-thinking-the-atheos-app-and-the-post-modern-influence-on-universities/

  5. President von Clownstick

    “Aye that, the ‘post-truth’ era where sound-bites, opinion and “feelings” count as truth”

    “I don’t trust this site, it’s pure regressive propaganda of the liberal left, IMO”

      1. President von Clownstick

        My point is made when you regurgitate Breitbart verbatim and then contradict yourself in the very next sentence. Another failed attempt to be even half way intellectually competent.

        Now, post your standard lol or a flippant comeback to show that you are the top dog around these parts.

        1. Clampers Outside!

          Why would I do that when I haven’t even done what you said I did.

          If you are going to make an assertion at least explain how it is so, thanks, otherwise… just keep living up to your name, good lad.

          1. President von Clownstick

            Some say it doesn’t take a President von Clownstick to recognise clowns but it helps.

            “Why would I do that when I haven’t even done what you said I did.”

            Ah, my fine fellow, yet you reply and again prove my point. Roll up roll up to spin the wheel of banality!

            *insert lol and mediocre reply here*

          2. Unlucky in locks

            He’s saying you contradicted yourself by first saying:
            “Aye that, the ‘post-truth’ era where sound-bites, opinion and “feelings” count as truth; the growth in the regressive left and their desire for the control of language / free speech; where ideology trumps facts”
            The important part being a criticism of “feelings” counting as truth.
            You then went on to say:
            “I don’t trust this site, it’s pure regressive propaganda of the liberal left, IMO”.
            You’re giving an opinion here, a feeling not based on truth, or “post-truth”.
            I believe Mr President was referring to that contradiction

          3. Unlucky in locks

            Apologies, I said “not based on truth”.
            I should have said not based on presented evidence.
            Or else we’re into post-evidence territory

  6. Bodger

    Maybe they weren’t predictions. Could Orwell, like his former teacher at Eton, Aldous ‘Brave New World’ Huxley, have had insider information?

    I’ll get my coat/metallic headwear.

  7. 15p

    I don’t understand how lying became exceptable in such large platforms. Eg. When trump and Clinton debated, if he told a lie it was just up to yerself to decide if it was true or not, I think in such an influential position u should be forced to tell the truth, screened by the invigilator. Who would interrupt and strike it from the record like court.

    Our own politicians are awful for it. Why is it acceptable? When Kenny tells a fat lie and most of us know it’s untrue, there are loads of people who don’t know either way and presume he’s tellin the truth. Why isn’t it part of the law to severely punish politicians who are caught lying? Instead they just stay low for a while and then continue on. There’s no deterrent.

  8. Junkface

    Truth and Feelings don’t mix.

    We need to sort out this mistrust of Acedemics and Facts in America. It affects us all in the rest of the world.

    1. Listrade

      Existential crisis…what is truth? Who’s truth?

      I agree that more has to be done to present facts and counter deliberate falsehoods. This is easy when it is someone misrepresenting information. But Clinton was guilty of this too. The fact check websites went a bit easy on her during the debates. Maybe that was because Trump was so largely off the scale with his statements that her spin seemed minor in comparison. But “partially true” (as it was often categorized) is still lying or misrepresenting. Except her’s was old school misrepresentation, the cherry picking of data to prove a point…the stuff I do all the time on the internet to look smart and confirm the thing I want to be all angry about.

      But it’s still my truth, the thing that my experiences and influences have led to. I doubt it really is the truth. I doubt it is your truth or the truth of those who voted Trump (or Clinton).

      There’s only so much we can actually present as truth, a lot of what was discussed, as bad as it was and as misrepresented as it was, was still the truth for those who liked it. Truth and feelings can’t be separated. Confirmation bias exists, it is rife in academia. It’s why some theories take years to be accepted because it goes against the prevailing truth for the current “top” academics.

      Maybe if I were a Vulcan, I could go along with that…but then Spock was the most human of us all according to Jim. I still cry at that.

      Anyway, saying truth and feelings don’t mix is another way of saying people are stupid. Everyone who voted for Trump is stupid. I’m not sure they were…not all of them, not the majority of them. Same with Brexit. I know people who voted Brexit, they aren’t stupid. It’s that their truth is different to my truth. Their bubble is different to my bubble. I listened to the “truth” that suited me and confirmed my feelings, they did the same.

      The difference is, my truth was right.

    2. Kieran NYC

      +1

      “Free speech” has turned into “Lying With Impunity and Being Taken Seriously Because Balance and Internet”

  9. bisted

    …fairplay Dan…your weekly columns demonstrate your mastery of ‘doublethink’…big brother would approve (even if the pesky greens appear to have disowned you)

    1. Dan Boyle

      I do it for you Bisted because of your much vaunted sense of fair play. You might ask them to send on that letter of disownment tome.

  10. f_lawless

    my two cents: I think talk of the world entering a new “post truth”, “fake news” era is just a manufactured narrative by USWestern/ media. It’s always been that way to one extent or another; a powerful tactic used to influence public opinion.
    You don’t even have to look very far back to find examples – a majority of American citizens actually believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 by the time the US invaded Iraq due to lies peddled by the media ..not forgetting the whole WMD deception too.. or what about Obama, once in power, announcing he was stepping up the bombing campaign in Afghanistan in order to bring peace to the country? “War is Peace”! …Even the NATO bombing of Libya was done under a false narrative that the Libyans were united in their hatred of Gaddafi; that taking him out would not lead to civil war but rather engender democracy.

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