Governmental Mind Control: Nonsensical Myth or Startling Reality?
He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother. (297) In this powerful scene from his infamous dystopian novel, George Orwell exemplifies the love the character Winston Smith has at the end of the novel for the all-controlling government he once loathed. The passage is relevant because it illustrates the power exerted by a government in order to control its citizens; currently, many people hold the belief that the current global governments exercise a similar, though not as drastic, power over people, causing our world to accelerate towards the imagined world of Orwells 1984.
For centuries, governing bodies have implemented the use of torture in order to gain information from their opposition as well as forcing them to admit faults they are not necessarily guilty of and claims they do not believe in. During World War II, the heartless, fascist dictator Adolf Hitler tortured his political opponents into forced agreement. The communist party of China denied the deaths of multiple protesters in Tiananmen Square; the government captured those who spoke out against it, despite the fact the activists spoke the truth, and tortured them until they publicly admitted they originally lied to the public and that the murders never occurred. In more recent times, many were horrified by the knowledge of the water boarding that was occurring at Guantanimo Bay prison in order to obtain confessions from prisoners. In 1984, Orwell parallels the actual torture that was occurring in society to the torture Winston endures while trapped in the Ministry of Love.
We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When you final surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we will never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may bewe make the brain perfect before we blow it outthey begged to be shot quickly, so that they could die while their minds were still clean. (255)
By the conclusion of his stay, Winston believes everything his captors told him, including that 2+2=5.
Propaganda is used by world governments to control their citizens. Over the years, propaganda has been used successfully to control public opinion. One of the most prominent examples of the large-scale use of propaganda is during the period of influence of the Third Reich in Germany. Using propaganda, Hitler and his followers attacked the Jewish people by saying that they were subhuman, and turned the country against them. It has also been used extensively during periods of war throughout history in order to make certain the aligning of a population against a common enemy. Propaganda is commonly used in the United States during political campaigns as a way to obliterate an opponents chance of being elected. The continuous war with either Eurasia or Eastasia in 1984 is one situation where the Party employs propaganda to exaggerate the violence and unite its citizens in order to control the way in which people utilize their energy and focus. Because the enemy is always changing, posters and other forms of media are also employed to reinforce the Partys statement that the war is and always has been with the same enemy.
A new poster suddenly appeared all over London. It had no caption, and represented simply the monstrously figure of a Eurasian soldier, three or four meters high, striding forward with an expressionless Mongolian face and enormous boots, a submarine gun pointed from his hip. From whatever angle you looked at the poster, the muzzle of the gun, magnified by the foreshortening, seemed to be pointed straight at you. The thing was plastered on every blank space on every wall, even outnumbering the portraits of Big Brother. (149)
The Two Minutes Hate is a time where people vent their anger and frustrations against the enemy so they do not think to rebel against the Party. As with any powerful government in history, the Party desires to, above all else, remain in complete control; those who are in a position of authority do not want to relinquish that position and become one of the controlled.
In the United States, the right of freedom of speech is in place to protect the general public from the wrath of a censoring authority. However, this is not always the situation. The governments of many countries, such as China and North Korea, have full control over all forms of media, meaning they have full control of what information is released to the citizens and what information is kept under lock and key. Some governments even go as far as imprisoning or even killing those who dare to speak out against anything they feel is unjust. For example, in the Middle East and in Asia, where prisoners of conscience, as they are called, are wasting away in a jail cell for trying to put an end to injustice and bring about a better life for their fellow countrymen ("Individuals at Risk: Prisoners of Conscience). There is an old saying that suggests that history is written by the victors, and that is certainly true in years past and, in some places, still today. History often neglects to mention those who were tortured and the innocent people who were thrust into horrific situations, instead emphasizing the statistics that put the authors in a good light, even if they do not deserve it. For example, when discussing wars, people tend to gloss over the issues such as the innocent people, whose homes were destroyed, instead focusing solely on the outcome of the war and the battles that were triumphant. Often, the public is told what the government wants people to believe, even in a free nation such as the United States. Orwells 1984 establishes the negatives of extreme censorship, using Winstons career to illustrate censorship gone too far. He literally rewrites history in order to build up the Party so it seems like a supreme power. Orwell determines that one cannot know what the truth is and what the lies are when censorship is taken to the extreme. In 1984, he lists as one the Partys slogans to be, who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. (Orwell, 35) This slogan is particularly pertinent to the idea of censorship because it illustrates the Partys nearly unlimited control over what is remembered and what is forever erased from memory.
Our world is becoming increasingly similar to the world described by Orwell. Torture, propaganda, and censorship are all commonly utilized by some governments to gain control over its people. But, is society really to the point of a total loss of individuality, as described in 1984? Perhaps not yet, but there is little doubt that the frightening world of Orwells novel is the direction in which society is currently hurtling towards. Unless something is done to prevent the complete takeover of an all-controlling government, one day, anyone who dares to take a stand may disappear. He would later reenter society declaring his undying love for Big Brother and unwaveringly asserting that two plus two is indeed, five.
"Individuals at Risk: Prisoners of Conscience." (2010): Web. 3 Dec 2010. .
Orwell, George. 1984. Reissue. USA: Penguin Group, 1950. Print.