1984: Is Media Totalitarianism Closer Than We Think?

Technology is perhaps one of the greatest achievements of mankind. To be able to talk to someone face to face via a webcam seems like something from a science fiction movie.

Social networking websites allow people to connect with friends on a day to day basis. And instant messaging certainly saves the loose change you would have to search for under your bed. From this, one would assume that such advanced technology is a good thing. But is it?

Media Totalitarianism

Media Totalitarianism

In his novel ‘1984’, British author George Orwell put forward a terrifying vision of governments using technology to enslave the populace. In ‘1984’, propaganda for Big Brother bombarded you in much the same way advertising does today. Two-way televisions existed in every room. And they weren’t just inside your house; they were at work, and on the streets.

Consider today, the reality of ‘1984’. We live in a world almost completely under surveillance. CCTV systems are in the local Woolworths parking lot, and on every corner in the U.K. Even in the comfort of your own home you are still under surveillance. You’ve just updated your Facebook status, or sent a Tweet, informing the world where you are and what you’re doing.

The media is a tool that acts as a communication between the government and the people. It facilitates discussion, educates, is a form of entertainment and self-scrutiny, and promotes press freedom and the right of free speech. From this perspective, it sounds like a good thing, right? Wrong.

Media is also a tool for government manipulation. It can literally coerce people to vote for particular parties, persuade them to agree or disagree with certain values, attitudes and beliefs, and can expose personal and sometimes irrelevant information to destroy the legitimacy and sincerity of political candidates. One Tweet from the Prime Minister can cost them their position.

‘A whopping 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up, and 28% of these doing so before they have even got out of bed.’[Chloe Anderson-Dixon. 2012] Go to a party, and expect not to have a decent conversation, but to be updating your Facebook status about the cocktail you’re drinking. Don’t expect to actually have a conversation with someone. The digital revolution has made it more fashionable to be rude.

Technology can enable people to become more withdrawn from society and engage less in political activities, so they become unaware of the political happenings outside their lives. Australia could be invaded and no one would know if it wasn’t plastered all over Facebook.

Jan van Dijk, professor of sociology and communication science, believes that ‘information technology has the potential to centralise and to diffuse political power, depending on which groups are better organised to take advantage of technology.’ (Rhetoric, Spin and the Media).

Governments in this highly technological age are ‘using their resources to take advantage of the media’ (Rhetoric, Spin and the Media) and have the power to engage potential voters and enable wider participation in politics.

According to digital design guru Luke Wroblewski, there are more iPhones sold than babies born every single day. [Eric Mac. 2012.] With the creation of Siri, Apple’s new voice command assistant, one doesn’t need to call a friend to have a conversation. Thought online conversations were bad? Well think again when you’re having a conversation with someone who doesn’t even exist.

Although ‘1984’ seemed fixated on a constant flow of war propaganda and statistics, it is eerily reminiscent of the dystopia world we live in today. Technology may be one of the greatest achievements of mankind, but will it be such an achievement when the world is too focussed on creating way to communicate with people without actually having to meet them? What would happen if ‘Red Dawn’ actually occurred? Would we all be too busy glued to a miniature screen to even notice? Don’t worry, the Prime Minister has just tweeted that everything is fine.

By Claire Fitzpatrick
Australia's Student Newspaper, trying to Improve Student Life. We publish articles written by students from across Australia and the world!

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