The novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” or commonly known as “1984” was published by English author George Orwell in 1949. This dystopian novel set in 1984 provided a riveting description of citizen’s lives being in constant war, oppressive government surveillance, rule, and propaganda. “George Orwell is one of the leading novelists of modern age. His novels express a powerful satire on the political and social hypocrisies. By the quality of his writing, he has achieved international fame and recognition. He wished to identify himself with the poverty-stricken people and to equate his sufferings with theirs. Orwell established a relationship between literature and politics. All his novels are a fine expression of his views on the subject of politics”. Orwell was able to elicit various emotions and opinions within his novel. Specifically, by digging through the government’s role in suppressing or providing the freedom of its constituents. Orwell’s description and embodiment of “Big Brother” showed the overshadowing and interference of the government pertaining to the freedom of its people. This dystopic environment shown the readers what it would be like if the government will always be conceived prying to the citizens of the dystopia. In these current times, the novel of Orwell is still very much relevant even though it had been written decades ago. With the technologies becoming more and more advanced by the day, there is no surprise that there is a possibility of total surveillance among the people, just like what Orwell had described in his novel.
Michael Yeo wrote a paper entitled “Propaganda and Surveillance in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: Two Sides of the Same Coin” wherein the pervasiveness of propaganda and surveillance were analyzed for the contemporary times. Yeo (2010) noted that “George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is an important point of reference for both points of view. The reason for its centrality is obvious: the novel takes propaganda and surveillance to extreme limits, thus bringing essential aspects of each into sharp relief. However, in addition to being a rich resource for thinking about each of these important dimensions of social reality, by relating them in an essential way, the novel also challenges us to think the two together.” Yeo would like to emphasize that the propaganda and surveillance in the novel are linked together. Yeo (2010) continued that “Propaganda is under the Ministry of Truth. This is where Winston Smith works, in the Records Department, destroying the records of the past as they become inconsistent with always changing policy and substituting falsified records in their place. In addition to being subject to censorship and propaganda, he is himself a censor and a propagandist. As he erases records of the past, he knows that what he is censoring and falsifying was probably not true either: “Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version”. In producing propaganda, he is himself censored, or censors himself, as he follows “lines of policy” laid down anonymously and his “estimate of what the party wanted” him to say.”
In the novel, Orwell laid out that the government used propaganda to mislead the people from the truth. Facts and history were erased and destroyed, while news about the great things of the government was provided to the people. The reader may concur that these things may be happening in the contemporary times, with the rampant cases of fake news that are easily available in the internet. Yeo noted that “Julia represents the propaganda of fiction. She works in the Fiction Department in a “mechanical job on one of the novel-writing machines”. She is not a writer like Winston, but one wonders in what sense anyone could be a writer on a “novel-writing machine”. The fiction produced in the Fiction Department may serve any number of purposes. However, if the purpose is to entertain, other propagandistic purposes piggy-back on its ostensible purpose. Winston’s news story, which is fictional but pretends not to be, shows us how this can be done. If fictional stories purporting to be factual can promote values, stories that do not pretend to be anything but fictional can also do the job. As if to underscore the interchangeability of fact and fiction for propaganda purposes, Orwell has Winston and Julia’s jobs crisscross.” This closely resembles to the fake news propaganda that are currently rampant online. Furthermore, people do not immediately use the availability of information to ensure that the facts are correct. Consequently, surveillance played a great role in the government’s ruling among the people. Yeo emphasized that surveillance and propaganda are linked together that led to the oppression of the citizens. “There appears to be no God in Nineteen Eighty-Four but Big Brother has a similar job description. Crime extends from action and speech to thought itself — “thought crime”. The belief that Big Brother’s eyes and ears can reach even into the private domain Bentham delicately leaves for the “court above” makes for total panopticism. “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within the range of a telescreen”, the narrator tells us, since the “smallest things could give you away”. In total panopticism, it is prudent to avoid not just the signs of unorthodox thought, to the extent they can be avoided, but unorthodox thought itself, to the extent it is possible to prevent one’s mind from wandering”.
Though the Orwell’s novel was set in 1984, the resemblance of the things happening to the current times is glaring. “Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four reveals that the novel is well grounded in the socio – cultural of the middling years of the two world wars. During the time governments went on asperse for restricting individual freedom and insisting on conformity to its policies through the twin instruments of power, namely coercion and discursive practice, by making the media sub serve their ideology and thus perpetuate hegemony, by interpellation. The novel is relevant not only in the contexts of its production, but its account of state control holds true even in the context of reception. Nineteen Eighty Four is not pageantry or dystopia but a valid critique of power equations of modern society”. Indeed, 1984 is a novel that is still relevant and relatable even to this day.