1984; Critical Review (3.1) Question…How does surveillance from 1984 compare to the surveillance nowadays and what are the effects it had on society back then compared to now?
1984 written by George Orwell is a dystopian novel written in 1944 to portray the idea that not only that totalitarian in government is bad, but also to provide us with the warning that this kind of society could exist in the near future if the deconstruction of our language continued and if oppression remained in our working class. In 1984 George Orwell describes to us a totalitarian state where every citizen of Oceania is under constant surveillance by “Big Brother”. Big Brother is a fictional character in 1984 and he is used as a symbol/face of the ruling party. This Party has complete control of the people of Oceania, they accomplished this through a range of different manipulation techniques such as installing a means of surveillance into every aspect of human life.
They were called the “thought police” and they monitored everything from where you went, what you said and even what you think. The Thought Police did not only monitor you, they controlled you. “It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.” this quote introduces the idea of Big Brother to us very early on in the book, these pictures of big brother were found throughout Oceania and served a constant reminder to anyone who even had a negative thought about Big Brother, that they are being watched, this constant fear of the government and the surveillance kept them easy to control like lab rats.
The surveillance was everywhere, it was on the streets, at workplaces and even in your own home. Big brother installed telly screens and microphones into every inch of society and they could never be turned off, only dimmed. The telly screens were able to pick up sounds as low as a whisper and as Winston said “there was no way of knowing if you were being watched at any given moment. In today’s society we too have audio and video surveillance in airports, at work, in cities and even in our own homes. unlike in the book 1984 we willingly lose our privacy as we post on social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. We unconsciously sell our privacy to these companies for increased convenience and social interactions and enjoyment. People today usually don’t even think twice about putting their personal information under the nose of surveillance systems, but where does all this personal information go and could it ever be used against us? Similarly to 1984 we too are being watched. CCTV.co.uk quote that “there are around 500,000 CCTV cameras in London in 2017″ because surveillance is such a useful asset to the government and other private organisations the number of cameras is only meant to rise “The number of CCTV cameras in London is expected to reach 642,000 by 2020″
In 1984 the surveillance was used to make sure the citizens of Oceania were staying in line and being what big brother wanted them to be. In our society when applying for a job the employee will often search your name up to see what kind of background/reputation you carry and if you would be right for the job. While this is good for the employers it might not be good for us, that is because if you do something you regret from when you were younger such as make a post you now regret could jeopardize your chances of achieving what you want. You have to be careful online as everything is recorded and you never know who might view your personal information. In 1984 the citizens didn’t get a choice about what about their personal lives got recorded, the fear of not knowing who was watching kept you in line. In our society today we present the best versions of ourselves when we know or have the feeling of being watched. As humans nowadays we are so sensitive of being watched that even a photograph of human eyes can influence our behaviour. “Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing” this is different to our society today in the 2000s as we are the ones who bring technology into to our homes and post about our lives online. we have the choice of the image we create for ourselves online but unfortunately, some people misuse technology and it can come back to haunt them. While it is impossible for Winston to turn off his telly screen, however in our generation in the now many of us choose not to which in terms exposes a lot of our personal information to surveillance. The surveillance in the novel 1984 is much apparent than in today’s society however it is still worth considering.
In 1984 every piece of surveillance was sent to and controlled by the government meaning they could use it to manipulate and mould the society into their image , In our society today personal information is very easy for everyone to access , It is scary that unconsciously humans act and present the best versions of themselves when being watched. It is scary because it gives us readers reason to believe that maybe George Orwell’s warning of the book 1984 “being a possible reality in the future” has come true without us even realising it. For us today we are alike Winston in the book 1984 forced to put our best side forward in fear of the unknown on the other side of the telly screen. The surveillance they used in the book 1984 is similar to what they use nowadays, with the hidden cameras and microphones crammed into every inch of the city. The effects of surveillance from 1984 are the same as it is now although it is a lot more subtle these days. For those lucky enough to live in democracy nowadays, Big brother is not a totalitarian government able to alter the consciousness of its citizens through various forms of torture. In our society today Big Brother is each of us watching each other in both the best ways and the worst.