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At least as much as, if not more than, a dystopian political science fiction novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is a warning of the extent to which an authoritarian government can go to, given technology and social engineering capabilities. These technologies were in the realm of science fiction in 1949 when the novel was first published; they are in the realm of commerce since the turn of the century.
1984 justifies all your paranoia about big government. Big Brother watches everything and has eyes everywhere. Big Brother does this through the television, and the TV barks out orders if our attention shifts from it; not unlike the meta data on our devices that know our movements, actions and thoughts, and periodically pings us when we set it down. If the TV misses anything then your comrades will get you. The slightest deviation from the party line in words or actions will be reported to the authorities, even your family won't hesitate to give you up just for the sake of a warm feeling of loyalty towards the Party.
The Party doesn't just tell you what the truth is, it tells you what reality is. If this sounds familiar today it is a testament to how prescient George Orwell was about the exercise of government, mass communication and power.
The leader of the party is Big Brother - “a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features” who is absolutely loved and absolutely feared. Many parallels have been drawn between Big Brother and Joseph Stalin, but George Orwell modelled the character after a poster of his one time hero Field Marshall Herbert Horatio Kitchener whose features, eyes and moustache are mirrored in the image of Big Brother. Orwell was not alone in his admiration of the moustache which became an ideal for drill sergeants everywhere and a symbol of martial prowess across the Victorian empire.
The Party of Nineteen Eighty-Four is modelled on Joseph Stalin's authoritarian regime.
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
1984 is set in Airstrip-one, formerly known as England. The setting of Airstrip-One would resonate with its first readers in London who were familiar with destroyed roads and infrastructure in the aftermath of WW2.
Airstrip-One is a part of Oceania, which along with Eurasia and Eastasia make up the three transcontinental nations of the world. These three nations are in a state of perpetual war with each other, which is characterised by shifting allegiances. The totalitarian government in Oceania manages these changing allies and adversaries by constantly rewriting history-books, the news, archives and any records. The current adversary is portrayed as the historical enemy, and the allied nation as the all-weather friend. Even Big Brother's existence is backdated.
Rewriting history has been a textbook tool of authoritarian regimes the world over; more effectively employed by what is not included - like the human rights issues such slavery and violent crackdown on democratic movements, than what is. The US Government employed it in the middle of the twentieth century to hide the extent of Franklin D. Roosevelt's medical condition for the sake of maintaining the people's faith in government. In another instance concerning FDR, a 1941 Russian encyclopedia was rewritten and FDR went from being a capitalist war-mongerer to a savior of the Russian people. In the film Interstellar the history books were revised to falsify the moon landing in order to keep students' interests away from science and grounded in subjects like agriculture, because handling food shortages were the need of the hour.
Winston Smith is employed with The Party in the records section of the Ministry of Truth. He writes and rewrites what The Party tells him to and destroys obsolete documents. The Party asks him to rewrite Big Brother's old speeches to reflect his prescience and keep morale high. Policy changes are backdated, newspapers and books are changed and records are edited.
The Party frowns on art, expression, individuality, sex and anything that isn't Party business i.e. hatred of its enemies and love of Big Brother. Winston commits a crime when he begins writing a diary, and starts it with the expression of a 'thoughtcrime' by writing DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER. From this point onward Winston Smith's dedication towards subverting the Party policies begins. He keeps an eye open for who might share his feelings and who might be spying on him. He has an affair with Julia - a young woman from another department, who he first believed was spying on his anti-party activities. He believes O'Brien - another colleague is himself subverting the Party's policies.
As his affair with Julia intensifies the urgency to express and realise his hostility for the Party increases and Winston is emboldened. In an effort to progress his anti-party activities he makes contact with the Brotherhood - a shadowy organisation determined to bring down the Party. He is given a book (The Theory & Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism) to memorise, written by one Emmanuel Goldsteind - the elusive leader of the Brotherhood. Winston absorbs the book and reads it out to Julia in their idyllic stolen moments, but he is betrayed. The Thought Police sweep in on him and Julia, and then the horrors of the Party and the book take effect as they go to work on him.