The 8th of June 1949 AD
George Orwell’s novel 1984, as is well-known, was originally to be 1948, a novel not of some near future but depicting and exaggerating many aspects of his contemporary world. Published on June 8 1949 it satirized not only Joseph Stalin and his totalitarian USSR; Britain was equally a target for pretending to be a great world power when the empire was dying. And all the former allies were rewriting history as Winston Smith does, to prove that they had been the main reason for Hitler’s defeat; Russian friends were turned into cold war enemies almost overnight; appeasers turned out to have always been anti-fascists; the USSR denied its pact with Hitler.
The novel is one of those which has informed our very language: Big Brother was once used to describe insidious aspects of the state, only later becoming the title of a fatuous television programme; newspeak, thought police and doublethink likewise have entered the lexicon; and Room 101 remains a shorthand for a terrible place - and the title of a slightly less fatuous television programme.
It is chastening to think that the world of mass surveillance imagined by George Orwell has in fact come about in Britain with the wildfire of CCTV cameras, and the ease with which internet communication can be spied upon. And that our politicians are as capable as O’Brien of embracing doublethink.
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