Whether it appears on a television or on an ad on facebook or even just in a newspaper, there are messages just waiting to be absorbed by the human conscience. On more serious terms, this is the pandemic called Propaganda. Although there are not posters with the message, Big Brother is always watching! accompanied with a large eyeball or man with a mustache staring at you, it is still here in America. Messages that control the citizens everyday right under everyone’s noses. These messages not only control the adults, but are especially susceptible to the youth. Although Orwell’s extreme dystopian society portrays propaganda as only an occurrence, American society is effusive with mind-controlling propaganda and paranoia.
Just like in 1984, the telescreens control a lot of what the people see, do, and hear. Through news channels like CNN or Fox, the American public is told what to think, what to see, and what to do about topics. The telescreens in 1984 were able to listen and watch the public as a way to keep fear in their homes and everywhere the people went. Winston’s shock in finding, You can turn it off! only adds to the lack of trust and paranoia in the book (Orwell 169). This lack of trust challenges the system yet also proves the effectiveness of the telescreens. In 1984, the news given to the people is always being changed. Winston, the protagonist, works to change all news and written word into Newspeak, a cut down version of the english language. He recalls the process of continuous alteration[s] . . . to every kind of literature (Orwell 39-40). In doing so, the news given to the Oceanians can be changed or false. There is no reliable source to know truth, which easily feeds into the propaganda given to the civilians of Oceania. In comparison to American news stations, many many stories of fake news come out daily. One famous example of falsehood and fake news is Kellyanne Conway referring to President Trump’s statement as alternative facts (Sinderbrand). Through these instances, the news can not only be manipulated but the minds and thoughts of the people can be changed as well.
Technology advances have shaped how not only the modern world functions but also how Oceania’s people live. From the beginning of the iPhone on June 28th 2007, the iPhone has been changing the modern world. Fast forward into 2018 and the new iPhone XS has been released. Through these rapid advancements, the industry easily tells its customers that a new iPhone is essential to life and is how people should live. 1984 presents a society literally controlled by telescreens. The telescreens not only root deep fear and paranoia into its citizens, it also becomes a necessity in that society. Winston’s paranoia gleams as he kept his back turned to the telescreen knowing well that even a back can be revealing (Orwell 3). The technological advances make messages and surveillance easily accessible throughout the community. The iPhone in relations always knows where the user is, who they are, and how to catch their crime if any. This type of technology allows messages and ideas to not only fill users minds, but also control what kind of information is given. With the given circumstances, the American people as well as the people of Oceania desire Privacy . . . a very valuable thing (Orwell 137). The paradox within this however runs through the consent of technology but also valuing privacy. Orwell illustrates this desire through Julia and Winston’s relationship. Yet, Orwell also illustrates the control and surveillance given to the telescreens through the paranoia of the people.
In addition to the constant advancements of technology and media, society implants messages more commonly through advertisements and marketing. As children, teens, and adults grow up with phones always in the back pocket, the media and business of America know where to strike. Advertisements specifically cater to the desires and wants of certain audiences. The ads portray messages and try to convince audiences that the products are the best by using rhetorical devices or fallacies. Due to the constant stream of ads and messages, the youth especially get lost between what is true and false and what to believe. In 1984, Big Brother is posted all around and is watching (Orwell 2). However, this is only an extreme example of the paranoia and propaganda in 1984.In modern day, it is not common to see large posters of a man with a mustache condescendingly staring down with the message Big Brother is watching looking into one’s soul (Orwell 2). However, through the smallest ads on social media, ideas and news can be taken seriously in a matter of seconds. In 1984, it comes through the telescreens and the information given to the people that truly instill the fear and messages of Big Brother. The propaganda was on coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrapping of a cigarette packet – everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you (Orwell 27). Messages and propaganda are everywhere, whether it comes to America and the power of capitalism and branding or the constant visuals in Oceania.
One major contribution to the success of propaganda is the youth. BJ Casey, from the Weill Cornell Medical College comments that adolescent brain are still not fully developed and are more prone to engage in risky behavior (Hamilton). Due to the malleability of the children’s brains, propaganda and paranoia are easily transmitted into the youth. Through luring chants like, Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clement’s, Oceania grasps the youth by the neck with twisted words that appear harmless (Orwell 178). The simple rhyme sticks in the minds and reinforces the dark messages underlying the songs. Songs have also been used in American society. The best example being Ring Around the Rosie where the children sing about the Great Plague of London in 1665 in a catchy, upbeat tune. These songs demonstrate the easy spread propaganda and desensitization of once vulgar times as well as the easy manipulated minds of the youth. Orwell takes the vulnerability of the youth to a whole other level in depicting the children as savages and heartless. In 1984, the Parsons children shout vial outburst I’ll shoot you, I’ll vaporize you, I’ll send you to the salt mines (Orwell 23). These vicious calls reflect not only what the Party inflicts but the power of propaganda and paranoia. In America, teenagers and the youth start movements and continually progress to rebel and protest and share different values and ideas. Although the movements rarely turn violent, the movements instill an uneasiness in the youth, encouraging them to go against tradition and the old. It’s these moments that propaganda thrive and cultivate a new mindset for the future generations.
America is ignorant to the presence of propaganda and paranoia instilled within the nation. Whether it comes through the form of news and media, or it comes through the children and nursery rhymes so beloved by all. Orwell’s purpose of 1984 was to warn the future generations of a totalitarianism society and its consequences. It was not only his extreme examples, but also the underlying themes that convince the readers to heed his warning. In 1984, Orwell especially warns the readers about the effects of propaganda on children. Due to the susceptibility of the youth’s minds, the ways propaganda can hide can seriously damage a child’s ability to discover ideologies by themself. They lose the ability to think for themselves and challenge motions that need to be challenged.
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