Why Forgotten Details of George Orwell's "1984" Are Now Coming to Light
Kellyanne Conway's recent appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, where she used the dystopian-sounding phrase "alternative facts," sounded eerily similar to George Orwell's 1984 concept of newspeak and doublethink.
David is an ambidextrous thinker who likes big ideas. As a “Tech Ethicist,” he explores our evolving relationship with social media and tech from an ethical, legal, and emotional perspective. Utilizing his background as an attorney, educator, and pop culture aficionado, David offers a fresh perspective on potential trends and ways to humanize our digital lives. He is currently a speaker (3-time TEDx), branding and communications consultant, and Trust & Safety for social messaging platform Friendbase. David is researching the impact that “scaling intimacy” has on human relationships, and working on an upcoming book. He is also the co-host for Funny as Tech.
He can be contacted at TechEthicist.com and @TechEthicist.
Interest in George Orwell's 1984 has awaked in recent days — shooting to #1 on Amazon's bestseller list and selling out its Signet Classics edition — helping the book find a new audience that has little, if any, memory of actual fascism.
Today we associate Orwell's dystopian vision with government Internet surveillance and CCTV cameras. It is a testament to the relative peace that has reigned since the end of WWII that Orwell's vision of a deeper totalitarianism has been lost.
Now at stake, or so it would seem, is the notion of truth itself — a truth that corresponds to what our eyes and ears tell us. Yet the spin game of politics has always distorted here and there, so is our present moment really that different?
People are noticing a difference.
Kellyanne Conway's recent appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, where she used the dystopian-sounding phrase "alternative facts" in defending press secretary Sean Spicer's remarks on inaugural numbers, sounded eerily similar to 1984's newspeak and doublethink. Conway is the former campaign manager for President Trump, and currently as counselor to the president.
1984's sales have gone up 9500% since the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. Our societal slide from truthiness to post-truth to alternative facts may have triggered our deep-seated Orwellian fears.
For a lot of listeners, the prospect of "alternative facts" is like saying 2+2=5 (alternative math).
The use of the phrase "alternative facts" has become such a lightning rod moment because it directly challenges our clear delineation between facts and falsehoods. As host Chuck Todd sharply pointed out to Conway, "Alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods."
In other words, you can present your numbers and I can present mine.
To allow for an alternative fact is similar to Orwell's doublespeak, which is "the acceptance of two contractionary ideas or beliefs at the same time." It is typically construed as the act of being aware of the truth while telling carefully constructed falsehoods.
"The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command." --George Orwell, 1984 pic.twitter.com/ePfu3m720g
— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) January 22, 2017
This is deeply worrisome for those of us with a deep respect for empirical data. When our eyes can clearly see that the inaugurations of President Obama were much larger than the recent inauguration for President Trump, but we are being told that both our eyes and the numbers from experts are wrong. It is strikingly similar to the pervasive rewriting of the past in Orwell's 1984.
It is the politicization of facts; in 1984, the Ministry of Truth would rewrite books and articles to suit their needs. The word "science" is non-existent in the novel. In light of the recent changes concerning the Environmental Protection Agency and the removal of climate change from the White House website on Trump's first day (since changed), there is a concern that we have entered an age of managed perceptions as opposed to truths.
For George Orwell, the propaganda techniques employed by Nazi Germany was influential on crafting a dystopian post-truth future. Six years before publishing 1984, he wrote in an essay that:
Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that such a thing as "the truth" exists. ... The implied objective of this line of thought is a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event, "It never happened" – well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five. This prospect frightens me much more than bombs. -George Orwell
In Orwell's 1984, citizens forgot about the past and then forgot about the forgetting process. Independent thought became non-existent, as it became reliant on the government's version of events.
2017 seems to be the time to re-read 1984. It is also a time to remember that 2+2=4.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.