Posts Tagged With: Aldous Huxley

Instruments of Tyranny

In the November 1970 issue of National Geographic, an article entitled “Behold the Computer Revolution,” has Peter T. White breathlessly writing on the coming changes computers would bring.  Among them are paying your bills by computer, a “truly theft-proof” credit card, the impending arrival of home computer use, and many more examples how the computer would touch every corner of our lives. This was about a decade before computers started entering homes, and over two decades before the internet would morph into the world wide web. And then White shares this from a Professor Alan F. Westin:

Man has progressed over the centuries from the status of a subject ruler to that of a citizen in a constitutional state. We must be careful to avert a situation in which the press of government for systematic information and the powerful technology of computers reverse this historical process…making us ‘subjects’ again.

Perhaps what we need now is a kind of writ of ‘habeas data’ — commanding government and powerful private organizations to produce the data they have collected and are using to make judgements about an individual, and to justify their using it.

Now, forty-eight years later, we have fallen into the very scenario that Westin warns about. It happened little by little, yet largely out in the open. How many major data breeches at banks and retailers, how many shady government data collection schemes, or how many social media abuse revelations, must continue to happen before people realize that technology is no longer their tool to control?

How long until we realize that it is being used to control them? To spy on them? To shape their beliefs?

If you read my last post, you can’t help to agree that Distraction is our greatest downfall. It is what politicians have long used to cling to power and shape our world. Corporations and social movements use it to mold your thoughts. Be happy with who you are — only if that “who” is on the approved list. Do what you want — only if that “what” is on this other list. And computers have been used with frightening efficiency by social engineers and by those who subvert democratic processes.

In 1970, some warned that “the computer’s potential for good, and the danger inherent in its misuse, exceed our ability to imagine. Wouldn’t that be the worst it could do — to become an instrument of tyranny, propelling mankind into a new dark age?”

And decades before that, Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury warned us in their fiction. Some people have listened.

Many more have not.

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Man’s Infinite Appetite for Distraction

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

“Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

“Orwell feared we would become a captive audience. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

“Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.

“As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.” – Neil Postman

Categories: Books, Fiction, Modern History | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Orwell’s Revenge

After President Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, made an odd comment about “alternative facts,” others quickly noted the similarity to the concept of “newspeak” in George Orwell’s classic, dystopian novel 1984. Newspeak was the language used to control and shape the thoughts of people. To be fair, terms like “fake news” and “alt-right” are also Orwellian, as well as how many in the media and Washington (from both sides) try to manipulate people and thoughts. Thanks to all of this, Orwell’s book, along with similar classics like A Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, went to the top of bestseller lists.

And that made me laugh.

These are books on how governments, politicians and the media manipulate, control and monitor (Big Brother) the thoughts, beliefs and actions of the people.

Do the politicians and media really want the people reading these books? Do they want you to realize, that on a daily basis, that they have become what the Orwells of the world warned us about?

They may just have opened Pandora’s Box and there’s no closing that.

P.S. I had wondered if people even read these books in school anymore; perhaps these sales show they have not. It is also amusing to see the media and politicians lecturing us on truth, such as Dan Rather, who got himself in trouble for pushing “fake but accurate” news (talk about Orwellian). The media and politics are riddled with truthtwisters – perhaps Orwell will help more people realize this.

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Orwell and Huxley, Who Was Right?

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley wrote two of the most prophetic warnings in fiction, 1984 and A Brave New World, respectively. Orwell foresaw a world where classic government oppression would erode democracy. In Huxley’s vision, he depicted humanity controlled by pleasure and distraction. It would seem that, to our dismay, they both got it right. Orwell’s Big Brother government is increasingly a reality at the same time Huxley’s populace’s lives are controlled by the trivial and consumerism.

They wrote their books as warnings. Most people weren’t paying attention.

If you are someone who wanders through life day-to-day, driven by wherever the winds blow you, these books are for you. If you are someone who thinks the elite few who run the governments are out there upholding your rights and looking out for you, first, where have you been? Second, these books are for you.

And if you are someone who thinks about the legacy we leave to generations yet to come, unlike our rulers who think election to election, these books are for you as well.

There are always those who look truth straight in the eye and ignore or dismiss it. They don’t want to ask questions or be questioned. Otherwise reasonable people who don’t want to upset their life and the cognitive dissonance they have created. It’s just hysteria or a conspiracy. It can’t happen here.

Until it does happen to them or someone they know. Then it’s a shock. A surprise.

Orwell and Huxley asked us to pay attention to signs. Think like adults. They knew what the corruption of men could lead to, right here, not in some far away place.

Their fiction has become fact. That is an inheritance we don’t want to leave the future.

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