Posts Tagged ‘1984’

Two types of totalitarianism

October 14, 2013

orwell.huxley.fatpita (1952)

Maybe both of them were right.  An authoritarian state and a trivial mass culture are not mutually exclusive.  They are mutually reinforcing.

Hat tip to We are respectable negroes.

Creating “un-people” at Guantanamo

October 29, 2012

George Orwell in his novel 1984 coined the word un-person.  When the regime of Big Brother turns you into an un-person, you not only cease to exist, but all record and memory of your existence cease to exist.  This was inspired by the old Soviet Union, where, when the regime turned against a prominent person, they not only disappeared, but all reference to them in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia was eliminated.  Winston Smith, the central character of 1984, has a job of “rectifying” the records.

Now Wikileaks has uncovered records that indicates the authorities at the Guantanamo Bay detention center had a policy of turning inmates into un-people.  Julian Assange said in an interview last week with CNN that a 2005 Guantanamo Bay manual, recently revealed by Wikileaks, show that military authorities had a policy of not identifying the inmates as individuals, not even by a number.  That meant a person could be made to disappear, and there would be no record that the person was even present at Guantanamo.

Now perhaps there is a logical explanation for this policy other than the one Assange gives.  Perhaps the present policy is different from what it was in 2005.  But U.S. government spokesmen refuse to explain, confirm or deny.  They say it is a matter of security.   The only way that I can see it would be a matter of security is that the truth really is Orwellian.

Click on Embassy life like a ‘space station,’ Assange says for the interview and a summary on the CNN home page.

Click on The Detainee Policies for Wikileaks’ press release on the Guantanamo documents.

 

Alice in Wonderland indeed

October 4, 2010

This is old news, but I just learned about it through an article by Robert Darnton on the New York Review of Books web log.  Abobe Systems 2000 e-book version of Alice in Wonderland, which was first published in 1865, came with the following restrictions.

Copy: No text selections can be copied from the book to the clipboard….

Lend: This book cannot be lent to someone else.

Give: This book cannot be given to someone else.

Read aloud: This book cannot be read aloud.

Lawrence Lessig, the intellectual property expert, explained that this wasn’t quite as bad as it sounded because Adobe didn’t actually mean “read aloud” by the words read aloud, but the use of an audio system called Read Aloud in connection with the book.  These seems like Wonderland use of language. Anyhow the book is, and was then in the public domain, so why shouldn’t people be free to copy, lend, give or read aloud the book in any sense of the word they chose?

This compares to Amazon’s deleting 1984 from its Kindle systems last year – an illustration of the novel’s “memory hole” in real life.  Once again, this wasn’t as bad as it sounded.  The copyright doesn’t expire in the United States until 2044, and Amazon received information questioning its right to publish.  1984 was published in 1949, and George Orwell died in 1950; I don’t see what purpose is served in extending copyright for 95 years after publication.

Robert Darnton’s article was about the benefits of digitizing the world’s books.  Maybe he’s right, but I’ll hang on to my paper versions of Alice in Wonderland and 1984. Nobody can delete them or forbid me to copy, sell, give or lend them, or read them aloud.

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