I didn’t make a conscious decision to read this book. The filter that sits under my brainpan caught it in the stream of communist and fascist literature that I’ve been picking away at for the better part of the past six months: Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and Mao’s Great Famine.
My entire preconception of this novel consisted of Apple’s “1984” television commercial for their Macintosh computer and a clip of a torture scene from the film adaptation that I’d seen on YouTube. I expected Orwell’s book to be a take on communism or national socialism wrought out to a dystopian extremist logical conclusion, and it was that but so much more. It went further than I had been prepared to go, and down a much darker road. The Apple commercial colored my reading, but only because I had misremembered it.
Is 1984 relevant today? I think there are a lot of interesting ideas explored in the text, but I don’t think it accurately predicted the future (now our past/present) because it presupposed a monolithic control structure where the people were only given information from a single, easily manipulated, source. In our contemporary time anyone and everyone has the potential to become a global disseminator of “news”, and there are myriad options for the intake of content, be it genuine or not. Perhaps there is some slim chance that a sufficiently powerful artificial intelligence could subsume all channels and direct the bulk of our mindshare toward a singular ideology, but even that is the stuff of strange science fiction. For now.
I think that, so long as we’re able to doom scroll through millions of screaming voices in the frosty night of the Internet, we’re safe from the likes of Big Brother.