Hauntingly Familiar

Tim McGivern
4 min read
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Published in 1949, George Orwell's novel 1984 follows the life of Winston Smith, who lives in London, a city in the country of Oceania, and works for his government's Ministry of Truth. A sense of twisted harmony exists in this fictional world. The other national offices in Oceania are Ministry of Peace (concerned with war), Ministry of Love (concerned with law and order), and the Ministry of Plenty (department of economic affairs).

The government, Big Brother, is run by the Inner Party, or just “the Party,” and the Ministry of Truth's motto is: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.

The official language of Oceania is “newspeak,” which has supplanted the nation's old language, English, which is now known as “oldspeak.” Our protagonist lives in a world where TV monitors are pervasive, spouting Big Brother's propaganda around the clock.

Is it just me, or does this storyline strike an eerie nerve, one that feels an awful lot like a growing segment of our real world?

The Fox TV network (owned by News Corporation, which itself has a creepy Orwellian ring to it) is Big Brother's Ministry of Truth. It is the epitome of what Orwell called “prolefeed,” described as “the rubbishy entertainment and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses.” As all-encompassing fake news and propaganda broadcast by Oceania's state media, prolefeed's purpose was to discredit Big Brother's detractors while making sure the public remained fearful of outside enemies and faithful to the Party.

Fox News exists for no other reason. What, you disagree? You don't think America's “most watched,” “most trusted,” “most influential,” “fair and balanced” news network whose executives send out daily marching orders to staff that mimic the White House talking points is prolefeed?

Then what is it?

Let's try one example. Remember two weeks ago when some White House critics talked about closing the U.S. Navy prison facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? Well on Sat., June 19, the weekend following those whimpering sounds of dissent, “Cashin’ In,” part of Fox’s morning business/investment coverage, opened up with this topic: “The Prison at Guantanamo Bay: Good for the Stock Market?”

Then host Terry Keenan asked, “If we ‘cut and run’ from there, isn’t it all bets off for the market?”

One of Thin Line's favorite bloggers, James Wolcott, captured the essence of this exercise in prolefeed perfectly: “Yeah, if we close Gitmo, everyone’s going to sell Google and into the black hole goes the stock market: real smart thinking there, Terry. Terry Keenan … maintained (an) outward appearance of being a real journalist, a pretense she can dispense with now that (she's) in the propaganda business, where the cynicism required to draw the first breath in the morning and show up to work without hating yourself is beyond any cynicism even I can muster.” Amen to that, JW.

Vice President Dick Cheney weighed in the next day on General Electric-owned NBC's “Meet the Press” and said Guantanamo should remain open. Any further discussion of closing Gitmo seemed to end right there.

Following Cheney's edict, not a single network reported that Halliburton Co. owns a $30 million, no-bid contract to build a new detention facility and wire fence at Guantanamo. The job is part of a $500 million contract awarded to Cheney's former company. And no, lovers of Big Brother, Cheney did not divest himself of Halliburton when he became vice president. He continues to draw as much income from Halliburton, under a deferred payment arrangement, as he draws from the U.S. taxpayers every year.

Read 1984 and try to remind yourself with each page turn that it was written as fiction more than 50 years ago.

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