George Orwell’s, “1984”, centers on main character, Winston, and his growing private disdain for the government. Technology is an integral part of the book and its use by the Party, a.k.a. the government to control its citizens. Winston finds this out the hard way when he realizes the Party has been using technology to spy on him and his every move. The Party uncovers Winston’s utter disregard for the government and arrests him. Winston is separated from his lover, Julia, and taken to the Ministry of Love. There, Winston is physically and psychologically tortured until he comes to accept the political views of the Party. Winston is completed converted into a diehard supporter of the Party and is brainwashed into loving Big Brother.
The premise of the book is all about power and control by the Party. They will stop at nothing to get it. “Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” (Orwell). In order to gain power over its citizens, the Party works to infiltrate, dominate, and dictate every aspect of its citizen’s lives by using technological means and mind control to accomplish their goals for total domination.
The Party had the ability to watch all its citizens in the nation of Oceania through telescreens. Everywhere Winston went he was being watched by the Party through these screens. In turn, everywhere Winston looked he saw the Party’s leader, Big Brother, looking back at him. “Big Brother is Watching You.” (Orwell). The Party is in control of any and all things in Oceania including the language and history of the people. They were so invasive into the lives of Oceania’s citizens that they went so far as to create a new language called, Newspeak, which would replace any prior language. Its main objective was to eliminate particular words from the existing language that could warrant political rebellion. The Party even deemed rebellious thoughts to be illegal; the most illegal offense an individual could violate. The Party had such control of its citizens that it even dictated any form of free expression. “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” (Orwell).
Given that the time period when the novel was written, coupled with the fact it is science fiction, it is highly likely that the technology used were cameras, computer screens or monitors, and wiretapping. The Thought Police also were an integral component to the technology being used as they were spies who went undercover looking for anyone or anything that might be exhibiting signs of political rebellion. The Party used tactics such as intimidation and threats of social banishment for anyone who proved politically rebellious as in the case of Winston.
The Party was big on altering history. Winston’s primary job was altering photographs and records to change history according to what the Party deemed appropriate. This is perhaps one of the Party’s biggest uses of technology due to the brainwashing element that it entailed. This prompted a new way of thinking called Doublethink which enabled individuals to take two contradictory thoughts in their mind and believe them both to be true simultaneously. Through this process, the Party was able to convince the citizens of Oceania their version of the past to be true, leaving citizens with no doubt or reason to question its authenticity. “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” (Orwell). The Party believed that it was important to brainwash its citizens to keep them contained and easily manipulated. So long as they could convince the masses of their truths, therein lies the tenet that, “Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.” (Orwell).
The technology used by the Party was both direct and indirect because of the ways in which it worked to serve the Party’s intended purposes and goals. As a whole it is essential in order to control the citizens of Oceania. The telescreens were instrumental in keeping the citizens informed as to what was happening with the war. They were also instrumental in being able to aid the Party in spreading lies and false hope to citizens at will. Technology, in and of itself, was not so much the reason for the Party being able to successfully advance their agendas, but having the knowledge to know how to use it was. Without the telescreens to spy on Winston, his thoughts he wrote in his diary would not have been revealed. Telescreens created transparency of anyone and all things. There was no room for secrets and no place to hide.
The Party needed technology in order to keep a vice grip on its citizens. Without it they would be powerless and have no means to control the masses in any way they deemed necessary to fit their agendas and overall needs. Their main objective was to silence the masses so they could not speak out against the Party or have any recollection of the past to further prevent them from building a case against them. It was the perfect plan for keeping the masses in check and the Party in complete control. As a backup they had the Thought Police to reinforce the Party’s efforts to ensure continuity and continued mind control and domination. The Party used “Mikes” which were real human beings that assisted the Thought Police in spying on citizens who might be out of line and a possible risk of becoming politically rebellious. All in all, the Party’s main end game was to leave no room for its citizens becoming rebellious and risk causing an uprising against the Party that could lead to potential overthrow of the government.