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Propaganda In 1984

In the totalitarian future of 1984 by Orwell the ruling party controls it’s people by means of repression, inclusive management over language and history, and utter manipulation of individual ideas and thoughts. The party’s strength is received by it’s power over the people and as a result the people believing in the party. With the depiction of extreme methods of control the story highlights what future control could become if left to flourish as well as suggesting how these forms of power tend to always be extreme.

Orwell makes clear parallels between his dystopian society and the techniques used by authoritarian regimes to alert the reader how great use of propaganda and control can create a poisonous mindset. In particular, the manipulation and control of the mind is shown as the most powerful weapon that can be constructed to obtain power. On the whole, the domination of the mind is a dangerous concept that is assessed throughout the book. The use of manipulation of the past and present is a deliberate method of controlling the reality of the people. The ruling of the present means the control of the past and ultimately the future.

The reality that the people lived in was not to their own opinion and especially indisputable. As a result, all memory becomes uncertain and questionable. With the ability of rewriting the past all errors could be erased or manipulated to justify the party’s competence. Hitler used this method by justifying the purging of his fellow party members by controlling what the public knew about the reasoning behind his actions. The proper use of story telling made it seem that Hitler was making the best decision for the party due to the “deviance” that the purged officers were guilty of.

Whoever had power was never questioned and thus whatever was made public was made fact. Similarly, falsified facts and reports were seen as positive influences if they helped bolstered the party’s image and ideas. This method was constantly used in revolutionary Russia by recreating unfamiliar battles as inspiring first actions of the revolution. The grand reenacting of the “Storming of the Winter Palace” is an example of remaking the past to incite approval of the efforts made by the ruling power as well as being made a ritual to help glorify the revolution.

This method can also be witnessed in the movie “Battleship Potemkin” where a massacre on the Odessa steps, a scene that elicited hatred for the czar and sympathy for the uprising soldiers and citizens, was entirely fictitious yet seen as a past action made by revolutionary martyrs. While these instances justify all actions the party makes the people become reluctant to reason and instead can only trust what facts are given to them. This manipulation of information conditions people’s minds to accept all information given to them with blind faith that whatever is told to them by the party must be true.

Slogans and images are used as a means to incite specific feelings and beliefs to the public. The constant appearance of propaganda can be seen in any socialist society. The communist Soviet Union and the Nazi Party Germany both had their countries covered with their respective party symbols and posters. The sickle and hammer of the Soviet Union and the swastika of the Nazi Party were the simplistic images that people could recognize and understand.

The ignorant masses being bombarded with propaganda as fact in 1984 can be compared to the illiterate population of revolutionary Russia being influenced by posters made during it’s revolution. The uncomplicated messages of the posters and slogans could be understood by anyone of any class and still elicit the same passionate responses based on the symbolism it contained. Many posters of the Soviet Union exalted the working class and the industry as a whole, this made it so the people knew the value the working class and the understood who was fighting for the revolution.

The polished image of Big Brother can be heavily compared to the fatherly appearing Stalin of the Soviet Union or the carefully documented photographs of Hitler showing them as kind and powerful leaders. The control over what images are seen allows for a perfect ruler to always be in the minds of the people it is shown to. In 1984 new forms of language and songs were constantly being introduced to the public to narrow thought. Any new movie, book, or artwork that was released would be about the party and not much else.

It was common in socialist regimes that any songs or slogans being created at that time was more often than not created by party as a form of promotion for the party’s ideals. This would be the only creativity allowed since the only accepted forms of artwork in socialist regimes were realistic, simplistic propaganda. With this constant onslaught of symbolism people became conditioned to how they would view the party, how they would process information given to them, and how the role of independent thought was considered unnecessary.

The combination of constant war and repression inflicted on a population creates a solid loyalty to be given to the party. Constant warfare creates a fearful and hopeless feeling in a person, this will cause them to seek out a savior that is in the form of the party. To have an enemy that could be blamed for all that was wrong in the world and could be used as a scapegoat that went against all that one stood for was a way in which the party could place it’s people’s anger into one place. Hitler used this methodology by placing blame on the jews for all of Germany’s problems.

Stalin similarly used capitalists as the source of all evils and to receive support for the ideals of his party. Consequently, having a person be constantly repressed makes them want to find a source to release their pent up emotions. The two-minute hate in 1984 was a way of channeling this repression into anger against the party’s enemies. This allows for the anger to placed on another target. In 1984 there is usually two enemies that the party is constantly fighting.

There is a need for these two forces against the party because it creates a “Us vs. Them” mentality to surface amongst the people. This can be used so that there is the idea that every enemy must be eliminated. To publicly kill or hurt any believed enemy was a service to the people as an attack on the enemy but this was also a ritual of power to show that every enemy of the party would suffer. Foucault has pointed out how the suffering of the body was a means of “disciplinary power”, to not only show the crime within the person but to show what will happen if you go against society.

These factors create not only a need for loyalty to the party but also a means to be required to be loyal for the party. This constant fear and anger within people creates a different approach of how to see enemies and moreover how to see oneself if they go against the party’s rule. Group mentality intensifies one’s feelings and justify’s one’s beliefs and actions. The group acts as a influence on a person’s thoughts which can displace any doubts that might arise. The fear of going against the group is a much stronger threat than the idea of just going against one person.

The idea of the ruler of the party acting as the entire nation makes it seem as if every action of every person is working together for the same goal. Foucault has made the argument of how one’s actions can be better judged and seen when being surrounded by others in the same position that one is in. The actions of a group can be seen as a machine and every part of the machine must work in sync and be doing something to be deserving to be apart of the machine. Any kink, people that do not have the same ideas as the party, can be known to only cause trouble and must be eliminated for the machine to become stronger and better.

To be a single person with an idea makes one question what they believe in however, in a group one’s opinions can be bolstered and be reinstated almost as fact. During any one of Hitler’s rallies a single person would go in questioning himself and the party and when he came out of the group rally he would be assured of his beliefs. During the revolution of Russia the ideology of “all for one and one for all” made a huge impact of how people viewed the revolution as the party rather than individual victory. The worker was the symbol of the Soviet Union that helped fight against the czarist rule.

Over time, this glorification of the party by group activity makes the actions and beliefs normalized in society and can turn the most independent skeptics of the party into enthusiastic supporters. This can be witnessed in the diary of Zinaida Denisevskaya where she speaks over a passage of time of how she came to be a supporter of the Soviet party by seeing her fellow people become supporters. Group mentality can force ideas and beliefs amongst the people and can easily control thought based on what is considered popular opinion.

Orwell’s purpose in writing 1984 was to show the horrors of a totalitarian society as well as to emphasize how political regimes can gain power by controlling the thoughts and ideas it’s people can have. The manipulation of history makes it so that the ruling party is seen as faultless and the people begin to stop questioning what information is given to them which allows for the people to place more of their confidence in the the party than in themselves. With the heavy placement of symbols and slogans people are forced to interact and understand the party with little time for other thoughts to be made.

With constant feelings of repression, fear, and hatred being created there is a sustained loyalty made to the party and a vicious abhorrence to any and all that stand in the way of the party. The party acting as a singular group reinforces this idea since the people can support the party and be against it’s enemies as a strong nation rather than a weak group. These methods of controlling the mind through propaganda are dangerously effective in creating a biased viewpoint of the party and as a result it’s enemies. The manipulation and repression of thoughts and ideas can influence the most divided people and take total power over any nation.

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