George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 was written at the very start of the Cold War. Orwell had seen totalitarian socialist leaders begin to crack down on their people — and he wanted to send a warning to Western society. The story follows Winston Smith, a citizen of Oceania, a fully totalitarian state which is controlled by “The Party”. The government goes to extreme lengths to manipulate the population and stamp out any individual thought. Many phrases from the book — such as “thought police”, “big brother” and “doublethink” — have now become common usage. And, in recent weeks, the book has shot back up to the top of bestseller lists. Why are today’s readers returning to Orwell’s classic?
Above all, 1984 is a novel about the devastating effects of living under a government with too much control over its citizens. This was a threat during the Cold War — and, in recent years, many have begun to fear that the world could be creeping back in this dangerous direction.
Brexit Party trounces rivals in EU elections
In the UK, the newly-formed Brexit Party won a big victory in EU elections while populists gained ground in some countries but fell short of the very significant gains some had predicted.
Global freedom in retreat as autocracy spreads
A former UK foreign secretary says global liberty is ‘in retreat’. Some expected liberal values to spread this century. But growing evidence suggests freedom’s enemies are gaining ground.
Liberty in danger warn both left and right
A shocking graphic on a magazine has sparked outrage. Meanwhile two acclaimed writers from opposite sides of the political divide have published trenchant warnings about a Trump autocracy.
Winston works for The Ministry of Truth, the propaganda arm of Oceania’s government. But outright propaganda is not the only way The Party controls thought: it also constantly rewrites history, denies facts, and changes its position on key issues without any warning. Could the era of “fake news” and “post-truth” be leading people back to 1984?
Trump lies pass 10,000. (And his fans don’t care)
President Trump has been described as “the most extravagant, reckless, inexhaustible fibber of our era”, sometimes clocking up 100 false claims in a day. Why is he still so popular?
‘Children must be trained to fight fake news’
Fake news, propaganda, misinformation: the media, says one prominent journalist, has reached its ‘nadir’. And another columnist says children should be taught to separate fact from fiction.
We won’t remove holocaust denial, says Google
Google is facing calls to remove prominent neo-Nazi pages from its search results. The company argues that censorship is beyond its remit. What is Google’s relationship with news?
“Big brother is watching you.” It is not just a reality TV show — it is also a constant warning from The Party, which monitors its citizens closely for any signs of dissent. Children are trained to spy on their parents. Cameras are everywhere: “telescreens” (transceivers which both receive and transmit). And the slightest change in demeanour could be enough to give you away.
iPhone cracked in WhatsApp surveillance attack
News is emerging today that a weakness in WhatsApp has allowed spy software on to phones, possibly for years. The implications for our privacy are huge. Civil rights groups are outraged.
The world’s most advanced surveillance state
Will our governments soon know everything about us? In China, facial recognition is driving the government’s social credit system to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.4 billion citizens.
Facebook to be sued over ‘Orwellian’ spy software
New computer programs that automatically recognise people in photos are worrying privacy campaigners, who say the technology could become a tool of oppression.
Despite everything, Winston begins to dissent. He writes in his diary about the injustices he sees, and begins testing the limits of The Party’s power. Eventually, he turns to all-out resistance. Meanwhile, his friend Julia commits smaller, subversive acts of rebellion: wearing make-up and having sex against The Party’s ideology.
International climate rebellion launches today
The science is clear: we are facing an unprecedented global emergency according to the protest group Extinction Rebellion. In response, it is starting a week of global civil disobedience.
One of the biggest marches in British history
They came from all corners of the country, including many EU nationals, amid extraordinary political turmoil and growing calls on Theresa May to resign. But did the march change anything?
Five years on ‘Arab Spring’ dream is chaos
In January 2011, a wave of protests gripped the Arab world. A momentous democratic change appeared to be underway. Now the region is gripped by war and sectarian strife. Does hope remain?
This is one of the key ways in which The Party controls its citizens — through a new language called “newspeak”, which has been stripped of any vocabulary that might encourage free will or independent thought. Meanwhile, the words in Winston’s diary give him confidence — and put his life in danger.
Emojis are ‘the language of the 21st century’
Yesterday was World Emoji Day. The little yellow faces and symbols are just the latest method of communication invented by humans. But can emojis really be described as a new language?
Avo, bougie and rando: the new words for 2018
Is the English language getting out of hand? Merriam-Webster has added more than 800 new words to its dictionary, including “TL;DR”. Our language has been constantly changing for centuries.
Nice! Sad! Unfunny! Trump’s Twitter diplomacy
He follows just 40 people, mostly his own hotels. His policies come in 140 characters. He attacks everyone from China to Alec Baldwin. What is up with the future president’s Twitter account?