Dystopian texts are united by many common features. One of these features is the invasion of privacy. Invasion of privacy is an overt strategy of showing the misuse of power by placing the controlling powers of the dystopia in secret areas of people’s lives. One of the most extreme forms of the invasion of privacy is the invasion of people’s minds. This is by being able to see people’s thoughts, predict what they will do as well as control peoples lives. This occurs in Nineteen Eighty-Four by the Thought Police, in a Clockwork Orange through the Ludovico treatment and In Minority report through pre-crime. Mind reading in fiction has grown rapidly over the last century due to the loss of privacy that is happening throughout the world from government agencies like the CIA, NSA or even the GCSB. Using technology such as surveillance cameras, telephones and the internet.
This theme is woven throughout the text of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, with the constant use of telescreens and the thought police. The telescreens are televisions that cannot be turned off and watches you “the telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously” the act of watching someone can manipulate how they act as seen in this quote “You had to live. did live,from habit that became instinct. In the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment was scrutinized.” This shows by using the telescreens to invade peoples privacy every moment in their lives it conditions them into acting in a way the government wants. When under constant pressure by surveillance people will not act as themselves and act in a way the government wants so people lose their individual freedom. Another form of control is by the thought police that arrest the protagonist Winston and torture him to believe in the party, invading his mind by using doublethink. “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” this is shown throughout the novel Winston succumbs to the torture “O’Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed.”there are five fingers there. do you see five fingers?” “Yes.” And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his mind changed. He saw five fingers, and there was no deformity.” This is double think at it’s most simple form. Because the information being given to you by someone with authority is more important than what your own mind tells you. This is destroying choice and the ability to act for yourself. letting a corrupt authority figure to manipulate an entire country.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess shows similar themes to the torture in Nineteen Eighty-Four when Alex the Protagonist of the novel is given Aversion therapy to prevent him from acting violently to rehabilitate him to prevent the overflowing prisons from becoming too full. When watching a film of people being raped and tortured he is given drugs to make him fell ill. “The pains in my belly and the headache and the thirst was terrible, and they all seemed to be coming out of the screen. So I creeched: “Stop the film! Please, please I can’t stand it any more.” And then the voice of Dr Brodsky said: “Stop it? Stop it. Why, we’ve hardly started.” And he and the others smecked (laughed) quite loud.” This is during the Aversion Therapy/Ludovico treatment where Alex shows the first signs of not having control of himself and having others control him for example Dr Brodsky Who laughs at his torture that Alex is being conditioned against. This also allows the government to manipulate Alex for their own ends to reduce prisoners and be reelected this shown by the Minister of the Interior who is only focused on his public image smiling for the cameras and shaking Alex’s hand at the end. This control that can change people’s thoughts into something the hate is much like when Winston copying O’Brien with 2+2=5. This reinforces Orwell’s point that control like this will end with the subject manipulated. Earlier Alex talks about his choices to do bad to his “Post corrective Adviser” P.R. Deltoid. “This biting of their toenails over what is the cause of badness is what turns me into a fine laughing malchick. They don’t go into the cause of goodness, so why the other shop? If lewdies are good that’s because they like it, and I wouldn’t ever interfere with their pleasures, and so of the other shop. And I was patronizing the other shop. More, badness is of the self. But the not self cannot have the bad, meaning they of the government and the judges and the schools cannot allow the bad because they cannot allow the self.” This shows that Alex is acting as himself when he commits crimes because he likes it. he is saying that everybody is unique and that “they” don’t allow people to act as themselves. This can be related to Nineteen Eighty-Four where the state does not allow the self because the self can act against the state, which is seen to be evil by the party members in Nineteen Eighty-Four. which is much like A Clockwork Orange where the state decides what is right and wrong. So if everybody is good everybody is the same so peoples individuality is lost because there is no longer a choice to be good. Because it is impossible to make bad choices good choices cease to be good.
The choice to be good is shown in Minority Report directed by Steven Spielberg. The film focuses in pre-crime where the police predict murders and arrest people before they can commit murder. but arresting them prevents them from making the choice. the action of being able to make a choice is shown at the end of the film where Lamar one of the founders of pre-crime has been predicted to kill the protagonist John Anderton but shoots himself to prove that pre-crime is wrong and putting an end to himself and pre-crime. This shows that without intervention people will be able to choose what is right. This decisions importance was shown by the Washington monument in the background behind to show that this decision will change the entire country. But also shows the theme of control by having the pre-crime police try to stop the murder as well as stopping a possible good outcome.The police treat these murders as an inevitability at the beginning of the film John rolls a ball across a desk where Whitwer catches it John asks”why did you catch it?” Whitwer says “because it was going to fall” john says “are you sure?” This shows the need to prevent possible murders by arresting the person beforehand without any evidence because they need to intervene because they are sure the murder will happen. But this also shows the control of the population through manipulating peoples thoughts. So people are scared that at any moment they could be arrested without a warning much like the thought crime in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The control of the government in Minority Report is also shown by the reoccurring eye motif that shows eye scanners, billboards and John gets an eye transplant. Eye scanners in this film are everywhere they record passengers on a subway, they are used as identification when entering buildings and are used in stores to help people buy from them. This means you are always being reminded that you are being watched and the police will use these to find you. This is similar to Nineteen Eighty-Four how the citizens are constantly being reminded by telescreens and posters of Big Brother staring at you wit the caption “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU”. But also the dehumanization of people is shown through the eye motif as you cannot see the criminals eyes in the predictions. So the police no longer treated them as humans after they are arrested they are put into a hibernation like state where they are immobile and have their eyes closed to show the loss of humanity. Eyes have also been shown in a Clockwork Orange during the aversion therapy Alex’s eyes were held open showing the manipulation of Alex through his eyes. This is a different use of the eye motif to Nineteen Eighty-Four and Minority report that used the motif for surveillance and that they are being watched.
Radiohead have expressed their concerns with similar issues in these texts in a more contemporary setting that shows the use of the techniques of control in these texts at a different level in popular culture because to stop the manipulation happening people must know what is occurring. Many Radiohead songs show dehumanization and the theme of control through a loss of privacy. For example Fake plastic trees;
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run
This extract shows that people are putting up a facade to influence other people as a “fake plastic love” but this shows that they do not want that. And that they are sick of the pressures of society to be like everyone else that dehumanizes you much like the conformity that is regulated in Nineteen Eighty-Four that is resonating in the real world through a conformity to society that will not be punished by death like in Nineteen Eighty-Four but will cause people to become outcasts from the rest of the world . Planet Telex shows the loss of privacy. This song is about texts and all information the internet will never be deleted.
Everyone is, everything is broken Why can’t you forget?
Why can’t you forget?
This shows that today everything is recorded and nothing is forgotten and this can have negative affects in the future. Mistakes people make can last for their lifetime if is recorded and can be used as evidence in court. This is also shown through the wiretapping in the real world by the NSA. Wiretapping of American citizens requires a warrant from a three-judge court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. After the 9/11 attacks the US government passed the Patriot Act that granted the President powers to use more surveillance. The George W. Bush administration used these powers to bypass the FISA court and directed the NSA to spy directly on Al-Qaeda in a new NSA electronic surveillance program. Reports at the time indicate that an “apparently accidental” “glitch” ended in the gathering of communications that were domestic. This action was challenged by a number of groups, including Congress, as unconstitutional. The song 2+2=5 is a direct reference to Nineteen Eighty-four and is about the control that occurs during the novel.
Oh, go and tell the king that the sky is falling in
When it’s not
When it’s not
When it’s not
This shows that the lies of the public and people in power are changing the more they repeat them. The sky is falling is a wrong statement that comes from the story of chicken little. and they know it’s wrong but as they repeat “when it’s not” the become unsure and forget because they “weren’t paying attention” that was mentioned earlier in the the song. This is also a use of double think alluding to Nineteen Eighty-Four. At the end of the song it was too late because once you give control to the manipulators I is very hard for you to gain control back.
Throughout all these texts they show a form of change that has minutely affected society that has lead to the dystopian setting that you need to pay attention to. For example the rise of socialism in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the crime-wave in A Clockwork Orange and the surveillance in Minority Report. All the texts talked about are Created as warnings by taking potentially some of the worst parts of society and showing the effects of that. When we reflect on our own society we like believe that this is just fiction but how do we know we are not being watched? New Zealand citizens have been spied on before. For example Kim Dotcom, who was arrested after being illegally spied on by the GCSB. If our government is prepared to spy on us for our protection. How can you truly know we are not being watched. Maybe our government believes we do not need to know so maybe they believe that, Ignorance is strength…