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George Orwell's '1984' revisited: rise of the civilizationalists

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23.08.2019

By James M. Dorsey


The rise of a critical mass of world leaders including Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and others in Europe, Asia and Latin America who are bent on shaping a new world order in their authoritarian and civilizationalist mold has given "1984," George Orwell's prophetic novel published 70 years ago, renewed relevance.

Its graphic warning of the threat of illiberal and authoritarian rule and the risks embodied in liberal democracy are as acute today as they were in the immediate wake of World War II.

In many ways, Orwell's novel that envisioned the rise of the surveillance state and the emergence of what he called Newspeak, the abuse of language for political purposes and the perversion of the truth in ways that makes facts irrelevant, could have been written today.

The reality of Orwell's "1984" manifests itself today in the emergence of illiberal and authoritarian rulers across the globe and/or the rise of aspects or, as in the case of China, the equivalent of the writer's imaginary omnipotent party that rules a super-state he called Oceania.

The building blocks of the party's toolkit have gained renewed currency: a thought police, the dominance of Big Brother enabled by surveillance, Newspeak and doublethink.

Most alarmingly, elements of Orwell's vision no longer are limited to totalitarian regimes. Increasingly, democracies in crisis feature aspects of it too.

The fourth estate, an independent media that holds power to account, is reduced to the role of government scribe in China, the Gulf and other autocracies. The media is similarly on the defensive in democracies such as the United States, Hungary, India, Turkey, Russia and the........

© The Korea Times