The State answers Winston Smith

I first read the classic George Orwell dystopian novel 1984 in 1968 when the date he used as the tittle of his book still seemed far in the future to a late teen that tended to concentrate on the slow moving present. The date must have seemed even further in the future to the people who read the book in 1949 when it was first published. I read Orwell’s book one slow summer in the heat of central Florida when no one we knew could afford air conditioning, especially us, and so I read the book outdoors sitting under the shade of an oak tree that was well over a century old which offered me the small comfort of some shade in the sweltering heat. I had time. I had plenty of time to read the book slowly and reflectively — and the book effected me profoundly. I was never to be the same again.


As the Wikipedia article on 1984 points out, many of the terms Orwell coined in his masterpiece such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, and memory hole, all became part of our language over time. My favorite Orwellian phrase has always been down the memory hole. The job of the protagonist, Winston Smith, was to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always was consistent with the ever changing Party line. The Party, of course, was the State. There was just one Party and it had an inner core of elites who were in the Inner Party and they controlled the masses via surveillance, mind control, constant propaganda, and brutal police state violence which is all justified due to the ever present war. The nation-state ruled by the tyrannical Party was always at war, had always been at war, and would forever be at war.

Winston Smith was a party member but he was not one of the Inner Party. Rather he was a member of the Outer Party just as most of our federal bureaucrats today are not part of the ruling elite of our own Empire. At one point he says to an Inner Party member, “I understand how, but I don’t understand why.”  He wanted to know why the Party did all those immoral and rotted things.

One of its leaders explains:

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others were cowards and hypocrites. They never had the courage to recognize their motives. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. How does one man assert his power over another? By making him suffer. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement – a world of fear and treachery and torment. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” ~1984

Orwell captured the essential nature of the State perfectly in this speech by the party member to Winston Smith. Far too many people in the modern age have watched the American Empire start endless wars and grow ever more tyrannical without allowing themselves to ask the question: “why“?

In the book we find that the destruction of language makes it impossible to think independent thoughts because the meaning of words has become too confused while logic has been destroyed via doublethink. Orwell once observed in an essay on the English language that political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Our modern world has its own version of the thought police and our state has a propaganda machine that would have astounded George Orwell. While the present US Empire does not match the Orwellian dystopia exactly, there are many parallels between our reality and Orwell’s dystopian novel.

The latest NSA revelations due to the whistle blowing of Edward Snowden as published in the Guardian have told us that the US Empire fully expects to be able to read the minds of the masses just as The Party did in 1984. It is claimed that by computerized analysis of “meta-data” collected by the NSA that one can practically read the mind of the target individual. It is almost a cliché to say that the revelations of Edwards Snowden and others point to an Orwellian state being built.

But the massive spying by the NSA on the entire public is not the only bad news to come out over the last few years. We have the TSA terrorizing the flying public and making sounds like they want to be involved in searching people outside of airports. We have SWAT teams making routine no-knock raids on houses. And as various police state tactics escalate nationwide we learn, according to a report by KTTV, the Department of Homeland Security partnered with the Los Angeles County California Sheriff’s department and TSA agents to conduct an exercise that was described as a “full scale terrorism drill”. The drill was reported to have been taking place nationwide with various agencies even using agents “working undercover, looking like any other passenger, they scour faces, briefcases and backpacks, looking for anything out of the ordinary.” US Officials claimed that these drills were designed to make the public feel “safe” in light of the 4th of July holiday and rumors that the Boston Bombers had planed a July 4th terror attack. According to Nicole Nishida of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the people will celebrate their independence from tyranny by submitting to random bag searches.

Winston Smith observed that your worst enemy was your nervous system because at any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom. Today our own police state is working towards the capability to use real-time computer analysis to read thoughts, emotions, and intentions that they claim will keep us safe from “terrorists” but could very well ensnare any of us in a false charge . The state is keeping an ever tighter grip on the public and far from making them safer, the state is putting everyone at risk of being identified as an “enemy” of the state. 

A few years ago, Wendy McElroy asked the question: does the US have police state powers now? Her answer:

Clearly it does. The American government exerts extreme control over society, down to dictating which foods you may eat. Its economic control borders on the absolute. It politicizes and presides over even the traditional bastion of privacy — the family. Camera and other surveillance of daily life has soared, with the Supreme Court recently expanding the “right” of police to perform warrantless searches. Enforcement is so draconian that the United States has more prisoners per capita than any other nation; and over the last few years, the police have been self-consciously militarizing their procedures and attitudes. Travel, formerly a right, is now a privilege granted by government agents at their whim. Several huge and tyrannical law-enforcement agencies monitor peaceful behavior rather than respond to crime. These agencies operate largely outside the restrictions of the Constitution; for example, the TSA conducts arbitrary searches in violation of Fourth Amendment guarantees.

The methods that the ruling elite use to control the mases have been documented in many, many places. I ran a Google search today on “US police state” (without the quotes) and Google yielded just shy of one Billion hits. The question is not “is the USA becoming a police state” but rather the question is “why”. Why does the state continue to grab power and why do we allow it to do so? Just as Winston Smith pointed out, we can easily see how the total control by the state is coming to be, but we need to know why. It is not, my friends, to keep you safe. Your safety is the last thing on the minds of the rulers.

George Orwell answered the “why” in ’49 and the answer has not changed. It is about power. Solely about power. It is the nature of humans to want power over others, and we have known for thousands of years that power corrupts and with ever more power comes ever more corruption. There is no reason to expect that we can hand power over to those running the State without them seeking ever more power until the dystopian nightmare comes to us.

If you do not see the state as our enemy as did Albert Jay Nock, then you have not been paying attention.

Note: an edited version of this essay first appeared a week ago here.

Update: In the editing process the number one billion got changed to one trillion somehow and has now been fixed due to the kind response on this matter in other media.

30 thoughts on “The State answers Winston Smith

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  2. Instead of studying fictional police states, why not study real ones? I garuntee you that you won’t find a police state where the majority of the victimized class was simply unaware that it was in a police state. Non-party members in Soviet Russia knew what was up. Jews in Nazi Germany knew the score. No surprises for racial minorities in the Brittish empire when they were oppressed. The abused may not know the details, but they know when they are in a police state.

    So why don’t Americans? Well to some extent they do — minority communities are pretty conscious of the fact that they don’t get a fair shake unde the law. But even there the outrage, disgust, and sadness doesn’t mirror that of, say, the average Argentinian who lived through the dirty war, or Solzhenitsyn, or Winston. And the community of people caught up in the NSA program or subject to warrant less searches is much broader than mere racial minorities. So why?

    Because we don’t live in a police state, dummy! We live in a free democracy where human rights are generally respected — probably more than they ever have been in the past — but where some abuses still happen, especially in a criminal justice system that, for decades, has seen the pendulum swinging to the law and order side of things. The criminal justice system in America is bad and getting worse, but keep some perspective: it is bad compared to other western democracies. It is pretty great compared to police states. And other adpects of our human rights situation have been and are approving: hooray marriage equality! Exaggerating the problem ultimately looks like bluster and hurts the cause.

    Now on foreign policy we are pretty dang abusive of international human rights and humanitarian law. I am more sympathetic to macro critiques of America on that score.

    • “… Because we don’t live in a police state, dummy! We live in a free democracy where human rights are generally respected … “

      That was the funniest line I have read in weeks. Thanks for that snark! It has to be snark or you don’t get out much.

      • What human right in America is abused as routinely as in Oceania? You say “the state doesn’t recognize a privacy interest in documents held by third parties, allowing for the collection of tons of data by the NSA,” and I say “the state DOES recognize a privacy interest in the data we hold privately and gives us an exclusionary rule to enforce it.” Meanwhile, Oceania recognizes no privacy rights and has no public trials at which they can be enforced.

        Seriously, list the generally recognized rights America routinely and completely ignores. Use the ICCPR as a guide. Domestically, where America screws up it tends to be in not properly extending rights it recognizes and gives force to in other contexts.

        Now if you have a problem with the regulatory state controlling aspects of our lives, fine. But so long as the regulatory state doesn’t violate civil and political rights, it isn’t a police state. No one has a God given right to force libertarian government on their fellow citizens.

        • ” … But so long as the regulatory state doesn’t violate civil and political rights, it isn’t a police state. …

          So, you argue that the Empire confers what ever “rights” it so deems to confer and then it should respect those rights or it is not a police state. Heifer dust. Hitler’s Germany was scrupulous about following the law. They made sure that everything they did followed the laws that they enacted. Under your way of thinking, there has never been a police state. I wonder why you think we even have that term.

          But you sure do love the USA don’t you? Best ever! USA! USA! USA! …

        • No, I specifically listed an international human rights document, the iccpr, as my barometer of whether the US generally recognizes and respects human rights. It is the most widely ratified statement of first generation human rights in history.

          That said, it is true that my basic view is that legitimate government is democracy side constrained by human rights.

        • So you are saying that the US and its toadies get to define what are “human rights” and then they get to be the monitors of compliance. Oh goodie. But somehow that does not make this writer feel good about the great criminal gang writ large policing itself.

          Just today I read that cop cars have an auto reader on them that is identifying all cars near it as it goes about its rounds. Great — and you will no doubt write back to say that is all good and wonderful.

          The US is a police state. Pretend it is a wonderful democracy that protects all of its people if you want to. But do run that past the minority community first though.

        • No, I am saying that for state action to be illegitimate it has to be either non-democratic or violative of human rights, and that to me you are just sort of making a fuzzy-headed “I don’t like cops being able to identify cars! Tyranny!” argument without thinking through what rights that violates and why. I just picked the ICCPR as a random list of human rights (ratified by US cronies like the USSR), if you want to use another that is fine.

          I also think you either know next to nothing about what life is like in a police state or are enormously callous to those who suffered through police states, appropriating their pain for rhetorical value.

          Lastly I think the US does engage in lots of human rights abuses, especially in the context of criminal law, but that your alarmist rhetoric is hurtful, not helpful, in remedying that. It would be awful if people associated legitimate criticism with the lunatic view that America is the moral equivalent of a police state. Again, domestically the general trend in the US, especially since the success of the civil rights movement, is to respect and recognize human rights.

          Over seas we suck. “Empire” I can buy. Domestically we are pretty good. “Police state” is too much.

      • Canada is a Police state. They gave U.N. 200 ground troops for peace keeping actions,but I am the victim of 40 years persecution. They just stoled my 30 years old car.Thousands of target men like me. I cost millions.They wrongly convicted me 3 times.I am 80 and they force me to pay CHILD maintenance to my adopted CHILD of 26 years who cant work nor study,but is rich with his side BUSINESS.Two weeks ago the judge cancelled the order to pay and $18,000 arrears that I was supposed to pay.The crime is low.The police keep busy persecuting anybody they do not like.Millions waisted Giancarlo cenciarini Langford,B.C.

  3. “It would be awful if people associated legitimate criticism with the lunatic view that America is the moral equivalent of a police state.”

    Not “moral equivalent”, but a police state. You are extraordinarily callous towards those in our prisons that are suffering under the domination of the US police state. You are extraordinarily callous towards those who are suffering unemployment or underemployment because of the actions of your god the state. You are extraordinarily callous towards those who have little or no opportunity due to the anti-market laws you worship. You worship the state and that is clear in every word you have written.

    There will be no relief until the people stop listening to shills like you and awaken to the truth that the state is their enemy. Go someplace else and peddle that “the USA is wonderful” crap — I have read a boatload of such crap this week.

    • My argument was more “democracy and human rights are wonderful, and the term ‘police state’ should be reserved for states that abuse them far more than America.” I take your argument to be, “any state action or power I personally don’t agree with is the illegitimate actions of a police state,” and respectfully disagree.

      I do agree that America would be better off if the people could be persuaded to move policy in a marginally more libertarian direction, but until then I am not willing to point to every democratically enacted, non rights-abusing policy I disagree with and cry police state, tyranny, airstrip 1, or any other way-too-loaded term, nor am I willing to point to legitimate human rights abuses and claim they are the rule, not obvious exceptions.

      • You simply are trying the old “USA is better than Nazi Germany!!!” routine that got old by the ’60s. You want to say that the US is “better” than some other police states so it can not be one. Heifer dust. Nonsense on stilts.

        If you don’t see the US as a police state now, then you are not looking. But then I don’t much care what you think. It is government supporting “libertarians” that are the biggest enemy we have. We have millions of prisoners in solitary confinement that has been called torture by professionals mainly for ingesting forbidden substances — but that seems to be OK with you as long as you get to say the US is not all that bad. Poppycock.

        • Nazi Germany *was* worse than America,. We *should* reserve certain rhetoric for cases that are worse than America, because they exist and are worth more strongly condemning. This is some of that rhetoric: Traditionally, police states are those places where there is no effective rule of law or respect for human rights. What is to be gained from redefining that word so broadly (ie, to mean “the police have power over us and sometimes abuse human rights, people are jailed for reasons libertarians disagree with and face conditions in jail libertarians disagree with”) that it covers the entire planet? And “only” about 82,000 people are in solitary confinement, not millions.

          I think we just aren’t going to agree on this one, but I’ll give you the last word.

        • “Nazi Germany *was* worse than America”

          In many ways that is not true. Nazi Germay was real good to Germans that were not Jewish. They followed all the laws faithfully. They had respect for human rights — just did not think Jews were human.

          After nuking two Japanese cities just to send a message to Russia, I don’t see how folks like you can try to peddle the idea that the US government is anything but horrific.

          The US ignores the constitution all the time, and 30’s Germany followed their laws so by your own definition the US is more of a police state than the Nazis were.

          82,000 at any given time. And the latest reports are that even that number is way understated.

          I’ll do a post soon on why the USA is a police state for the Popehat crowd and for you. But it is so god damn obvious that only state lovers could not see the US as a police state that it will be boring. But I’ll do it in a week or so.

  4. wophugus’ statements are reflect very common sentiments amongst people I talk to, and they are sentiments that I find rather fascinating and mysterious (when they aren’t the result of pure ignorance of current events that is). My theory is that it is the result of denial and cognitive dissonance. We were all raised being taught about the founding fathers and how great our country was because we were a free country without Kings or Dictators or repressive police organizations. We have a visceral reaction to the word police state, we don’t like to imagine that WE are the people that we always used to feel a bit sorry for, living in an unfree country. I think many people just find it hard to admit that to themselves.

    My challenge to those people, and to wophugus, is this: give me YOUR definition of a police state. At what point does a country cross that magic line? What specific things does a country have to do to make it meet that definition? If you sit down, think about it, and come up with a coherent definition, America pretty much has to fit the bill. Secret law? Check. Incarceration of a vast number of our citizens (more than any other country in the world)? Check. Execution of our citizens without trial? Check. Torture? Check. An oligarchichal ruling class that is above the law the rest of the citizens are subject to? Check.

    One of my favorite quotes is “Those who do not move do not feel their chains” (and I really need to look up who said it one of these days 🙂 ). Really that’s what your argument comes down to wophugus: “most people don’t make a big enough nuisance of themselves to draw the state’s ire, thus we are not a police state.”

    • Thanks for the very thoughtful and well written reply. I am going to lift it from here and use as the main quote in a post that I am going to work on soon. I think you and he (she?) have shown me that talk about the “police state” is needed.

      • Since I was asked, I will rejoin the conversation for one more post. My dividing line for police state/not police state is “does the rule of law routinely constrain the government’s exercise of police power.” In America, it clearly does.
        This is not to say that it always effectively constrains the police power. There are failures — too many. But boy howdy does it *often* constrain police power. Let’s take an example from my criminal defense days (working for a criminal law attorney as a law student. As an attorney I have never practiced criminal law) and think about a DWI arrest in the city I was then living in. Does the rule of law constrain how this goes down? Clearly.

        Things that will happen during the arrest and trial of our DWI defendant which the cops are only doing or allowing because of the rule of law. IE, stuff they do not want to do but will (if this list is too boring, just replace it with the words ‘lots of things’):
        1. Record the entire stop on camera.
        2. Not force the defendant to take a breathalyzer test if he refuses. Alternately, they could pay a judge to stay up all night signing orders that let them force tests on people. They never did the second option when I was there because it is too costly and judges hate it.
        3. If the defendant agrees to a field sobriety test, the cop will call a special officer trained in the field sobriety test, wait for him to show up, and then the new cop will spend a few minutes very carefully giving the test in a way that will stand up to scrutiny (cases got overturned too often when they tried to train every cop in giving the test, so they went to this new system).
        4. Stop questioning the defendant if he asks for an attorney (remember, they are on tape).
        5. Let the defendant call an attorney.
        6. Get the D before a magistrate to make a probable cause determination within 48 hours of the arrest.
        7. Give the D a hearing where he can make the case for reasonable bail, with some protections on the setting of bail.
        8. Give the defendent access to and a copy of that tape I’ve been talking about.
        9. Give the D a trial. A jury trial if he asks for it.
        10. Give the D time and evidence to prepare for the trial. Exclude improperly collected evidence from the trial.
        11. Give the D a right for his lawyer to show up at the trial.
        12. Make the trial public.
        13. Pay a lawyer to represent the D if he can’t afford one.
        14. Let the D go if he wins the trial.
        15. Let my boss appeal the trial. This initiates a new trial that is public, itself appeal-able, etc.
        16. Let my boss file collateral attacks on the D’s imprisonment if he loses the trial and is imprisoned, IE federal habeas motions.
        17. Limit the term of the D’s custodial confinement and the amount he can be fined.
        18. Etc, etc, etc.
        The cops wants to do none of this. It is a lot easier to just pull someone over, realize they are clearly drunk, take him to jail, get him to a judge when you feel like it, and have the judge assign whatever sentence seems to him fair based on your account of things (or whatever sentence his political masters tell him to assign, if that is easier for him). All these other things either make imprisoning my client more costly, harder, or impossible, depending on the facts of the case. These things let my then boss negotiate or win outcomes the state police and DA don’t want. Even better, if the governor or president decide they don’t like this stuff, in most cases they would be shit out of luck. Or they could stage a military coup, I guess.
        These are also not iron clad protections. A drunk driver hating cop could pull over the defendant, turn off his dashboard camera, shoot the D, and maybe get off. But then again, anyone could commit a crime anywhere and maybe get off. As things stand, the practical upshot of all these legal protections is the state doing things it doesn’t like and people spending less time in jail because of it.
        Lots of states don’t have most of these protections. A public trial, a trial so rigorous you have to film yourself if you hope to win it, a right to an attorney, an exclusionary rule, careful monitoring of how cops administer sobriety tests, the ability to refuse the breathalyzer test, etc. etc. etc. It’s just not there. It’s a lot more like the “cop decides you are guilty, judge believes him and gives you the punishment he feels like” procedure. If there is a judge. If there is an official sentence. If the cop ever bothered to check if you were guilty of a crime.

        So that’s the rule of law.

        In bigger things as well the government is constrained by the rule of law. Even in Gitmo, a shining example of our system at close to its worst, the defendants have routinely been able to force the executive to do things the executive does not want to do (IE, have congress establish a procedure for the status reviews, stop strip searching detainees before they meet with their lawyers, give detainees meaningful access to federal courts, etc.) Obviously the rule of law has, in the main, failed at Gitmo. But it has done way way better than it would in many many other states.

        So again, the state screws up all the time! Badly! America perpetrates terrible human rights abuses! The rule of law does not effectively constrain some state actors at some times! We are torturing, as you say, tens of thousands of prisoners in solitary confinement at any given time! That sh– is f—ing terrible. But turning away from those abuses to the core of American life, the rule of law is still really active and really powerful here, if not as active and powerful as we would like. In a police state, that is not true. Things aren’t mostly nice here because we have a mostly nice police state. Things are mostly nice here because we don’t have a police state, and the state’s ability to be mean is mostly constrained.

        As an aside, my own take on how I came to my views is not that I was brainwashed to love America, because I am not a nationalist and would defend a whole host of other human rights abusing states from the name “police state.” Instead, I would explain it this way: I’ve studied and worked in the American criminal justice system and I know how bad it can be. I also have a passion for international human rights law, and know just how bad other countries can be. The rule of law is strong here. Elsewhere, it is nonexistent. Those are the police states.

        Finally, if you can indulge a request of mine, please begin your next essay on the American police state by stating your beliefs that 1. America is just as bad as Nazi Germany, and 2. Human rights and the rule of law were respected for everyone in Nazi Germany’s core territories except for the Jews. Those two beliefs are the single most surprising and important things someone could know about your world view before they invest time in reading your essays.

        • I think that your response to my question, “does the rule of law routinely constrain the government’s exercise of police power” is far to vague to be a truly meaningful definition of a police state. It leaves you open to having to accept just about any abusive police power as long as it occurs under the color of law. For example, I get the impression that you agree with me that we do torture people and that this is wrong. But under your position, torture is not indicative of a police state because as long as there are procedures and laws in place guiding the use of torture, its use is routinely constrained by the rule of law. I hate to jump on the Godwin’s law bandwagon but I think it is a useful example: as long as Nazi Germany had a John Yoo type to write a memo authorizing what torture techniques are allowed and what are not, Nazi Germany’s use of torture can not be used as a means to argue that it was a police state. Likewise, if Nazi Germany had jury trials for 85% of crimes, all the minor stuff like small time robbery, DUI, heck even murder of someone who had nothing to do with the state (and I honestly have no idea if they did or did not have trials in Nazi Germany), then how could you possibly claim that Nazi Germany was a police state? After all, for the vast majority of their criminal cases, there is a rule of law constraining the action of their local police forces.

          And I’ll disagree with you on another statement: I DO think things are mostly nice here because we have a mostly nice police state, though I would describe our police state as mostly benign, rather than mostly nice. I think the reason for this is that we haven’t been a police state for very long. We’ve been creeping up on it over the last several decades and we really jumped over the line after 9/11. And the actions that our government is taking that make us a police state are still confined to a fairly narrow set of circumstances. The state (or more accurately I suppose, the high level actors controlling the state) don’t really care at all about an individual DUI case, or an individual small time robbery case. Our police state actions remain largely confined to things that fall under the vague area of national security, and those who expose corruption and illegality by the high level state actors in that area. And this is another reason why I find your definition of a police state to be essentially useless: you think that the fact that the president could, RIGHT NOW, order you killed with no evidence by saying you were in some way a threat (and actually he wouldn’t have to say anything, since he claims the power to do it in secret and rebuffed the ACLUs attempt to at least get a description under what circumstances he could order you killed in secret by saying that those circumstances themselves are secret) to be in no way indicative of us being a police state because he doesn’t order enough people killed without evidence. Personally, I find that position to be absurd.

          Lastly, because we have so recently become a police state I think we actually still are in a position where we could turn back the clock. While I am not holding my breath, it is still imaginable to me that someone might run for president promising to roll these programs back and prosecute Bush-Cheney-Obama officials. If Obama had done something like this when he got elected, I would say we aren’t a police state, and I’d view the Bush administration police state type actions the same way I view Nixon’s police state type actions: abuses and law breaking that was corrected. Sadly, Obama did the opposite.

      • Canada is a state oppressor to me ,but is a NANNY STATE to all the snitches-ask my ex wife-.I read that 25% of population are snitches.They get many favors,housing free university,fraudolent insurance claims and much more. Millions waisted. The oppressor is after me 24/7 for no valid reason.Oh!!!!!! my American dream…………I became a slave.The Police state OWNS ME. Please contact me :Giancarlo Cenciarini Langford B.C. Canada

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  6. The world envisioned in 1984 is an abysmal nightmare, bleak and cold—and unendingly frightening. In a review of 1984 in the year of its publication (1949) V.S. Pritchett called it a “book that goes through the reader like an east wind, cracking the skin, opening the sores; hope has died in Mr. Orwell’s wintry mind, and only pain is known” (p. 291). 1984 sums up the pessimism of Orwell’s age, which had survived the fanaticism of Franco and Hitler and was still experiencing Stalin, but also it probably embodies Orwell’s own despair as he lay dying of tuberculosis while trying to finish what would become his most profound and best-known work. 1984, a blueprint for the “perfect” police state, is Orwell’s prophetic warning to his contemporaries and to future readers about the most terrifying component of such a state: unremitting surveillance. In the words of an elusive character in the novel named Emmanuel Goldstein, “By comparison with that existing today all the tyrannies of the past were half-hearted and inefficient” because “in the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under surveillance” (p.137). (1) It is this feature, he realizes, that gives a government absolute control.

  7. I see a lot of Left wing, Right wing bashing. Please stop. As the US government stands right now, their electoral parties are no more than two sides of the same coin. Those who bash either wing while supporting the other are being controlled, you fight because you are being made to fight. Obama, Macain, Hillary, these are the same candy in different wrapping. I mean seriously, you think these people are gonna keep their promises, or work for he good of the US and it’s people. Like the quotes up their stated, the main goal here, the end is power. These charades of evil dictators, elections, Right wing, Left wing parties, never ending wars that are fueled from both sides by the US, they’re just that, charades. A distraction that works, because as people still whine and fight among themselves they become segregated, separated, divided as the system, the Party wishes. Why? Because when the moment comes, and it is clear to those who are left with their minds still unwashed by the system and it’s media, and they see what is happening, no one will stand up, no one will do anything. As it stands, the party, the system, has already won.

    • As for me, I bash government worshipers. The modern “left” is collectivist evil and the modern “right” is collectivist evil. The real battle is between those who believe in the non-aggression principle and those who want to get their way via force and coercion. Murray Rothbard once wrote that there was only one important question, “do you hate the state”. I answer, “yes I hate the state”.

  8. 1. I agree that rule of law isn’t a useful metric for judging whether a policy is just or legitimate, that is what human rights are for. But rule of law is a useful concept for judging an entire system.

    2. The rule of law is not about whether government actors only engage in conduct that is “legal.” You are right, if a dictator just passes a new law every time he wants to do something, that is not a good society. The question is whether elites are meaningfully *constrained* by the law. Can they do whatever they want, or will processes and mechanisms set up by the law stop them? If you think any group or person can routinely do whatever they want in the America while ignoring or manipulating the law, that is a weird and wrong perception.

    3. The president has never claimed the power to kill me. The White House has never argued the president has inherent authority to kill US citizens that are within us territory and able to be captured by normal police procedure, his legal arguments for drone striking us citizens abroad have been narrower than that (while he tried to keep these arguments secret, they leaked). Further, I suspect if he ordered me (us citizen on us territory with, at best, fabricated or false evidence that he is a violent threat) killed without a trial there is a very strong chance he would not get away with it, and there is no chance he could get away with routinely passing such orders. As a rule, republican politicians, judges, the military, and the police have no special loyalty to obama and rather a lot of loyalty to the constitution.

    Again, even at Gitmo the detainees have won several key cases that created huge headaches for the executive. Even US citizens that have been targeted abroad are seeing their estates bring civil rights suits before sympathetic judges. Even Yoo’s torture memos created tremondous infighting at the office of legal counsel and had been more or less repudiated by he end of the Bush administration. And this is in an area — foreign policy and the so-called war on terror — where the legislature, judiciary, and bureaucracy seem least interested in resisting executive power. If the law grinds against executive fiat even here, imagine how much more so if the president tried to, say, arrest without trial all his political enemies.

  9. Pingback: The State Answers Winston Smith - Unofficial Network

  10. “The Party” is the ruling power of a supposedly communist state, but in reality is more if a dictatorship in the form of an oligarchy. It is against all expressions of individuality and in fact seeks to remove the possibility of revolution by removing those words that pertain to such affairs from the official language. In short, the society in which Winston Smith fines himself in (run down and dilapidated London in the year 1984) is a prime example of the Science Fiction dystopia. Orwell’s book has had so much influence that it would not be inappropriate to describe other literary dystopias as 1984-esque. Smith realises that he is dissatisfied with his society and so decides to do something, anything, to rebel. He does this through (among other things) purchasing an (illegal) diary, merely thinking negatively about “The Party” and finally falling in love with a beautiful co-worker named Julia. After falling in love and briefly experiencing happiness they attempt to join what is known as “The Brotherhood”. “The Brotherhood” being merely a ruse created by “The Party” to trap disloyal members of society into revealing themselves. It works supremely on both Smith and Julia with both being arrested and taken to “The Ministry of Love” (ironically responsible for torture) for punishment and brainwashing. After various terrible punishments both are finally broken, body and spirit and Smith (assumedly along with Julia) are released to live with their newfound love for Big Brother. This ending is one of the more depressing found in any literature.

  11. States claim to protect property but they do it on a non-voluntary, coercive basis. That means they claim to protect property by attacking property.

    By contrast, a private company will protect your property under terms you voluntarily and mutually agree to. That is a form or government. It is a government function to protect property so any company or individual can be a government or at least perform a government function.

    The “State” is always coercive and violent and also has no incentive to protect property since it forces people to be “customers” at gunpoint and therefore need not actually provide its alleged services.

    So, yes, there is a huge difference between government and State.

  12. Winston suspects that O’Brien is secretly opposing the Party. Eventually O’Brien approaches Winston with some leading remarks which seem to confirm Winston’s suspicions. Winston finds the courage to approach him candidly, declaring himself an enemy of the totalitarian state. At first, Winston’s intuition seems to be correct: O’Brien presents himself as a member of the “Brotherhood” seeking to overthrow the Party. In truth, O’Brien is an agent of the Thought Police , and is completely loyal to the party and to Ingsoc. He is part of a false flag resistance movement whose real goal is to find thought-criminals (citizens who think something that is deemed to be unacceptable by the party), lure them in by pretending to be on their side, then arrest and “cure” them.

  13. Pingback: Lies of the Regime | On the Mark

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