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Jason Caminiti's It's Like 1984 All Over Again
"Most people have written this book off as a good science fiction work." Says Jason Caminiti, writer of the 1984 critical essay, "It's Like 1984 All Over Again." What he refers to is the public's reaction to 1984, a novel discussing the government's involvement in personal affairs. Caminiti believes that the book holds truer to modern times than people believe. Although there may be no Ingsoc, telescreens, Newspeak, or even helicopters darting in and out of windows, the government still has their own wicked methods of controlling and monitoring American society. Modern technology has just helped accomplish this feat. Caminiti explains how everything acts as a monitoring tool, from the Internet to the Social Security System, and even ID cards for schools and college campuses. "Our government is taking steps towards this type of Orwellian society all the time." He realizes. Jason Caminiti is right. 1984 is not just some nondescript science fiction novel, but a reflection on life today.
Before the criticism on Jason Caminiti's critical essay, "It's Like 1984 All Over Again" can be distributed, a few unclear terms must be defined. A telescreen is a technological advancement, allowing "Big Brother" to peer into the homes of those who have them (And in 1984, they are mandatory.) The telescreen watches, day and night, and can never be shut off, and can also communicate back. Big Brother is the elusive government in 1984, never seen, only heard of. The Ministry of Truth is the office where Winston, an Outer-Party member works. Ministry of Truth is an ironic title, for all that the Ministry of Truth does is lie to people, changing facts and hiding facts. That's not truth at all, but deceit instead. A prole is another term from 1984, and is short for "prolitariat" or "prolitarian". Proles are pleasure-seeking human beings, representing the lower class of society. The government rarely concerns themselves with prolish matters. Lastly, the V-Chip is not a term from 1984, but a modern day invention. Advocated by former United States president, Bill Clinton, the v-chip is supposed to be used by parents to help block out any questionable material on television.
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Technology makes it easier for the government to both watch and possibly edit society. As Caminiti pointed out, in 1984, the Ministry of Truth would edit out any vaporized persons, which was particularly Winston's job. But with the ease that technology gives us today, one can easily delete information stored on a disk if this were necessary. Any printed media, such as newspapers and magazines could easily be found and destroyed by agents of the omniscient and omnipotent government. Furthermore, with electronic paraphernalia (especially cameras and microphones) getting smaller and more sensitive, anyone who would need to spy on somebody could, with natural ease. There was great emphasis on technology in 1984. Technology made the dynamic of the telescreen possible, and the telescreen was the plenipotentiary of all of Big Brother's monitoring techniques.
Social Security numbers and cards could be more than they let on to be. They seem like a good idea; cataloging people simply for organization and clerical purposes. But the uses and obligations for one's social security number have gotten way out of hand. When one goes to college they use their number there. When you apply for a credit card or any service like this you use this number. We now have problems with people looking up our credit history using this one number. They do not even need our permission. This shows how our government can pull one over on us without us even realizing (Caminiti, p2.) It won't be long until our Social Security Number will be the only thing by which we are known, if not already. Names will be abolished, in favor of this popular system of numbers. When this system reaches the point of crisis, and everything, EVERYTHING we do will be logged to this number, (if not already). From the people we've dated to the frequency at which we choose to visit our parents, will be stored under our social security number. No task will be to menial for notation, and our personal affairs can be used for exploitation later on, if necessary.
The "V-Chip" is simply a miniature version of what the government really has in store for us. Many parents feel comfort in the respect that they get to control what their children can and cannot watch. The V Chip goes beyond the simple, "No you cannot watch this program," by actually censoring the questionable television shows, making them literally inaccessible to children. This seems innocent enough, however, if it is possible for the parents to decide, why not make it possible for the government to decide what we can and cannot see. It's certainly possible (Caminiti, p.2.) In 1984, a great deal of Big Brother's effort was spent hiding the truth from the populace. People like Winston worked hard, "correcting" previous mistakes that were once supposed truths as well. But as things progressed throughout the novel, politics changed, and history did as well to make it seem as if things had always been that way. The V-Chip could operate on a similar level, not by changing things, but simply by taking them out of our public view. Important matters could never get a chance to even reach this country's ears, simply because it was censored off the air. The media is probably how a majority of people get to be enlightened about personal affairs, and by censoring the media, censored is the knowledge of the people.
Society could possibly be monitored as closely today as in 1984. Though to some extent, we do know the involvement of the government in our personal affairs, we may not know exactly how closely we are watched. 1984 was correct in it's prophecy, and quite possibly inspired some of the spy tactics and techniques present today. Society thinks that they know that they are being watched, and yes, are possibly being logged to a file set up for later sabotage. Society may feel enlightened by this knowledge, feeling as if they know some sort of government secret. However, society does not know just how involved the government really is. The government may have a deep seeded place in our lives, but their interest lies elsewhere. It is not in us proles that they really want to know about, but in the people who carry great misgivings within themselves. We are not important.
Caminiti, Jason. "It's Like 1984 All Over Again". Found at http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/rs232/orwell.html