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The Student News Site of McCallum High School

The Shield Online

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: ‘Big Brother is watching you’

In 1984, we took a look at the timely Orwellian classic
Like all things, the year of Orwell’s dystopian tale of the future came to pass, prompting social and cultural introspection. Credit to unknown artist on

“I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe that something resembling it could arrive.”

—George Orwell, 1948

“Wake up! It’s 1984.”

—Oingo Boingo, 1983

Was George Orwell just another starving intellectual who wrote unrealistic fiction, or was he the Nostradamus of our times? Although slightly exaggerated, the latter is growing increasingly true.

Today’s society may not be the pessimistic totalitarian world Orwell wrote about in the book 1984, but many similarities do exist. The slogan “Big Brother is watching you” has a special meaning in our modern culture.

In public places such as banks, grocery stores and shopping malls, we are constantly being watched. Through the use of hidden cameras and two-way mirrors, we are viewed by someone or something that remains unseen. Our telephone calls and personal activities can be monitored by any number of government agencies without our knowledge or consent. The lack of personal privacy in Orwell’s book is very apparent in our culture.

The three slogans that the people of Oceania are forced to follow can be found in today’s world.


This is a common view that many people today have. How many times have we heard that a good war will keep our nation together? Political and economic problems are actually blamed on our country’s lack of a war.

In public places such as banks, grocery stores, and shopping malls, we are constantly being watched.


In countries such as South Africa, the populace is led to believe that it is free, yet the 20 million blacks, who have very few rights, are ruled over by the 6 million whites of that country. In many Eastern Block countries, doctrines similar to “Freedom is slavery” are taught to the public, thus keeping them from uprising.


This is the slogan that is most comparable to our world. Nearly every nation on this planet uses some form of propaganda. In places like the Soviet Union, it is used the most. The government uses the media to give the public a distorted view of world affairs. The people of nations like this know very little about what their government is doing in other countries. We in the United States are not immune to this type of “misinformation” either. All we know about secret government missions abroad is what government officials want us to know.

In 1984, Orwell wrote of a world ruled by three superpowers, very similar to our present-day situation. The U.S., U.S.S.R., and China do bear some resemblance to Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. The secret police on Oceania are very comparable to our CIA and FBI.

It is very easy to look at 1984 as science fiction, but we cannot ignore the parallels that exist. Think of all that has changed since 1948. One wonders what would have happened if Orwell had entitled his book “2084;” maybe he was just a hundred years off schedule.

This article was published in The Shield on Jan. 27, 1984.

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