Not an Orwellian Reality

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In 1949, Orwell provided us with a viewpoint on the destructive potentials of technology in his book 1984 (look to the Sparknotes summary if you need a refresher). It has been in the forefront of our minds ever since, taught in many high school English classes and rarely missed by anyone with a four-year degree. In it, Orwell describes a dystopia in which the Party has total control over all of London and eliminates any possible action by the free press (while doing many other damaging things to the imagined society).

Even though the internet is still a scary thing to some of us, evolving so quickly and permeating our daily interactions as thoroughly as it does, most of us realize that it won't result in a scenario like that of 1984. With the arrival of WikiLeaks on the journalism scene, we have seen the beginning of the impossibility of that kind of control. The big names in journalism and the major sources for news still have the ability to distort what information we receive at the base of the news pyramid, but the selective news articles and resources that we have access to today are growing rapidly. New sources of information, not filtered through large controlling companies, are everywhere now. The internet has made journalists out of everyman. Wikileaks provides an outlet for "whistleblowers," journalists and citizens who see that something is being obscured or covered by the main press outlets. This information is now at our fingertips, and as a result, happenings all over the world are becoming more transparent and apparent.
WikiLeaks is also changing journalism as we know it because it provides free and easy sources for the larger media outlets and for consumers of news. Investigative reporting won't take nearly as much work for the big names since many secrets have already been published by WikiLeaks-- but there is also the fear that people won't buy a newspaper or subscribe to an online journal because the information is already logged somewhere else for free.
Instead of Orwell's prediction that this kind of leaked information would be shut down by government implements, companies are taking special precaution to make sure that whistleblowers cannot be identified and prosecuted. This is definitely not the policing that Orwell imagined, and we're all glad to see he was wrong.
For more information WikiLeaks and the new model for journalism, check out this article from the New America Foundation.
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Erin Gerken January 26, 2011 at 10:59 AM  

This is a very unique look at the internet. I have read 1984, and I never considered relating it back to current times. I definitely agree that WikiLeaks, and the internet in general, helps us keep tabs on the government and the press. However, I don't think this is necessarily always a good thing, as in the case of WikiLeaks. Websites like these can cause major mistrust of the government, and I believe that some things that the government does should be kept quiet. I don't think it would be possible for our government to be successful if the general population knew about every little thing that the government does.

T Israel January 26, 2011 at 1:33 PM  

This is really interesting and can be compared to many countries where media is controlled by the government. In our country we are lucky to have freedom of the press, but there are some countries who are essentially living in Orwell's dystopia.

Alexa Smith January 31, 2011 at 7:20 PM  

I like the tie-in to 1984. Sometimes it's not necessary to know every last detail.

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