The government institution has a tendency of using anything that is in its disposal to ensure that it is in control through hook and crook. This includes to some extent cases whereby the government uses technology to manipulate its subjects and ensure a severe handling of any disloyalty issues.
The books ‘1984’ by George Orwell, ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley and ‘A clockwork orange’ by Antony Burgess portray a common way in the manner in which governments use technology and other resources to manipulate its citizens both physically and psychologically. The paper analyzes successfully the manner in which the three playwrights develop the theme of government manipulation in the three texts with an effort of portraying the common results attained.
Manipulation in George Orwell’s ‘1984’
Having been set in 1949, the novel ‘1984’ was a prediction of what could happen to a country where totalitarianism became deeply rooted (Hillegas 43). The novel portrays the cruelties and oppression of citizens who were subjects of a totalitarian government of Oceania. The novel is mostly concerned about the manner in which technology has been employed to oppress citizens by regimes as well as establish control over every aspect of their lives therefore making them remain like slaves (Aubrey 50).
In the portrayal of what people can call the perfect totalitarian government, the novel examines the different techniques that the party uses to control its citizens. These include psychological manipulation of the citizens, exercising physical control on the people, and using technology to control information, history and the citizens for the benefit of the party.
The party exercises psychological control over its people by replacing individual thought with distorted psychological stimuli. The use of propaganda ensures a constant feeding of the people with lies that in turn shape their thinking (Aubrey 23).
The use of ‘Telescreens’ to enhance the propaganda is effective in that the citizens are kept aware that the authorities are scrutinizing them. “You had to live — did live, from habit that became instinct — in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized” (Orwell 5).
This ensures that every move to be disloyal even by simply having a disloyal thought is completely dealt with and can be viewed as a crime against the party.
The citizens seem turned against each other using propaganda. For instance, children seem turned against their parents and recruited in the organization referred to as junior spies where they can act as watchdogs for the party by reporting any disloyalty even from their parents. People consider those who go against the party as enemies of the state.
The party employs physical control in its efforts to exert completely the control on its citizens (Bowker 220). This is evident through the manner which the party takes control of the bodies of its subjects.
As Winston observes, the party can read a tiny facial twitch to mean disloyalty, which could lead to arrest and prosecution. “Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom” (Orwell 211).
In fact, the party issues decree that force the subjects of the state to undergo mass morning exercises, which it refers to as the physical jerks. They also encounter situations of long working hours at government agencies. For those who try to go against this, he/she has to face punishment and ‘reeducated’ through a severe tortured.
Winston says, “People simply disappeared, always during the night. People removed your name from the registers wiping out every record of everything you had ever done, and further denying and forgetting your one-time existence. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word” (Orwell 345). As Winston points out after he was subjected to this torture, the state takes advantage of it to control reality and suppress opposition as there is nothing more intense to a human being like physical pain.
The party uses technology to control both information and history by changing all documented truth and replacing it with propaganda. The government prohibits keeping of historical evidence, such as photographs. These leave the people with only one choice, which is to rely upon their memories for the truth (Aubrey 56). This makes them easily manipulated.
The party abuses technology, as it uses it to enhance the control and oppressive measures of the government. The party ensures that there are the telescopes and microphones hidden all across the city to keep a close eye on the citizens.
According to Bowker, this deprives them of their privacy and personal freedoms as every of their moves is monitored (230). Technology seem further used to exert control on the production and sources of information as well as inflicting torture on those who are deemed disloyal. This proves that technology when in the wrong hands can facilitate the most diabolical of evils.
Manipulation in ‘Brave New world’
Huxley in his brave new world sounds a warning on what may transpire upon giving the state a control over new and powerful scientific innovations and technology. This is because the state is bound to use them in manipulating the citizens. This can be witnessed in the manner the state uses “technology and medical interventions to control reproduction” (Huxley 45).
Another example stands out where the state uses technology to create the complicated entertainment machines and the complicated drug soma that is prove of such misuse of technology.
Brave new world is not only a warning but also a satire of the society in which Huxley is part. In this state, society’s economic values determine what a person’s happiness entails. A person is therefore happy if they can satisfy their personal needs (Howe 89). The society has influenced the psychology of the citizens to equate success to the ability to grow economically and prosper.
The citizens therefore spent most of their time enjoying themselves as well as looking for ways to attain pleasure at the expense of their personal liberty about which they are less concerned.
Like ‘1984’ by George Orwell, ‘Brave new world’ sends a warning by depicting a dystopia in which a totalitarian government controls the movements, bodies, minds and actions of its people in order to preserve itself and continue being in power (Aubrey 56).
The kind of manipulation is however different in the two texts in that rather than the constant surveillance, torture and murders illustrated by Orwell’s 1984, brave New world achieves the same by manipulating people indirectly through technological interventions that exist throughout the lifetime of the citizens and shape what they deem as important to them.
This makes the people so happy and satisfied to an extent that they do not think about the possibility of the oppression they seem subjected to (Meyers 64). This in other words is that they are kept satisfied to an extent that they are no longer concerned about their personal freedom.
Manipulation in ‘A Clockwork Orange’
Burgess’s belief that the freedom of choice is the most important human attribute that a person can have and that distinguishes humans from all other things in the world which include both machines and animals is the major concern of this book (Meyers 56). When the character Alex exercises his free will by choosing to do evil things, the government represses his quest.
Upon doing this, he ends up losing his ability to function as a man and he therefore exists as only a thing. The minister says, “If a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man” (Burgess 88). He loses his free will due to the manipulation of the government as well as its meddling with affairs of individuals.
Neutrality and apathy as preached by oppressive governments become the two greatest enemies of free will (Meyers 45). As exemplified in the novel by Alex’s parents who choose not to meddle in the affairs of the state but are lured into sleep by a world cast program, the state uses such mechanism as entertainment to invoke apathy and neutrality in its middle class and make them comfortable and not in a position to question anything whatsoever. There freedom is therefore taken “as they sleep” (Burgess 70) as Alex puts it.
The institution of government as portrayed in the novel which champions for free will constantly seeks to suppress individuals in favor of the majority (Howe 564).
The state is desperate to the extent that it can employ any method to ensure that it survives. By the use of technology, economy as well as the threat of violent measures, the state is able to manipulate the individual as well as take away his free will. The state values someone or something when it matters and when it is of great importance only to drop it and discard it later when it thinks it is of less importance.
“Common criminals like this unsavory crowd”–(that meant me, brothers, as well as the others, who were real pre-stoop-nicks and treacherous with it)–“can best be dealt with on a purely curative bas” (Burgess 78). It uses technology to make hardened criminals harmless and then turns against the dissidents such as Alexander whose public opinion threatens the stability of the state.
The three texts in their different contexts explore the theme of manipulation by government and the effect that this has to the individual citizens. The manner in which these governments use technology as well as manipulate the economy to attain this is similar in all the three texts.
Technology for instance, is used in all the texts to suppress any instability either by directly barring the citizens from this or indirectly. This can be seen for instance the manner in which the use of advanced technology is put in place to ensure that all the hardened criminals are made harmless in ‘A clockwork orange’ and also to ‘reeducate’ enemies of the party in ‘1984’.
This implies the direct abuse of technology by state machinery to exert torture and ensure that people do not challenge the government’s policies. However, ‘Brave New world’ uses a different approach in the manner it uses technology to exercise control on its citizens.
It ensures the production of entertainment and luxury machines, which make the citizens so occupied and happy to the extent that they cannot possibly think of themselves as oppressed. Whichever the manner of using technology to manipulate the citizens, the results are all the same: It must manipulate people, robbing off their rights and personal freedom.
Aubrey, Crispin. Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1984 and Brave New world: Autonomy, Control and Communication. London: Comedia, 1983.
Burgess, Anthony. Clockwork Oranges: In 1985. London: Hutchinson, 1985.
Bowker, Gordon . Inside George Orwell: A Biography. Palgrave: Macmillan, 2003.
Hillegas, Mark. The Future As Nightmare: H.G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians. Southern Illinois: University Press, 1967.
Howe, Irving. 1984, Brave New world and Clockwork oranges Revisited: Totalitarianism In Our Century. New York: Harper Row, 1985.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. London: HarperCollins, 1932. p. 113
Meyers, Jeffery. Orwell, Burgess and Huxley: Wintry Conscience of a Generation. London: Norton Publishers, 2000.
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four: A novel. London: Secker & Warburg, 1949.