/ George Orwell's predictions were 'bonkers'

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Richard White on 21 Jan 2013
That is the opinion of John Sutherland, emeritus professor of English at University College London.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9786000/9786626.stm

Personally I don't agree. But who am I, a mere member of the proletariat, to disagree with such a heavyweight in the world of literature.

Any thoughts?
Eric9Points - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:

I heard the discussion this morning and have to agree with you. The professor seemed to think that the books were a prediction of the future when in fact they were a warning about what the future could become. The fact the we are not living in a world that's as oppressive as the one Orwell describes in 1984 is partly due to the warning that the book has given us.
toad - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White: Didn't hear it all, but he sounded like an overbearing pedantic arse. Because it didn't come precisely to pass, it's all rubbish.
ring ouzel on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White: I listened to that interview and he did not come across well. I don't know enough about the subject (although we did read Animal Farm and 1984 at school) but I was on the other persons side by the end of the interview.
John Stainforth - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:

I am another. Orwell was pointing out some logical end-points of human and political behaviour. I think about half of what he said has happened in various forms, especially regarding politicians, the media and propaganda.
Mike Stretford - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White: Seems a bit silly of the Prof. North Korea and East Germany's Stassi has happened between Orwell writing it and now (to name just 2 example).
andic - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:

UCL? Obviously a socialist trying to lull us all back to sleep
Simon Caldwell - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:
Only caught part of it, but he dismissed the Handmaid's Tale out of hand on the basis that the USA wasn't run by religious extremists. Maybe not, but parts of it are, which is why creationism is taught in many public schools (sometimes including specific teaching that evolution is false).

So he was other posturing, or is ignorant.
Richard White on 21 Jan 2013
In reply:

I find John Sutherland's assertions difficult to understand, given the obvious examples that have been provided so far.

It sounds as though he is trying to draw attention to himself and his own work.
elsewhere on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Papillon:
Orwell didn't have to imagine a future socialist totalitarian state when he wrote Animal Farm & 1984 - the Soviet Union was 30 years old then.
toad - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:
> In reply:

>
> It sounds as though he is trying to draw attention to himself and his own work.

I wondered if I'd missed a "...academic and author of 'why George Orwell was Wrong' " in the introductions

Kemics - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:

He really reminds me of the academic described in Daniele Bolelli's open letter to academia.

Though to be honest. Orwell is my hero...so i'm a little bias. One of the greatest English writers. A classic warrior philosopher. A very intelligent and manly man. There's no greater role model.

Seems embarrassingly short sighted for a professor of English to see Orwell's writing as pure predictions only.
Kemics - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:

oh and thanks richard for posting this. Otherwise would have missed radio 4 were doing a series on Orwell. Awesome :)
Richard White on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Kemics:

I know what you mean, I am also biased having having read Orwell novels at secondary school. At the time I enjoyed the "stories" but didn't quite grasp their significance, being a daft teenager. It was only when I learnt of my parents lives as kids in the 30's as part of large families with little income and no regular work that those "stories" actually had great meaning.

Yes, one of the great English Writers and I am quite pissed with this academic.

It is writers such as Orwell that helped improve the social situation in this country.
Kemics - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:

The road to Wigan pier really changed my perspective about poverty in the country. Also made me finally understand the north/south divide. And provided me with one of my all time favourite quotes - “There could hardly be a town in the South of England where you could throw a brick without hitting the niece of a bishop.”

It seems crazy as we're such a prosperous country now. But as little as two generations (and living memory) ago people went to school with no shoes and lived in terrible conditions. If Orwell hadn't gone and lived/worked among then (something hard to imagine for writers of his calibre/era doing) I doubt things would be quite where they are today.
John2 - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White: I don't understand what you're trying to say. Sutherland said, "The one thing he was right about was the tyranny by CCTV, but the rest of it - the notion of a socialist totalitarian state was bonkers."

Do you believe that we now live in a socialist totalitarian state?
Eric9Points - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to John2:

Orwell wasn't making a prediction.

Much of his writing after the Spanish civil war was about totalitarianism and the way such Governments distort truth to dupe ordinary people. 1984 was more more written along the lines of "unscrupulaous governments behave in these ways, if you don't recognise this and keep on your guard then the future could end up like this..".

Have a read at this: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

A brilliant analysis of how people use language to deceive, either others or themselves. He wrote plenty more along the same lines.
subalpine - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Eric9Points: duping ordinary people is still doing well- orwell's 'predictions' are closer than we think? different methods..
Dauphin - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to John2:

Plenty elements of an over weaning nanny state along with it of course the authoritarian dark side, the mother that won't let go.

Whether you want to call that socialist or not I'm not sure. I imagine it is a lot more socialist today even with a tory/liberal coalition than when Orwell was writing.

D
subalpine - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to John2:
>
> Do you believe that we now live in a socialist totalitarian state?

more like a stasi state:

www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/18/james-bond-police-licence-break-hearts
geebus - on 21 Jan 2013
You've got to consider the 'quantum effect' - well, that because he'd observed the possible future, that was less likely to happen because people were aware of it.

I don't think CCTV is a good example.
CCTV is currently mostly controlled by 'little brother' - and is particularly ineffective at pretty much everything.
In reply to Richard White: The fact that he mentions a 'Socialist' totaliterian state is a ruse, I dont care whether its a socialist or tory totaliterian state either is wrong and to be honest we are more into a tory one than a socialist one.
BTW you should read Huxleys 'Brave New World' - equally as relevant as 1984
Richard White on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Allan McDonald (Gwydyr MC):

I have read Brave New World, at about the same time I read 1984 and Animal Farm. Yes, it certainly is equally as relevant.

Also, I agree with you that the type of totalitarianism is irrelevant, they are all wrong.
yeti on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:

someone told me years ago he wanted to call it 1948 but his publisher wouldn't do it
subalpine - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to geebus: yeah, big brother is more interested in monitoring what we type on our keyboards..
Fat Bumbly2 - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to subalpine: It's OK we got rid of his namesake before it was too late. I remember it was a bit of a slogan back in the noughties "1984 is not an instruction manual".
Simon4 - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Allan McDonald (Gwydyr MC):
> (In reply to Richard White) The fact that he mentions a 'Socialist' totaliterian state is a ruse, I dont care whether its a socialist or tory totaliterian state either is wrong and to be honest we are more into a tory one than a socialist one.

The totalitarian states his dystopias were based on were the Nazi and Marxist states, which were certainly as brutal and absolutist as anybody could imagine (or wish for). We certainly do not have a totalitarian state in Britain, to say so is ridiculous hyperbole. 1984 was very much of a piece with Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, and several other dystopic novels of the time, though as others have rightly said, 1984 was neither a prediction nor an instruction manual, but a warning, as all good dystopias are. The author of course does not want his "predictions" to come true, that is the point of writing the book. Animal Farm was a bit different as it was allegorical history of the Soviet revolution.

Clearly this professor is simply trying to make a name for himself by being controversial for the sake of it, and not very intelligently so either. But I had forgotten just how good some of Orwell's essays are till this thread and another one recently provoked me into re-reading a couple of them. His extreme lucidity and ability to cut through bullshit and to speak plainly but eloquently and to the point is invaluable.

bullybones - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Richard White:
Orwell made a ton of wrong predictions, as anyone who has read his essays will attest. He made so many specific predictions concerning the direction of post-war politics that he was bound to be wrong on many fronts.

This is in no way surprising, nor does it detract from his genius. Prediction, as someone once said, is difficult - especially of the future.
Simon4 - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to bullybones:

> Prediction, as someone once said, is difficult - especially of the future.

Allegedly Heisenberg, though this may be apocryphal.
subalpine - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon4: you're quite sure that nothing is going on behind the scenes that compares with orwells writings? what makes you so sure?
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bullybones - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon4:
> Allegedly Heisenberg, though this may be apocryphal.
You seem a little uncertain, perhaps too Bohred to check?
subalpine - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to bullybones: nice one;)
Simon4 - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to subalpine:
> what makes you so sure?

The fact that I can agree to meet a mate in the pub of an evening and know that if he/she doesn't turn up, it is because they are an unreliable bastard, not because the KGB has arrested them on the street and they have disappeared into the gulag for years on end or forever, or been subject to summary execution. Also that if I get worried, I can contact the police who will look for them if I have any reason to suppose that anything bad has happened to them.

The fact that paranoid left-wing idiots can bang on about evil capitalist conspiracies with evil secret police dragging "progressives" away in the night and how there are wheels within wheels etc on the internet (or even in the pub, but hopefully not the same one as I am in, either with my mate or waiting for the exasperating git to turn up), and nothing happens apart from everyone else gives a weary sigh and ignores them as they post links to yet another crackpot conspiracist website.
Simon4 - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to bullybones:You make me feel like a right Planck!
subalpine - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon4: question of degree- more subtle methods nowadays..
geebus - on 21 Jan 2013
In reply to subalpine:
There is plenty going on 'behind the scenes', I have no doubt.
But, that so much of it comes out one way or another (see wikileaks for a good example) suggests that frankly they just aren't competent to keep the mass conspiracies so many claim going.

Amusingly often the same people moan that the government are incompetent in various ways, but at the same time manage to be running multiple deep mass conspiracies with no real evidence ever proven - yet manage to mess up even the simplest cover up operations when things do go wrong.

Of course, that might all be part of 'the big conspiracy'.
But if it's really that deep that they've managed to hide all the really competent people or get them to live such amazing lies - good luck to them!
Al Evans on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to geebus: In 1984 the Jura fell race was run at the anniversary of Wells (or should it be Blair) writing 1984 on the Island. There were a large number of Americans and people from all round the world. THe hotel at Craighouse was full as were all B+Bs on the Island, the campsite was heaving with runners and Orwellists, some came just on a day trip.
I asked one yank what they were going to do
"Oh, just have a walk up to his place and read a couple of chapters"
This was a fair walk as his house was at the far north of the Island, still I guess they could have gone a bit further and seen corryveckan at the same time.
John Stainforth - on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon4:

de mind Broglies
elsewhere on 22 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon4:
I broadly agree but sometimes the paranoid left-wing idiots are right.

Addressing parliament, Cameron said that "on the balance of probability", an officer or officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) did propose Finucane as a target to loyalist terrorists.

The prime minister admitted that the report made for "extremely difficult reading" in regard to Sir Desmond de Silva's findings, such as the revelation that 80% of the Ulster Defence Association's intelligence information came from official state sources.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/dec/12/pat-finucane-report-david-cameron-apologises

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