Orwell Predicted CorrectlyBut not for America
“We are engaged in a robust debate around Snowden‟s disclosures, as newspapers
fearlessly publish more top-secret documents purloined from the NSA. Which can only mean
that, whatever our imperfections, we aren‟t living in 1984 writes Michael Moynihan in an
article published to popular news site Newsweek soon after former NSA contractor Edward
Snowden leaked classified information from the NSA. Moynihan assures his readers that
America is not heading down the path foreseen by George Orwell in his dystopian novel, 1984.
In the novel 1984, Orwell tried but failed to predict the future of the world as we know it.
Surveillance today is not even close to as extensive as in Oceania, blind patriots in the United
States are few and far between, and American ignorance is on a very similar level with that of
any European country. Orwell‟s dystopian nation has some parallels to the United States but it
doesn‟t even come close to what it has become.
Orwell made an attempt to predict that large and powerful countries would have cameras
and microphones in every home, but he was wrong. He really stressed the Party‟s usage of the
telescreen: a screen which watched and listened nonstop and existed in every public place and
every home. “He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you
night and day…” (Orwell 97). The American government has no ability to keep watch of its
citizens constantly in their own homes. And even if it acquired that power in the future, it could
never go as far as the Party did in Oceania by having every single citizen watched and listened to
continually. Orwell greatly exaggerated the Party‟s use of telescreens and failed to predict the
state of today‟s level of surveillance. Late in the story, Orwell sends Winston on a trip with Julia,
his newly-found lover, to find a secluded area in the woods. Winston makes an important
discovery: There were no telescreens … but there was always the danger of concealed
microphones by which your voice might be picked up and recognized…” (Orwell 67). While
voice-recognition exists and can be considered commonplace today, by no means are hidden
microphones common at all. Surely they exist and have very specific uses, but listening to people
going hiking in the woods is not one of them. And besides, the minimal mass surveillance that
the American government does conduct collection of phone call information and not
conversations is heavily restricted. According to William Saletan from online news site Slate,
The government acquires records … but then doesn't go into that database without an arguable
reason connected to terrorism to ask that database a question. This highlights how far off
Orwell‟s predictions were not only are there no government-controlled cameras in every home,
the little surveillance that is conducted is very greatly restricted. While it is easy to believe that
America‟s level of surveillance is on par with that of Orwell‟s Oceania, it is far from the truth
Orwell tried to predict that the future would contain powerful countries full of oblivious
sheep who blindly followed whoever was in control. This is far from the case in America. Orwell
details how important it is to the Party that the proles, Oceania‟s equivalent of slaves, remain
uneducated and simply obey their superiors. He writes: “All that was required of them was a
primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary” (Orwell 41). This is
exactly what Orwell was expecting would happen in the future that powerful countries like
America would be reliant on its population of mindless sheep. As it turns out, a majority of
Americans actually believe that their country is only among the world powers and not “the best
in the world,” as Orwell predicted. The Pew Research Center confirms this: “Across all other
groups, far more say the U.S. is one of several of the greatest countries in the world, rather than
the one country standing above all others. This shows that most Americans realize that their
country is not the single best country in the world, proving Orwell wrong. Many even go as far
as expressing their dissatisfaction with the American government as a whole. According to the
2014 ASCI Federal Government Report, “Americans are less satisfied with services of the U.S.
federal government for a second consecutive year, as citizen satisfaction recedes 2.6% to an
ACSI score of 64.4 (scale of 0 to 100). This hatred of government is far from the blind
patriotism that Orwell tried to predict in his novel 1984. Whether or not an American loves their
country or outright hates it, very few of them blindly agree with their county‟s decisions like the
Party members and the proles in 1984.
Lastly, Orwell greatly exaggerated the ignorance of the general population of a country
through the proles in Oceania. Naturally, Orwell drills this one into the minds of his readers. One
of the three Party slogans, which are excessively repeated throughout the novel, reads
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” (Orwell 2). With this extremely direct slogan, Orwell made it
clear that the country of Oceania relied heavily upon the ignorance of its population. This is far
from the truth in America today. Orwell goes on to explain how important it is to keep the
uneducated population the proles the way they are. And even when they became
discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general
ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances”. This inability to contest the
decisions of the Party is of utmost importance to them maintaining power. Without this, the Party
will eventually fall; whereas in America, all-out ignorance would instead lead to downfall. While
the common stereotype of American ignorance of the happenings of countries is partially correct,
this ignorance is on par with that of any other country. Francis Tapon, a Harvard graduate who
has travelled the world, writes: “Please compare an educated, well-traveled American with an
educated, well-traveled European . . . You‟ll discover the difference isn‟t that big.” This
confirms that Orwell‟s portrayal of ignorance is greatly exaggerated when compared to today‟s
ignorance. While the American stereotype of ignorance will remain, the American government
will always require well-educated individuals.
In the case of the United States of America, Orwell was wrong. His prediction that future
countries would be surveyed continuously and full of ignorant sheep who follow their leaders
without question was far from correct in America today. Michael Moynihan reassures his readers
that America is not even close to the level of totalitarianism demonstrated in Orwell‟s 1984. He
writes: “Indeed, 1984 is a book not only about surveillance but also the full-spectrum dominance
of Stalinist totalitarianism, from the government-directed corruption of language . . . to absolute
control of information and historical inquiry. Such states exist . . . but they bear little
resemblance to contemporary America.
Works Cited
"ACSI Federal Government Report 2014." American Customer Satisfaction Index. n.p., 27 Jan.
2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://www.theacsi.org/news-and-resources/customer-
Moynihan, Michael. "Sorry, We‟re Not Living in Orwell‟s „1984‟." Newsweek. Newsweek LLC,
19 June 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://www.newsweek.com/2013/06/19/sorry-were-
Orwell, George. 1984 with Connections. Austin: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2002. Print.
Saletan, William. "The NSA‟s Phone Database Makes Sense. But It Needs Transparent
Safeguards." Slate Magazine. TheSlateGroup, 10 June 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
"Section 2: Views of the Nation, the Constitution and Government." Pew Research Center for
the People and the Press. Pew Research Center, 26 June 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
Tapon, Francis. "Defending American Ignorance." WanderLearn with Francis Tapon. n.p., n.d.
Web. 16 Nov. 2015. <http://francistapon.com/Travels/Western-Europe/Defending-