sábado, 15 de julio de 2017

Which country today most resembles George Orwell’s “1984”?

Is Turkey the most Orwellian country?

by Michael Rubin

It’s been almost 70 years since English novelist Eric Arthur Blair, writing under the pseudonym George Orwell, penned “1984,” his famous dystopian novel which depicted life in Oceania, a state in perpetual war with omnipresent government surveillance, strict state control of the media, and cynical government manipulation of the populace. The state prosecutes “thought crime” and independent thinking. The “Inner Party” strictly controls policy, even as members of the “Outer Party” fill other bureaucratic slots in order to keep the state functioning. Historical revisionism is rife and alliances shift rapidly. After years of war against Eurasia, Oceania’s policy suddenly switches, hence the declarative statement, “Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia,” no matter the reality of previous years.

Orwell wrote his masterpiece in the wake of World War II and against the backdrop of the expansion of communism throughout Eastern Europe and its attempts to make inroads into Western Europe. The reason why “1984” remains so relevant today, however, is that uncomfortable takes on “fake news” and government disdain for individual liberty remain too real in too many places. After President Donald Trump’s inauguration, “1984” shot up the rankingson Amazon, leading the publisher to print an additional 70,000 copies.

Whatever disdain people might have for Trump and his unwillingness to confront even the reality of his past statements and positions, the United States is not Oceania and any suggestion otherwise is an exaggeration. The judiciary is independent and the media free. What countries then come closest to the Oceania of Orwell’s creation?

North Korea is, of course, the most totalitarian country on earth. Foreign media consumption is not allowed. Children are indoctrinated from birth, if not from North Korean schools than by their own families who fear the consequence of any question or remark, however innocent, that could contradict or somehow cross the Dear Leader’s line. Dissidence, real or suspected, will lead to punishment not only for the individual but for generations of his or her family. Heroes one day transform into “despicable human scum.”

Turkmenistan, at least under the late leader Turkmenbashi, came close. He named days and months after himself and his family, and constructed a gold statue that rotated with the sun. But, while Turkmenbashi sought absolute obedience, his regime was more authoritarian than totalitarian. Eritrea, too, is authoritarian in the extreme — especially with regard to press freedom and free expression — but is not organized enough to be truly totalitarian.

If Orwell were alive today, the country which might best conform to “1984” might well be Turkey. The issue isn’t simply President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s corruption or authoritarianism. In that, he is really no different from Russian President Vladimir Putin or Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. Rather, it is how Erdogan has seized control of the media in order to impose narratives that change as rapidly as Oceania’s wars against Eastasia and Eurasia. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was Erdogan’s best-friend, for example, until he wasn’t. But woe to any Turk that points out how Erdogan cultivated Assad and even vacationed with him. Turkey’s relationship with Russia is enough to give any observer whiplash, moving from cautious trade partners to sanctions and military bluster to the tightest of allies over the course of a year.


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