Does Big Brother exist?

Vaughn Cordle, CFA

Ionosphere Capital Research

Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four ” helps answer that question.

Big Brother is a fictional character and symbol in Orwell’s dystopian novel, published in 1949. He is ostensibly the leader of Oceania, a totalitarian state where the ruling party, INGSOC, has total power “for its own sake” over the inhabitants. Party slogans are a string of ironic claims such as “War is Peace” and “Freedom is Slavery” and its Ministries are contradictions: the Ministry of Truth lies, the Ministry of Love tortures, and the Ministry of Peace makes war.

Like all totalitarian states, Orwell’s fictional territory of Oceania sought to control every aspect of its citizens lives through a combination of fear, misinformation, hate, psychological warfare, and surveillance. Citizens who were deemed insufficiently patriotic were labelled enemies of state and vaporized by the Thought Police—their bodies, possessions and personal history erased as if they had never lived.

Is our modern-day Big Brother reflected in the way a few big social media companies and mainstream media favor one party over the others? People are censored and canceled, facts distorted, values and principles debased or denied. The current application of Section 230 allows the government to pressure social media platforms to remove content it considers ‘objectionable’ or ‘misinformation’. Censorship is the antithesis of free speech, which the framers of the Constitution enshrined in the First Amendment. Did the framers anticipate Orwell by 150 years?  

The Noble Lie, a concept originating with Plato, is rationalized with the need for “training” and “instruction” (i.e. propaganda) for the greater good. People are too dumb to know the difference between right and wrong, true and false, good and bad. They need Big Brother (i.e., big government) to determine how they should live their lives. Should we believe our lying eyes or go along to get along? If we need the Nobel lie and Orwell’s four ministries—the fourth is the Ministry of Plenty—we will succumb to socialism and our political masters.

Information discrimination by big media

If social media banned minorities from posting inflammatory non-truths, there would be outrage and lawsuits. Discriminating against ideas and political opinions is a serious new threat and should be elevated to the same status as other civil rights violations. We cannot change the color of our skin, so why should we be compelled to change the content of our opinions? While the US Congress will not pass the needed reforms under the present regime, the Red States should consider passing such laws. And it should be the first order of business for Congress when Republicans regain control.

Red states should lead the way and highlight/contrast different approaches to stop deliberate information discrimination, elevating it to a civil rights violation. Perhaps our friends on the Left would join in this effort if they knew that people of color and low-income earners are disproportionately impacted by information discrimination?

Elisabeth Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act comes to mind as a new Ministry in the authoritarian one-party rule future the progressive wing of the Democratic Party envisions.  Replace the Orwellian face in the novel with AOC’s or Warren’s … and you’ll see that the only mistake Orwell made in Nineteen Eighty-Four was the year.

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