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Big Brother: George Orwell Revisited

Updated on January 5, 2019
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU 1963. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

Big Brother Is Watching You!

Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell)

Author of '1984'
Author of '1984'

Department of Motor Vehicles Norwalk, Connecticut

Sometimes Big Brother seems to be breathing down my neck.

Oh, I'm sure I'm probably a little more paranoid than the average guy when it comes to such things, but 1984 and George Orwell haven't faded away just because that infamous year has come and gone.

Rushing to work at the last minute, as usual, on Thursday, I suddenly felt that I knew what a criminal must feel like when I passed two (not one, but two) radar speed traps in Darien. Casting a nervous eye toward my speedometer, I was relieved to see that I hadn't broken the law. A glance in my rear-view mirror confirmed that "the law" took no interest in me.

Only the day before, having returned from a (too-short) visit to Freeport, Maine, I rummaged through my mailbox only to find another reminder of Big Brother, this time in the form of a message from the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles threatening to suspend my automobile license if I didn't have my car emissions tested by Aug. 8.

Feeling Under the Gun

Feeling somewhat under the gun -- admittedly I had committed the unpardonable sin of ignoring a written warning -- I sped to the testing station in Darien and thus, hopefully, satisfied the government's wishes.

The testers were polite and speedy, yet I couldn't help but feel they were more interested in the $10 fee than in reducing pollution when they told me that my old wreck had passed.

But these are just minor encounters with Big Brother that virtually all of us experience in one way or another throughout the year.

What reallly bothers me is the way Congress washes its hands of so many of its most important functions by establishing an agency to do the dirty work and then plays the monkey game -- you know, the one where you cover your eyes, ears and mouth so that you see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

This applies to scores of federal agencies, but the one that comes to mind immediately is the Internal Revenue Service.

IRS Catching Up on Its Backlog

When we received our income tax forms this year the director of the IRS noted that the agency had caught up on a backlog of work and, therefore, would be able to collect more money this year, apparently from taxpayers who had been getting away with not reporting certain types of income.

Sure, it's nice that the IRS can collect additional funds, but I am fearful that those horror stories one hears about the agency dunning little old ladies, perhaps for interest that went unreported a few years ago, may be true.

I've been filling out my own tax forms for years, but, if I'm any example, it's a lot more difficult now than it was before tax simplification. It isn't hard to imagine how tough it might be for an older person, or for someone not accustomed to filling out complicated forms.

Guess Who Ends Up Paying the Tab?

It would be a lot easier for me to deal with the IRS if I weren't reminded almost daily that the wealthy (I'm resisting the temptation of naming the names we all know) write off everything from lunch to their last business trip to Hawaii -- and that every time some mullti-millionaire donates thousands of dollars to his favorite charity I (and you) actually pick up the tab. Congress has to get that written-off money from somebody!

Thank goodness the weekend has arrived. I think I'll say goodbye to Big Brother and head toward the nearest golf course.

This is a column I penned as an "Editor's Notebook" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., dated Aug. 1, 1987.

The ending of George Orwell's '1984'

Do You Feel Big Brother Breathing Down Your Neck?

See results

Big Brother Seems To Be Alive and Well in Britain


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    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I don't share your optimism, wabond. The form of slavery we had long ago may be gone but today we have another form: More than 2 million American languish in our jails and prisons, 99 percent of new income goes to 1 percent of Americans, poverty is at an all-time high and full time work no longer insures economic security. The nation's wealth more than ever goes to wealthy investors while workers make little or no headway on wages or salaries. Our elections are no longer governed by "one man one vote" but instead are unduly influenced by billionaires and wealthy investors who "buy" our politicians with "contributions." The outlook is grim at best.

    • wabond profile image

      William Bond 

      5 years ago from England

      Ordinary people have challenged the power of the ruling elite in the past. Hundreds of years ago we had slavery and serfdom yet we managed to get rid of all these things. I think what has happened is that in the last 50 years the people have got too complacent and the ruling elite has taken advantage of this. This may be what Orwell was trying to do in his books, to try and wake people up. But I think more and more people are waking up and we will in time have politician movements that will take on the ruling elite.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Good newspapers, wabond, had news departments that remained remarkably objective, but ownership by wealthy individuals and corporations eventually resulted in mergers and acquisitions that put a higher priority the need for higher profits. Advances in technology are making it easier for the big corporations -- and for government -- to achieve their goals. I don't see "ordinary people" making a dent in any effort to restrict the power of the corporations or of government.

    • wabond profile image

      William Bond 

      5 years ago from England

      I personally find it crazy that a few people with money can have such a powerful influence over the rest of us. I agree that Orwell was warning us what could happen, but the reason why he was warning us was that he didn't want his "1984" prediction to happen. He was informing people of what was possible and hoping that we will do something about it.

      I've been around for a long time myself and I don't think the news was ever objective. The only difference was that the news in the past was far better at pretending to be objective, whereas today they don't seem to bother.

      Advance technology is not only in the hands of the big corporations but also in the hands of ordinary people. I don't think this is what Orwell could have predicted. So I don't think "1984" is inevitable. We have to take Orwell's prediction seriously, but we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking that we are totally helpless and nothing can be done.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Hundreds of millions of dollars -- even trillions -- of dollars in the hands of corporations trumps the Internet and the power of whistleblowers, wabond, when that money is used to buy elections and politicians. Americans have hardly noticed the inexorable growth of corporate giants and those who gain money and power from investments while the rest of us rely on the meager wages and salaries corporations care to offer us. Corporations simultaneously fund their candidates while supporting suppression of potential votes against them. Advances in technology are enabling corporations to operate with far less labor while dramatically increasing profits and returns on investments. The deck is stacked against ordinary Americans. Meanwhile the media is rapidly disappearing as a source of objective news. I'm old enough to remember when newspapers made every effort to separate their news departments from the advertising departments. Today most newspapers I see have become more like scandal sheets in an attempt to attract readers rather than offer objective news to serve the public interest. Orwell's warning that the future is hopeless is looking more and more like he hit the nail on the head.

    • wabond profile image

      William Bond 

      5 years ago from England

      I found "1984" depressing because it offered no hope for the future. But with the internet there is some hope. Before the internet, it would be very difficult to tell the public that their politicians are being brought by corporations. Wiki-leaks wouldn't have happened, so there would be no whistle blowers. The internet offers us a way to by-pass the mainstream media and tell people what is really going on.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      5 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      I'm with you on this one, William. Privacy is becoming non-existent. "Animal Farm" and 1984 are here in spades.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Orwell's "1984" was meant to be depressing, wabond. Both government and corporations are certainly monolithic. The "power of Internet," however, pales in comparison to the power of government and of corporations. Orwell's book warns of the government's power, but corporations today are outdoing government by creating unprecedented levels of mergers and acquisitions to mass hundreds of billions of dollars to buy our elections. It will take a lot more than the Internet to counteract corporate power.

    • wabond profile image

      William Bond 

      5 years ago from England

      I personally found "1984" a very depressing book to read. Though a lot of what George Orwell predicted has come true, the difference is that in "1984" Big Brother was all powerful and the ordinary person was powerless. That is not true today. Yes, government and corporations can use the power of the internet against the people. But likewise people who know how the internet works can use the power of internet against those who are trying to oppress us.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Big Brother's watching you, lorlie6. The AARP is just another one of its long arms!

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      10 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      3 years ago I was shocked to receive my first correspondence from AARP...what a wake-up call that was!

      They didn't have to rub it in!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      It looks like a losing battle, gnosis, but we continue to fight the good fight. Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      if you have a passport it contains an rfid chip there in your phone they can find you where ever you are they have rfid's in the lables of consumer products supposedly to track consumer trends and now we have peole volunteering to inject these chips in their arms for the sake of a "safer world" safety is an illsusion that they create by terrorizing the people into subscribing to there solution, absolute dominance and assimilation...

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      12 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I've pretty much given up on trying to maintain anything like privacy, lbtrader. When I signed up for Facebook I couldn't believe what people were revealing about their personal lives over the Internet -- a real treasure trove for Big Brother. Between the surveillance cameras that are being put up daily around the world and the implications of Google Earth, not to mention the endless war, there's little hope in resistance. But some of us resist anyway.

      I'm not sure of the resemblance between Blair and Crosby, but I don't think Blair could sing.

    • lbtrader profile image


      12 years ago from Canada

      IMO 1984 did manifest itself...we just didn't see it. It's when the PC became a mainstream instrument and from there on privacy has gone out the windows - pun - how many fingers doesn't are always wrong until you cannot think....the leader is good..the leader is.....

      BTW...striking resemblence b/w Blair and Crosbie


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