panopticism

Jonny Hillman Mrs. Leger Eng. 10112/20/2017Panoptical Surveillance in 1984; the Seen and the Unseen “Propaganda and surveillance are pervasive in contemporary society… George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is an important point of reference in both literatures.” In this article, Propaganda and Surveillance in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: Two Sides of the Same Coin, by Michael Yeo, he exploits the use of propaganda and surveillance in the society of Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Both propaganda and and surveillance are used in Nineteen Eighty-Four in panoptical ways to alter the citizens thoughts in Oceania. Panopticism is a theory that originated from the idea of the Panopticon Prison designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham. The idea is that one is being watched, however does not know when he or she is being watched. The panopticon prison was designed, yet never built, to make inmates behave properly at all times because the inmate does not know when he or she is being watched. In the article Panopticism (1975) by Michel Foucault, the idea of the Panopticon prison is described, “Bentham designed the Panopticon with prison cells circling around a guard tower so that a guard can watch each prisoner, yet the prisoners cannot tell when a guard watches them.”(Foucault p.493) The Panopticon prison in a way reflects the society of Oceania. Citizens do not know when he or she is being watched by Big Brother. This leads to no such freedom just like a prisoner in the Panopticon prison. Foucault goes on to tell that “they would internalize the rules and police their own behavior, whether or not a guard was actually watching”(p.493). The citizens of Oceania must internalize any thoughts against the government, and if one’s thoughts were to come out they would be punished. The fact that Orwell uses Big Brother and The Party as someone watching you at all times portrays the theory of panopticism throughout the entire novel. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel written by George Orwell in 1944 about his thoughts as to what our nation might look like. The novel is about a society called Oceania, where citizens lack their own individual privacy. Citizens are monitored by the so called “Big Brother” through telescreens. The citizens do not know when they are being watched, and are not allowed to form any thoughts against the government. “It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” (Orwell). The main character, Winston, describes this panoptic society in the novel. Winston expresses how he feels towards the government in a way that seems like a invasion of privacy, or as if he is being violated. Big Brother uses its “all seeing’ power to prevent citizens from forming any thoughts of rebellion against the government. The article Propaganda and Surveillance in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: Two Sides of the Same Coin, by Michael Yeo expresses how the government uses their power against the citizens. “Nineteen Eighty-Four displays all manner of propaganda, with distinguishing features of several definitions sharply accented. The Party takes propaganda to totalizing limits in its project of political control over not just everything that people do or say but everything they think or believe”. Yeo explains how the citizens are not only controlled by what they do but everything that they think or believe. Yeo says “The Party propaganda to totalizing limits”. Citizens in Oceania are not allowed to keep journals to write down one’s own thoughts. Not only is The Party always watching, but invade on any one’s personal thoughts. Oceania has what is called the Thought Police, who punish any citizen who is committing thoughtcrime. The Party is against any one who has thoughts of rebellion. The Thought Police cannot read the citizens thoughts, however Thought Police monitor the citizens on telescreens. A citizen of Oceania may talk in one’s sleep, which reflects the thoughts of the citizen. These are the behaviors that the Thought Police look for in all of the citizens. of Oceania, and when citizens behave in this manner the Thought Police then vaporize them. The concept of the Thought Police adds to Yeo’s explanation on the way that The Party controls not just what citizens do, but also on what citizens think or believe. Michael Yeo’s article also comments on the use of propaganda, and the how The Party uses Propaganda in powerful ways. “The persuasive power of every medium, technique and genre of communication is exploited to its maximum potential and single-mindedly put to work. Virtually every communication is calculated to propagate politically charged messages. No holds are barred, and there is no respite from the intrusive messaging”. In the beginning of the novel Winston is introduced and describes the use of propaganda in Oceania. Winston describes the walls covered in the face of Big Brother, the face on coins, and the slogans of The Party on the city walls. Winston describes the feeling as the eyes following you, and the voice enveloping you.  The slogans of The Party are “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” All of these ideas contradict each other. The Party uses the slogans to confuse the citizens of Oceania. By confusing the citizens of Oceania, the citizens then cannot form any thoughts of rebellion against the government. It is inescapable due to the fact the all throughout the streets of Oceania the slogans are posted in big bold lettering, not only the slogans but the constant reminder that Big Brother is always watching. The inescapable propaganda makes it so nobody can form a single thought of rebellion. In a sense The Party brain washes the citizens. Yeo’s explanation of the use of propaganda in Oceania shows the brain behind Big Brother and The Party. The Party knows how to control the citizens and does it well by the way they propagate. Propaganda is used in panoptic measure in Nineteen Eighty-Four to remind citizens that they are being watched, however do not know when one is being watched.