We Have an Idiocracy Problem, Not an Orwell Problem

People are extremely fond of referencing Orwell right now, and specifically 1984. So much so in fact that it’s just become a #1 bestseller again.

I think the analysis is a bit off.

The key characteristic of Orwellian society is oppression. That means that the people are vibrant, full of life, and the government is a well-organized force that keeps them down. The key element there is that they actually control information. They determine what people hear and therefore what they believe.

That’s not what we have in America right now.

What we have is more like what Huxley warned about, which is a situation where the people no longer care what’s true. They simply go about their business, chase shiny things, amuse themselves with recreation, and let the government do whatever it wants.

We’re closer to that today than we are an Orwellian society, but there’s another model that’s even more applicable.

Idiocracy.

In Idiocracy, the people are so ignorant and gullible that they celebrate the wrong things. The respect bragging, power, bling, and all the other lower forms of signaling strength. And because they’re so ignorant they can’t tell the difference between what’s true and what’s not.

That’s what got us here—not an Orwellian level of control and deception.

We can see the differences in a few different ways:

  • First, the current administration is not that organized or coordinated. They’re more like a Magic 8-ball of mostly bad ideas.
  • Second, they don’t have control over what’s being heard. They’re just blasting their narratives at full volume and hoping it’ll confuse and convince some percentage of the masses—which they have.
  • Third, there isn’t a singular goal that they’re pursuing. It’s many different and opposing groups emotionally pushing their own individual agendas.

This isn’t Orwell, and it’s not even Huxley. Huxley’s dystopia, like Orwell’s, was maliciously designed to make people not care. It was engineered to distract the people and put them to sleep so that the real world order could reign.

Again, that requires a lot of organization, very long-game thinking, and meticulous planning and execution.

We don’t have any of that in this mess. What we have are Idiocratic opportunists shouting slogans and getting the ignorant masses riled up. They’re tapping into emotions, obscuring facts, and taking full advantage of their audience’s distaste of subtlety and evidence in discussion.

I’m never one to discourage people from reading Orwell, but it’s a bit of a waste to build a mental defense against an ailment that we’re not actually facing.

Quite simply, our problem isn’t the government; our problem is the people who brought it to power.

As someone recently pointed out at a protest,

Don’t blame Trump. He repeatedly demonstrated that he was unfit to lead the country, and we elected him anyway.

Pointing to the government as the problem, which is the message with both Orwell and Huxley, doesn’t help us much right now.

If we want to find our way out of this mess we need to find a way to address the millions of people who wanted him here and think he’s doing a good job. If you can’t fix that, you can’t fix anything else.

That’s an Idiocracy problem, not an Orwellian one.

Notes

  1. And no, I’m not saying anyone who voted for Trump is an idiot or part of the Idiocracy. But as a rule I would say that he absolutely perpetrated a mass-deception that required significant ignorance in his followers. That doesn’t mean he didn’t make good points, or that people couldn’t have voted for him for good reasons. It simply wasn’t the majority of what happened.

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