Anyone familiar with George Orwell’s 1984 and the strategies used by the dictator Big Brother to subjugate citizens and enforce control will recognise the similarities with the way Chairman Dan has turned Victoria into a police state.
At the start of 1984 Orwell describes a two-minute hate session where citizens are whipped into a state of fear and hatred against the external enemy Goldstein who leads the army of Eurasia about to invade. Making an external enemy the target reinforces the need for a strong authoritarian state led by Big Brother.
Almost every day since COVID-19 first emerged Premier Andrews has held a press conference where the virus is the enemy and Victorians are engaged in a terrifying war where their survival depends on being compliant.
Like Big Brother Andrews presents himself as the people’s saviour where his only concern is to protect citizens and ensure their safety. The persona is kind and reassuring with just enough firmness to suggest if listened to and acted upon all will be well.
Chairman Dan conveys a sense of fatherly concern and always justifies increased state control involving a regime of draconian restrictions by arguing his actions are only motivated by what is best for the health and safety of Victoria’s citizens.
Like the technocrat he is Andrews also relies on statistics, computer modelling and the science to prove he is always correct and that his actions are beyond criticism and doubt.
Another strategy employed by Big Brother, also used by the communist dictators Stalin and Mao, is to motivate and control citizens by enforcing state-mandated, centralised plans if only adhered to that will lead to prosperity and safety.
Andrews at his daily press conferences, after instilling fear and compliance by reciting statistics proving how deadly and infectious the virus is, also details strategies and plans guaranteed to win the war against the virus and to minimise casualties.
While Big Brother regularly imposes Three Year Plans to give the illusion of progress and prosperity Chairman Dan extolls the necessity and virtues of his various stages of lockdown and what he describes as the road map to a virus-free Victoria.
Ignored is the untold pain and suffering citizens are forced to suffer, the economic dislocation and bankruptcies suffered by restaurants, hotels, retailers and businesses and the fact Victoria, like socialist Venezuela, is well on the road to financial and economic ruin.
As explained by Winston Smith, the central character in 1984, citizens are continually monitored by the thought police to ensure Big Brother’s dominance. Although Victoria’s legal and political systems are based on inherent rights like privacy and freedom of expression under the Andrews’ regime state surveillance and curfews are now common–place.
In parks and gardens police have set up remote cameras, drones circle homes and backyards and police monitor social networking sites to ensure any opposition to the Chairman’s dictates are quickly crushed. Even a pregnant woman in the privacy of her own home is no longer safe.
Distorting language is also a powerful tool to ensure dominance – as argued by Orwell if you control language you control what people think and if you control what they think you easily suppress any opposition.
In 1984 citizens are told ‘war is peace’, ‘freedom is slavery’ and ‘ignorance is strength’ and in Victoria Chairman Dan’s mantra is ‘staying apart keep us together’. Ignored is restricting people to virtual encounters denies the ability to meet face to face (with masks of course) and to socially interact on a human level.
Winston works in the Ministry of Truth and similar to all totalitarian regimes Oceania is controlled by a top-down inflexible bureaucracy. In Victoria, public policy and governance is also decided by a command and control structure where decision-makers exist in a vacuum far removed from the every-day reality confronted by doctors, health workers and those in aged care.
History proves liberal democratic governments and societies where people’s rights and liberties are protected achieve far more peace, stability and prosperity than totalitarian dictatorships whether of the left or the right.
The USSR eventually collapsed because of the oppression, starvation and thirst for freedom and those controlling China realised if they were to stay in power they would have to adopt elements of a capitalist system where entrepreneurship and profit-making are allowed.
Victorians are also beginning to realise Chairman Dan’s authoritarian and ego-centred approach has not and will not work. The litany of errors includes the virus spreading from quarantine hotels, adopting a COVID-19 tracing system guaranteed to fail and enforcing a rigid and unnecessary series of lockdowns calculated to bankrupt the state and spread emotional and mental distress.
Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of A Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide (available at kevindonnelly.com.au)
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