1776 to 1984 Part III

by John Hospers

Yet it is probable that the Orwellian vision of the world will never be completed. A world of governments headed by ruthless and despotic men, a world of rebellious subject populations who had to be kept in line through terror – that was a familiar world to Orwell.

Big Brother controls through fear, and through constant intrusion – such as watching television eyes in every home. It was the world of indoctrination and coercion.

But what if despots need not have rebellious populations?

What if people can be conditioned through drugs, surgery, selective breeding, and recombinant DNA, to be passive vessels of Big Brother? Not rebelling against him but being fully cooperative with him, either through early conditioning or (more promisingly) through selective breeding so as to eliminate the active and independent minds who are the greatest potential for rebellion among his subjects. Then the threat to Big Brother would evaporate and methods of torture and terror would no longer be necessary.

If a world totalitarian state would come to pass, it will not be on the Orwell model. It will be, instead, on the model of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Huxley’s Controller “saw that total control should start at conception.

In hatcheries made possible by reproductive biology, embryos were molded to order by genetic means to become humans of certain types. The level of intelligence was controlled by manipulating the amount of oxygen given the foetuses. Future sewer workers, who needed few brains, were mass produced on low levels of oxygen.

Persons were induced to love their assigned status and the regime by the use of neo-Pavlovian conditioning techniques, by sleep teaching, and by a wondrous ‘soma’ drug. Most of the techniques Huxley fantasized for the distant future are already becoming available…” (Vance
Packard, The People Changers, p. 5)

The rise of technology has been far more rapid than Orwell could have suspected, and it has taken forms that he could not have predicted — technology that would be worse than frightening if placed in the hands of any government. Some of these brave new world fantasies have already become reality, and others are easily within the range of present technology, should the decision be made to go ahead with them.

Already there are devices for pacifying troublesome people and dissenters: for a time brain operations such as pre-frontal lobotomies were popular, but now thorazine and other drugs are used because they are cheaper and can be used on a day-to-day basis. People can be kept under surveillance by locking transmitters to their bodies (Packard, p. 4). Sub-humans can be treated for doing menial work and as a source of spare parts for human bodies.

The ancient Stoics used to say, “Surrender everything you have to, except your will. People may injure your body, but do not let them injure your spirit. Even if you are sick or in pain, this need not affect you; keep intact your inviolable will.” Heroic words, these.
But modern technology has made it possible to break the will. Tortures can be inflicted such as virtually no one can resist. And anyway various forms of truth-serum can be forcibly injected so that you cannot help revealing the truth under their influence no matter how much you may try to hide it. The will itself can be broken.

But a much simpler way than all this has come into view. We can re-shape people so that they will not want to resist; we are becoming capable of genetic engineering that will produce whatever kind of people the rulers want.

Maya Pines, in her book The Brain Changers, writes, “In France, where generations of peasant women have painstakingly force-fed geese by hand (to fatten their lives for good foie gras), surgeons have begun to take over the job, performing a delicate operation on the geese’s hypothalamus to knock out their centers of satiety.

This makes the geese eat incessantly–as of their own free will–damaging their insides and consuming almost as much as when they were stuffed by hand. To top it all, a drug company is now developing a chemical that could be injected directly into the animals’ brains to produce the same effect in only a few minutes, at negligible cost.” She adds, “There is something particularly revolting about these self-stuffing geese. Surely the American scientists who investigated the brain mechanisms responsible for appetite and satiety could not foresee such applications of their work. It makes one wonder how our own brains may be changed some day, and for whose benefit. What may all this research do to human beings?” (p. 231-2)

Peace-loving rats that grew up in a laboratory have been turned instantly into killers by injecting certain drugs into the aggression center of their brains. The transmitter acetylcholine caused the release of aggression.

In other rats, the scientists inserted tiny hollow tubes into the rats’ brains; then they put in a few drops of carbachol, the rats pounced on the mice and killed them with a single hard bite on the back of their necks–their first murder. Then the scientists found chemicals that would turn off these killer attacks.

Methylatropine caused the wild rats to suddenly become pacifists, walking to the mice, sniffing them, but doing nothing else. Dr. Douglas Smith (p. 104, Pines) said that similar “pharmacological prevention” could control aggressive behavior in human beings, as in Clockwork Orange.

B.F. Skinner, describing behavior engineering some years ago, said, “We have the technology for installing any (human) behavior we want.” (Packard, The People Changers, p. 4) And a University of Michigan psychologist, James V. McConnell, proposed, “We should reshape our society so that we all would be trained from birth to do what society wants us to do.” The techniques are here; there are plenty of scientists who, to get government grants, would gladly do anything the government says. The apparatus is in place; it would require only a change in government to put it into practice.

Peter Beckman wrote, “Orwell’s 1984 will not come true.

“The West is not moving toward 1984 because it is moving toward Brave New World. In George Orwell’s fascinating vision (1948), men are coerced into a society of slaves; in Aldous Huxley’s unforgettable novel (1932) they are conditioned into it.”

“In a recent speech, a German journalist noted the failure of Soviet propaganda: ‘I guarantee you that there are no communists under 40 in East Germany; the only communists are in the West.’ To which this (ex-Czechoslovak) writer will add a guarantee that there are no communists under 40 anywhere in Eastern Europe, and probably very few, if any, in the U.S.S.R. itself.


“Because the 1984 type of brainwashing does not work. Nobody is so stupid as to believe that the American imperialists will kill widows and orphans for profit – nobody, that is, who is force-fed such nonsense. Why, then, can large segments of the population in the West be made to believe that the evil corporations, driven by lust for profits, will give cancer to anybody in sight (including themselves, apparently), as well as future generations?

“Not, we submit, because of the rantings of the Jane Fondas and Caldicotts. They are themselves too 1984-ish to have lasting effect; they probably just give most people the creeps. But in Brave New World, people ‘planned’ for work in urban factories are, in childhood, shown pictures of flowers and the countryside and they are given electric shocks. No need to coerce them into city living when they grow up: they hate the country quite ‘naturally.’

“So why do millions in America regard ‘profit’ and ‘capitalism’ as dirty words? Why do they distrust science and technology? Why will they let fraudulent charlatans frighten them out of their wits with witch’s brew concocted from scientific vocabulary?

“Because they have been conditioned; not by Marx’s Capital, but by NBC’s Colombo, in which every businessman – subtly and unobtrusively – is a fool, a crook, or both, as he is in virtually any other TV series” (see Benjamin Stein, The View From Sunset Boulevard, Basic Books, 1978). (And the average American now spends only more time working and sleeping than in front of the conditioning tube). We lack, the space to give a million other examples from the printed media, the movies, school textbooks, college courses, and every other conceivable channel of communication where the conditioning spices are added subtly, but persistently. — Continue –>