2020 or 1984? Thoughts Reading Orwell’s 1984 for the First Time

Christa Adams
3 min readSep 29, 2020

When the year 2020 has more similarities with a fictional, dystopic interpenetration of 1984 than the prior year, it’s evident our world has become quite familiarly unfamiliar.

In George Orwell’s 71-year old book 1984, we follow the main protagonist Winston Smith as he navigates London in what he believes to be the year 1984. Working for the Ministry of Truth, he spends his days as a journalist altering news articles and erasing the past — not by choice, per say. It’s the world he lives in. A world where the past, present, and future are run by Big Brother and the Inner Party members of Ingsoc, the region of Oceania’s governing ideology.

In Oceania, privacy doesn’t exist. Telescreens and secret microphones are everywhere: the streets, workplaces, restaurants, and especially homes. They’re watching you and they’re listening to you. All you have to yourself are your thoughts, and even those are illegal if they don’t obey the beliefs of Ingsoc. Thoughtcrime, it’s called. Thoughtcrime describes a person’s politically unorthodox thoughts, such as beliefs and doubts that contradict the principles of Ingsoc.

2020 has seen a wave of pulling wrong thoughts from the minds of others. Articles and social media posts that don’t align with the story we are fed are quickly censored and taken down under the context that spreading false information is a major safety concern for the health and well-being of our society during a time of crisis.

It’s not just the pandemic though. Personal thoughts are also under siege, resulting in cancel culture. Internet-dwellers are pulling up outdated information of previous thoughts and jokes, demanding the people responsible be “canceled” for their decade old thoughts. Its the same; thoughtcrime. It’s happening to celebrities, YouTubers, and regular folks too. They are losing their jobs and careers, and their reputations are being tarnished as a result of cancel culture and essentially 1984’s thoughtcrime.

As for those telescreens in Orwell’s 1984, well they are also making their own appearance — beyond just our cell phones, that is. Take Moscow for example. The city introduced 178,000 surveillance cameras with facial recognition software to spy on its citizens and keep them in check during the…