19 July 2005

Not So "Special" After All

It appears, from recently made government-document releases in England, that George Orwell might have had real reason to fear intrusive surveillance by Big Brother.

George Orwell's novel 1984 provides a fictional warning of the dangers of a totalitarian society in which the hero, Winston Smith, struggles with the thought police. It now appears that his vision of blanket surveillance in the service of Big Brother was more prescient than even he could have known: a secret Metropolitan police file newly released at the National Archives shows that Orwell was himself the subject of repeated special branch reports for more than 12 years of his life. The special branch file shows that it was Orwell's journey north in 1936 to research the living and working conditions of the working class for The Road to Wigan Pier that aroused the suspicions of the security services. Wigan's chief constable, Thomas Pey, reported to Scotland Yard that Orwell, the nom de plume of Eric Blair, was staying in "an apartment house in a working-class district" arranged by the local Communist party.

"How a real Big Brother kept an eye on George Orwell, the bohemian communist," Guardian (18 Jul. 2005). That's just a little bit too creepy for me, particularly in light of the so-called Patriot Act.