1984 RADIO OMISSIONS - 2 cont'd
To Orwell Today,
1984 RADIO OMISSIONS
Your points about the omissions concerning Syme and Winston's conversation are very good, and it is something i hadn't quite made the leap to in the listings yet - the idea that, by making Winston appear to be mean, the whole of his perceptions regarding BB and the control he sees around him may be made suspect; as if it is Winston's fault that he does not like the society he lives in.
This of course is a strong theme later on in the book, as O'Brien makes the exact same proposition during the torture and "re-education".
This, if True, is deep irony - the BBC tries to subtly alter our perception of Winston in order to make his, and therefore Orwell's, message of state control less powerful, just as the representative of Big Brother tries to do to Winston in the novel.
Of course, the BBC, a media corporation funded by state collected taxation, altering perhaps the most accurate and well known written exposition of state control and its methods, in order to render it less accurate at all is a variety of irony that i'm sure Orwell would have found both amusing and, at the same time, deeply concerning.
Here are the listings for the remaining half of this week's (22nd April 2005) episode of 1984.
*Omits the entire episode of the man behind Winston who is talking like a "quacking duck", a shame since it contains some interesting aspects comparable to every day life - the sycophantic secretary that oohs and ahhs at every word her boss utters, and the way in which, if you listen, many many people are all talking to each other about the same subjects as everybody else, and most of them have the same opinions on those subjects, which is a product of a mass media that parrots government press releases, contains actual false news stories made by government agencies, and rarely, if ever, strays from the "safe" ground of war, crime and immigrants*.
*replace those three with the subjects that are always on the news in your area, but i guess at least two of them will always be there wherever you live.
It is also completely True that, if you listen at a distance, spoken english does sound quite like the quacking of a duck, another excellent image used by Orwell to display the mindless repeating of the same things by those who are well schooled by the mass media, and in addition, a clever way in which to show Winston's increasingly distant position from the orthodox around him, a distance which is, symbolically, making him unable to understand their language.
*Omits the wonderful image created by Orwell in "because of the angle at which he was sitting, his spectacles caught the light and presented to Winston two blank discs instead of eyes".
This has always been a very stark image to me - the sight of a man in full flow of his speech, when one usually looks the most alert and aware, appearing to Winston as a blank staring, robot like, sub human.
A pity to have removed it.
*Numerous mentions of INGSOC are left out.
*Much of the description and thoughts of Syme are left out, giving that which is left remaining a hollow and almost meaningless feel.
*Entire encounter with Parsons is removed, as is expected after missing out the earlier meeting of Mrs Parsons.
Besides depriving us of some classic humour and astute observational writing by Orwell, and more mentions of Hate Week, the BBC has also managed to avoid telling us the story of Parson's daughter following a man wearing "a funny kind of shoes" and the consequent denouncement of him as a spy.
A government making the population's children a target for state propaganda is a key element used by authoritarian regimes, and removing the ethusiastic support for the behaviour as expressed by Parsons and Syme, let alone the still repeated phrase "there is a war on" as justification for barbaric police/state action (a line, in essence, used constantly these days by both the UK and USA government in order to bolster support for their incredibly authoritarian legislation - Patriot Acts, Terrorism Bill 2005, Identity Cards Bill, REAL ID Act etc etc) is a great shame, and does yet more disservice to Orwell.
*Omits all of the input from the telescreen from the canteen section, except where it signals the return to work.
Another great shame, as this, in the book, gives us a very good picture of the way in which the telescreen operates akin to our own modern mass media - meaningless catchphrases, outright lies, complete bias where equality is claimed, claims, which bear no resemblance to our lives, based on cooked figures, and, most chillingly portrayed in the novel, the automatic doublethink employed by people in order to make what is told them on television agree with what they see around them.
"Was it possible that they could swallow that?" Sadly, yes it was......and is!
*Omits a wonderful paragraph in which Winston reflects on the "physical texture of life", and offers us a cutting analysis of the state of his, and of course our, food, clothing, buildings and even the state of people's bodies.
This is surely removed so as to not remind us that the very things Winston sees as wrong and inferior are, in our lives, also such - cheaply produced so called food packed with who knows what chemical effluent, and the corresponding poor health records of the "developed nations" - the obesity, the heart conditions, hardened arteries and rising cancer rates, not to mention the Truely criminal farming techniques thar are used to produce all the raw materials with which we are poisoned.
Another key social critique obliterated from the BBC production.
*Great image of the "beetle like men" is left out, as is a very contemporary comment on the mas media - "How easy it was, thought Winston, if you did not look about you, to believe that the physical type set up by the Party as an ideal - tall muscular youths and deep-bosomed maidens, blond-haired, vital, sunburnt, carefree — existed and even predominated. Actually, so far as he could judge, the majority of people in Airstrip One were small, dark, and ill-favoured. It was curious how that beetle-like type proliferated in the Ministries: little dumpy men, growing stout very early in life, with short legs, swift scuttling movements, and fat inscrutable faces with very small eyes. It was the type that seemed to flourish best under the dominion of the Party."
The only difference in our reality is that it is the mass media which portrays the ideal as being either a "six pack" stomach and good pecs for the men, or obvious malnourishment and wasted figures for the women.....
*Omits "though just what it was that made for survival, it was not easy to say.", which to me seems a most telling observation on the tactics of police-state countries, as under those conditions it is impossible to tell who will be next.
"First they came for the Libertarians........"
*Leaves out more references to normal people being spies, as well as avoiding references to the actual, organised, Spy groups.
Such practices are starting to appear in real life, a good example being something i heard a little while back on a local news televsion program which told viewers to be mindful of those living around them, and to watch them for strange behaviour. The reason? That they might be a terrorist, no doubt running a chemical making laboratory!
*Removes more references to the rationing of commodities, this time cigarettes.
*Also removes yet more references to the way in which everyone is being watched all of the time, plus the mention of "facecrime".
Obviously the BBC do not wish to remind anyone of the fact that the UK has the most CCTV cameras per head of population of any country in the world, with more, and varied, being added all the time.
Interestingly, as an aside, during the drive up to Scotland, i noticed something strange in relation to the CCTV on our motorways here in the UK; when i started the drive, living in the south, it is common to see a camera watching the road every minute or so, and sometimes every 10 or 20 seconds (at 70 - 80mph) in places, but as one steadily progresses north, the number and regularity drop, to eventually, just north of Edinburgh, none at all.
Either the Scots have some sense and principles, or it is just an english obsession i do not know....
*Leaves out another anecdote from Parsons about his children persecuting people they consider to be subversive, and, coupled with it, Parsons calling this the "right spirit".
*Omits "All three men sprang to their feet to join in the struggle round the lifts, and the remaining tobacco fell out of Winston's cigarette.", the first likely to remind listeners of similar experiences in their offices, the second another reminder of the poor quality products we often are sold.
*Interesting to note that the BBC chose to go into lots of detail, and spend lots of time, on Winston's remembering of his encounter with the prostitute and the practices surrounding sex in the world of 1984.
With so much else discarded that is crucial to Orwell's message in 1984, it does seem odd to spend so much of the valuable 15 minutes on this one area.
Could it be that the BBC is wishing to portray so called "sexual liberation" as a way in which to rebel against the norms of society, when in the book itself Orwell seems to consider this yet another rouse arranged by BB in order to trap those who think themselves free?
*For instance, the description of how bad Winston feels about his episode with the prostitute is largely left out, which leaves the meaning of the whole thing somewhat watered down.
In a sex obsessed media, with its sexual "liberation" obsessed writers, surely it isn't allowable to make sex, any sex, out to be bad?
*Omits an absolutely perfect description of modern courting ritual: "Some could even be purchased for a bottle of gin". This obviously expresses disdain for one of the most central tenets of modern behaviour, namely getting drunk and picking up one night stands in a club or bar, while at the same time mentioning alcohol in a negative way.
Such a criticism is largely unthinkable to many "enlightend" people today, thus its removal from the broadcast.
*Spends lots of time including parts of the books which tie boring sex and marriage to each other, and also to the service of BB, clearly seeking to conflate them together in order to have them appear as negative.
*Includes the line "The only recognized purpose of marriage was to beget children for the service of the Party", which to me seems, in the mouth of the BBC, to say that 1. Sex only for the purpose of procreation is a negative idea, and 2. Sex is primarily an activity for the purpose of fun.
Both are subtly anti religion, and reflect the largely entrenched attitudes of a bohemian media. The continued inclusion of negative references to the kinds of sexual practices taught by most major religions only confirms this point - only "liberated" sex is good!
In fact, they go so far as to include here a mention of the Junior Anti-Sex League, which is interesting seeing as the equally important Spies has been completely removed from the broadcast.....
*Omits "The Party was trying to kill the sex instinct, or, if it could not be killed, then to distort it and dirty it", which is a key piece of Orwell's opinion on the state's attitude to sex; that they are not necessarily trying to stop it, as the BBC is making out, but that they might try to encourage the perversion of the natural instincts.
I see this as an excellent description of the way in which media has turned sex into something only for fun, only for eroticism, something predatory, only for conquest and personal ego boosting, when it is really something far different and more complete than this pornographic version.
*More inclusions of sentences that could be taken as very negative descriptions of being "frigid", something considered most abnormal, and somewhat embrassing, in today's youth.
*Omits Winston telling us of the fight between some prole women for tin saucepans, perhaps because it is a little like the recent Ikea stampede which resulted in several people being taken to hospital.....
*Omits "And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?
He wrote: "Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious."
This is good stuff left out yet again; real ideas that can change people's thinking.
The first is the culmination of a brilliant sequence which Orwell used in order to show us how we, the proles, have great power to free ourselves from tyranny, and yet fritter it away on pointless distractions, leaving ourselves spent but still under the yoke.
The second part is classic Marxism, in that it refers to the theory of class consciousness, an idea that is one of Marx's more acceptable theories to me....of course, any positive idea linked to reality, especially from Marx, cannot be aired on national radio, hence its removal.
*Omits from the description of the prole life "they passed through a brief blossoming-period of beauty and sexual desire", perhaps because it relegates the modern preoccupation with sex to nothing more than a childish phase?
*From an otherwise complete list, "petty quarrels with neighbours, films" is left out, because, although football and, suprisingly, beer is actually included for the first time an anything aproaching a negative light (perhaps because it is acceptable to associate beer and football without smearing the reputation of alcohol in general, as here in the UK there is a well known "small minority" of football thugs that drink and cause trouble).
This may be because it is again a little too life-like and complete to keep all of the items in this list.
*Omits "which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working-hours or shorter rations" although the rest of the sentence is read aloud, perhaps because to make it clear why the "primitive patriotism" is required from the proles is too near to the reality of how real patriotism is abused by those in power - to build support for wars especially, but also to make restrictive laws acceptable to people who would otherwise baulk; all that is needed is to create an imagined threat to their country, and many will beg for their government to protect them, whatever that means.
*Omits "And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.", as this is completely True, and therefore not allowed for airing.
*Omits "There was a vast amount of criminality in London, a whole world-within-a-world of thieves, bandits, prostitutes, drug-peddlers, and racketeers of every description; but since it all happened among the proles themselves, it was of no importance.". The BBC could not possibly allow such accurate critique of the wonderful London, otherwise known as the center of the universe.
*Omits "The sexual puritanism of the Party was not imposed upon them. Promiscuity went unpunished, divorce was permitted. For that matter, even religious worship would have been permitted if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it." More accurate and condemning comment from Orwell tossed into the memory hole by BBC scriptwriters.
*Omits an enormous section which stretches from where Winston writes of what he has been told of times before the revolution (top hats etc), right down to the last paragraph of the chapter where Winston sets out his axiom that "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows".
There are so many important concepts avoided in this part alone, that i wonder how the BBC has the cheek to call what they are transmiting "1984"......
*All of the disinformation that party members are fed is missed out, leaving us with little idea of the kind of propaganda that is used, not only in the world of 1984, to make people dislike things. This brings to mind many of the alleged actions of german soldiers in the two world wars; British papers were forever decrying the enemy for killing babies etc, when in reality it was all a simple trick to create hatred and a desire for more and continued fighting.
*Leaves out more reminders that our current conditions, mental and physical, are not as they should be: "How could you tell how much of it was lies? It might be true that the average human being was better off now than he had been before the Revolution. The only evidence to the contrary was the mute protest in your own bones, the instinctive feeling that the conditions you lived in were intolerable and that at some other time they must have been different."
*Omits "It struck him that the truly characteristic thing about modern life was not its cruelty and insecurity, but simply its bareness, its dinginess, its listlessness", which is a great description of what many feel and know to be True of real life.
This is the most likely reason you will be given if you push someone with questions on why they get drunk/take drugs/spend lots of money on pointless luxuries/have many one night stands.
That "there is nothing else to do" is possibly the most core perception i can think of that is held by so many.
*Leaves out "Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens, but even to the ideals that the Party was trying to achieve", a succinct statement of Truth, ironically removed from the BBC's butchered edition of 1984, but certainly disallowed for its candid nature.
*Removes "Great areas of it, even for a Party member, were neutral and non-political, a matter of slogging through dreary jobs, fighting for a place on the Tube, darning a worn-out sock, cadging a saccharine tablet, saving a cigarette end", all good examples of the dreary nature of urban office life.
*Omits the socialist concept of the collectivistic ideal of "three hundred million people all with the same face.". It seems that making the more extreme socialist desires known, let alone criticising them, is not allowed on the BBC.
*"The reality was decaying, dingy cities where underfed people shuffled to and fro in leaky shoes, in patched-up nineteenth-century houses that smelt always of cabbage and bad lavatories. He seemed to see a vision of London, vast and ruinous, city of a million dustbins, and mixed up with it was a picture of Mrs. Parsons, a woman with lined face and wispy hair, fiddling helplessly with a blocked waste-pipe."
Could there be a better description of vast swathes of the British urban landscape?
*Or a better, more concise, exposition of the mass media?:
"Day and night the telescreens bruised your ears with statistics proving that people today had more food, more clothes, better houses, better recreations — that they lived longer, worked shorter hours, were bigger, healthier, stronger, happier, more intelligent, better educated, than the people of fifty years ago. Not a word of it could ever be proved or disproved."
*Omits completely the section where Winston relates how once he had proof of the alteration of history, an important part in its own right, not least because it shows us how we should trust what we see around us, rather than deferring our perceptions to media-created illusions.
*Omits "I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY.", plus the realisation that Winston, even having thought about the simple whys, cannot fathom the real Truths behind the need for all the cover ups and lying, much as we cannot hope to know the deep Truths of our real life government control.
*Includes the line "He wondered, as he had many times wondered before, whether he himself was a lunatic" although slightly altered in actual reading the sense is the same, but does not qualify it with what follows.
Perhaps more evidence that the BBC are actually trying to make Winston appear less accurate in his perceptions than he really is?
*Omits "Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right", which deals quite closely with the concept of "conspiracy theory", and all that is said about them, negatively of course.
This week's episode stops at the end of chapter seven. I was a little rushed towards the end and there was so much missed out that it was not all listed - if they keep this up next week's list will take many hours! I really would like to hear any comments on the ideas and overall theory which asks if the BBC are altering this for political reasons, although i know it is quite long to respond to much......Look forward to yours and anyone else's replies.
james (sheffield, uk)
Thanks once again for your very important work of pointing out the BBC's omissions for those listeners who have not read the book (and even those who have). Hopefully this will inspire people to go to the source - ie George Orwell - and find out the truth of what he wrote. But in the meantime you are providing much food for thought and once people have digested it they will no doubt have comments and opinions of their own.
All the best,
PS - It must have been your calling to get involved in spreading the word about 1984 because you quote the book so well and you also obviously have a great respect for Orwell. I am really enjoying the way you give examples of the omissions in present-day life in England.
PPS - I like the way the bolded and underlined "omits" stand out and draw the readers' attention to each particular point, and also give a visual of the vast number of the omissions.
1984 RADIO OMISSIONS - 2
1984 RADIO OMISSIONS - 3
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~
website: www.orwelltoday.com & email: firstname.lastname@example.org