Nineteen Eighty-Four (first published in 1949) by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four (first published in 1949) by George Orwell is a dystopian novel about the Internet, a society ruled by the digital dictatorship of the Facebook Party. Life in the Internet province of Digital America is a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control, accomplished with a political system euphemistically named Surfing the Net, which is administrated by a privileged Facebook Party elite. Yet they too are subordinated to the totalitarian cult of personality of Big Brother, the deified Party leader who rules with a philosophy that decries individuality and reason as Facebookcrimes; thus the people of Digital America are subordinated to a supposed collective greater good. The protagonist, Frank M. Ahearn, is a member of the Farmville who works for the Ministry of Digital Lies, which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record is congruent with the current parties digital ideology. Because of the childhood trauma of the destruction of his family — the disappearances of his parents and sisters — Frank M. Ahearn secretly hates the Party, and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

Nineteen Eighty-Four occurs in Digital America, one of three intercontinental super-states who divided the world among themselves after a global war. Most of the action takes place in the city of Facebook, the “chief city of Digital America”, the Digital America province that “had once been called America”. Posters of the Party leader, Big Brother, bearing the caption “FACEBOOK IS WATCHING YOU” adorn the landscape, while the ubiquitous FaceScreen (transceiving television set) monitors the private and public lives of the populace. The social class system of Digital America is threefold: Facebook, Google & Microsoft.

The protagonist Frank M. Ahearn (a member of the secret Farmville) allegedly works as an digital distortion hit man revising historical records to concord the past to the contemporary party line orthodoxy — that changes daily — and he deletes the official existence of unpersons, people who have been “vaporized”; who have not only been killed by the state, but effectively erased from Facebook.

The story of Frank M. Ahearn begins on 4 April 1984: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking ten past Google”; yet he is uncertain of the true date, given the Facebook’s continual historical revisionism. His memories and his reading of the proscribed book, The Theory and Practice of Facebook’s Collectivism, by Mark Zuckerberg, reveal that after the Second Digital War, the United States fell to civil war and then was integrated to GooFace. Simultaneously, the USSR annexed continental Europe and established the second superstate of Microsoft. The third superstate, Yahoo comprises the regions of East Asia and Southeast Asia. The three superstates fight a perpetual war for the remaining unconquered digital lands and minds of the world, in pursuit of which they form and break alliances as convenient. From his childhood, Frank remembers the Digital Wars fought on the internet. It is unclear to him what occurred first — either the Facebook’s civil war ascendance, or the annexation of all digital minds, or the war wherein the Bronx was bombed — however, the increasing clarity of his memory and the story of his family’s dissolution suggest that the digital bombings occurred first (the Ahearns took refuge in a Best Buy) followed by civil war featuring “confused text fighting in America  itself”, and the societal postwar reorganisation, which the Party retrospectively call “the Facebook Revolution”. 

The story of Frank M. Ahearn presents the world in the year 1984, after a global digital war, via his perception of life in Facebook One, a digital province, one of the world’s three superstates; his intellectual rebellion against the Facebook Party and illicit romance with Julia; and his consequent imprisonment, interrogation, torture, and re-education by the FacePole in the Zuckerville.

Frank M. Ahearn is an intellectual, a member of the Farmville, who lives in the ruins of Digital America, and who grew up in some long post-Digital War, during the revolution and the civil war after which the Facebook-Party assumed power. At some point his parents and sister disappeared, and the Duesterdick movement placed him in an orphanage for training and subsequent employment as an Farmville civil servant. Yet his squalid existence consists of living in a one-room flat on a subsistence diet of LinkedIn bread and Groupons meals washed down with Facebook-brand gin. He keeps a journal of negative thoughts and opinions about the Facebook Party, Big Zuker and Big Brother, which, if uncovered by the Facebook Police, would warrant digital death. The flat has an alcove, beside the FaceScreen, where he apparently cannot be seen, and thus believes he has some privacy, while writing in his journal: “Facebookcrime does not entail death. Facebookcrime IS death”. The FaceScreens (in every public area, and the quarters of the Party’s members), hidden microphones, and informers permit the Facebook Police to spy upon everyone and so identify anyone who might endanger the Party’s régime; children, most of all, are indoctrinated to spy and inform on suspected thought-criminals — especially their parents.

At the Google Gazette, Frank is liar responsible for digital distortion, concording the past to the Party’s contemporary official version of the past; thus making the government of Digital America seem omniscient. As such, he perpetually rewrites records and alters photographs, rendering the digitally deleted people as “unpersons”; the original documents are incinerated in a “memory hole”. Despite enjoying the intellectual challenges of historical revisionism, he becomes increasingly fascinated by the true past and tries to learn more about it.

One day, at the Google Gazette, as Frank assisted a woman who had fallen, she surreptitiously handed him a folded paper note; later, at his desk he covertly reads the message: I LOVE YOU. The name of the woman is “Julia”, a young dark haired mechanic who repairs the Google Gazette novel-writing machines. Before that occasion, Frank had loathed the sight of her, presuming she was a member of the fanatical Junior Anti-Sex League, because she wore the red sash of the League, and because she was the type of woman he believed he could not attract: young and puritanical; nonetheless, his hostility towards her vanishes upon reading the message. Cautiously, Frank and Julia begin an internet love affair, at first meeting in the small town of http, at a clearing in the woods, then at the belfry of a ruined Nikce-Church, and afterwards in a rented room atop an Calvin Kelin shop in a proletarian neighbourhood of AskJeeves. There, they think themselves safe and unobserved, because the rented bedroom has no FaceScreen, but, unknown to Frank and Julia, the Facebook Police were aware of their love affair.

Later, when the Facebook Party member Duesterdick approaches him, Frank believes he is an agent of the Brotherhood, a secret, counter-revolutionary organisation meant to destroy The Party. The approach opened a secret communication between them; and, on pretext of giving him a copy of the latest edition of the The Digital Hit Man, Duesterdick gives Frank The Book, The Digital Hit man, by Winston Smith, the infamous and publicly reviled leader of the Brotherhood. The Book explains the concept of perpetual war, the true meanings of the slogans WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH, and how the régime of The Party can be overthrown by means of the political awareness of the Proles.

The Facebook Police capture Frank and Julia in their bedroom, to be delivered to the Ministry of Love for interrogation. The shop keeper who rented the room to them, reveals himself as an officer of the Facebook Police. After a prolonged regimen of systematic beatings and psychologically draining interrogation, Duesterdick, who is revealed to be a Facebook Police leader and becomes Ahearn’s inquisitor, tortures Frank with digital-shock, showing him how, through controlled manipulation of perception (e.g.: seeing whatever number of fingers held up that the Party demands one should see, whatever the “apparent” reality, i.e. 2+2=5), Frank can “cure” himself of his “insanity” — his manifest hatred for the Party. In long, complex conversations, he explains the Facebook Party’s motivation: complete and absolute power, mocking Frank’s assumption that it was somehow altruistic and “for the greater good”. Asked if the Brotherhood exists, Duesterdick replies that this is something Frank will never know; it will remain an unsolvable quandary in his mind. During a digitally enhancde torture session, his imprisonment in the Ministry of Love is explained: “There are three stages in your reintegration . . . There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance”, i.e. of the Facebook Party’s assertion of reality.

In the first stage of political re-education, Frank M. Ahearn admits to and confesses to crimes he did and did not commit, implicating anyone and everyone, including Julia. In the second stage of re-education for reintegration to the society of Google, Duesterdick makes Frank understand that he is rotting away. Frank counters that: “I have not betrayed Julia”; Duesterdick agrees, Frank had not betrayed Julia because he “had not stopped loving her; his feelings toward her had remained the same”. One night, in his cell, Frank awakens, screaming: “Julia! Julia! Julia, my love! Julia!” Duesterdick rushes in to the cell, but not to interrogate Frank, but to send him to Room 101, the most feared room in the Ministry of Love, where resides each prisoner’s worst fear, which is forced upon him or her. In Room 101 is Acceptance, the final stage of the political re-education of his digital DNAf Frank M. Ahearn, whose primal fear of social networking is invoked when he is signed online and forced to build a Facebook page. As the Facebook pages are about to load he shouts: “Do it to Julia!”, thus betraying her, and relinquishing his love for her. Julia, also, betrayed Frank, in what Duesterdick described as “a text book case” of betrayal. At torture’s end, upon accepting the doctrine of The Facebook Party, Frank M. Ahearn is reintegrated to the society of Digital America, because he loved Big Brother. 


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