Advice for Totalitarian Governments from 1984
I finished reading 1984 today. It was a fascinating book. It was one of those books that makes you sit back for a while after reading it and just contemplate what has happened and think. I strongly recommend that you read it if you have not already.
While reading it, I wrote on sticky notes what certain passages can teach a totalitarian government. These were either straight out of the book (not word for word) or thoughts I had while reading.
Running a totalitarian government is one of those things I daydream about, along with being able to fly, being invincible, being in a Groundhog Day scenario, and a lot of other things, so this was an interesting activity.
In Oceania, the country where the events in the book take place, the government is slowly trying to make its citizens use a made-up language (as if other languages are not made-up (I guess the made-up adjective for certain languages is more dependant on the time it took for it to be made up rather than how it came into being)) called Newspeak. The government has made Newspeak, which is a language of as few words as possible which possess strictly-defined meanings. The notes written below will start with those concerning Newspeak and then shift to other advice for totalitarian governments.
Here is some advice for running your very own totalitarian government!
- Taking away the words for something inhibits thinking about it.
You have to know the vocabulary for something if you want to speak about it.
- If you provide people with just the words to talk about what you want, they will mostly talk about what you want them to.
- A lot of politics involves sticking a label to something, so if you can associate that label with that thing in public usage, you control public perception of it (e.g. "orthodoxy" would be called "goodthink").
- You can dehumanize something by not giving a name to it (e.g. referring to gods of other religions as "other gods" rather than the names given to them).
- If you want to do something that's been done before which people didn't like, call it by another word which has no association in order to remove people's feelings about it.
- You can prevent people from thinking deeply about something by using words that take a while to comprehend.
- Reminding people that they're being surveilled and that there may be repercussions for their surveilled actions will keep them obedient.
You don't even have to say that they are being filmed all the time.
It may even be better to say that you're only watching some of the time so that if they do something borderline unacceptable that goes unpunished, they wouldn't necessarily attribute it to the action being acceptable, but could also attribute it to it being unseen.
- Forcing people to act happy can make them happy through cognitive dissonance.
- Occasional excessive punishment for crimes could act as an anti-variable rewards (B.F. Skinner) deterring mechanism.
- Make an enemy (with either definition of the word make) to unite people.
- Forcing people to violently demonstrate their hate for the enemy could dissonate them into hating them more.
- The strength of your government is decided by the unquestioning mass who have been brainwashed to support it.
- The government should always look tough to the people.
- Rob people of their individuality.
- Erase collective memory of the time before your rule.
- Alter history.
- Fighting for your country should always be seen as an honor and privilege.
- Alter history to make it seem like the regime could have predicted the future.
Who better to run a country than someone who can predict the future?
- Agents of propaganda should not see their work as propaganda, but as a service to everyone (e.g. people who alter the news should see their job as fixing inaccuracies).
- Faking statistics for things that no one cares to fact-check is a way to boost public perception of progress.
- The main leader should not allow a subordinate to become too popular.
- Fabricate characters that have done a lot of things that everyone believes are right and then some things that are good for the regime. The acts that were good for the regime will be deemed good by the public through association.
- By creating a whole new language with rigid definitions, thinking the wrong things can be weeded out due to lack of vocabulary.
- Portray life before your regime as terrible.
- The more free time people have, the more they might develop bad thoughts.
- Absence of people's communication makes it easier for the government to spread lies.
- Regimes become more stable after ~80 years after the revolution when everyone remaining who has lived in the previous regime die off and no one can refute the regime's claims about life before it came along.
- Don't allow for public directories to not let people unite and gather for a cause.
- Keep people struggling to survive to stop them from thinking and plotting against you.
- Leadership should be selective and not hereditary, because (1) only those most beneficial to the regime will be its leaders and (2) there will be less public discontent about people being born into privilege.
- If you execute people without converting them first, they will die as martyrs.
Again, you should read 1984 if you haven't. It is amazing.