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  • Writer's pictureartahammer

Big Bother

Updated: May 8, 2021

“In all the useful arts the world is standing still, or going backwards.”

Emmanuel Goldstein – Nineteen Eighty-Four

It seems that for art in any medium to maintain creative viability, it must deviate from the established norms in order to explore divergent forms. It above all else must eschew repetition (from work to work, not necessarily within a work) to avoid apt perceptions of unoriginality, single minded sloganeering or propaganda. To travel down the same road will invariably end you at the same place whether you are walking or riding a giraffe. With the destination the same, art then becomes more an expression of style than creative invention. Style is the tool of promotion.

There can be little doubt that art is the promotion of the artist, assuredly of his or her creative perception as expressed. But promotion of the individual perspective of an artist is different than promotion of a product, person or established ideology. Artists govern their output based upon their understanding of their subject within their capacity to express it: the greater the understanding, and the higher the capacity, the finer the art. Ideally.

Within the admonition to repetition comes the awareness that much that is great artistically is derivative of other work of varying degrees of greatness. Certain themes deserve more than a single perspective while others get so much light as to become banal and trite. Much popular entertainment falls into the latter category: endless repetition of themes to engineer a predictable response, (usually to purchase something). Where this can be called art, it can as well be called bad art, or barely art. Arty. Not unlike the artistry of your house painter to not splatter your bougainvillea, more skill in presentation than in content. Commercial art exists to make money, not to inspire deep thinking but instead to stir emotion, drive passion.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell deftly interprets his antecedents and presents a hard reality, much of which has been realized by an aristocracy who viewed it as a training manual, while ignored or dismissed by the people who needed to understand its cautionary tale in order to avoid the grim reality it portended. Nineteen Eighty-Four was inspired by Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, where he offered poignantly, “There is no final one; revolutions are infinite.”

Orwell wrote a review of Zamyatin’s dystopian novel and ended it proclaiming that his next book would be based upon it, that book being Nineteen Eighty-Four. Both books are predicated on the written word. D 503, protagonist of We, writes a diary of his experience in the One State, which is the book; Winston Smith writes a diary of his anti-Party feelings to the mysterious O’Brien, inner party bigwig. The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein is the bible of the anti-Party Brotherhood, a book so dangerous that merely possessing it demanded a mandatory torture/death sentence.

And Newspeak is the winnowing away of language in order to reduce words with which to express discontentment – hard to demand freedom if there is no word for it. Unsurprising that writers would give such primacy to the word.

While much of Orwell and Zamyatin’s visions have come to pass – both offered the surveillance state, socially acceptable torture of presumed opposition and perpetual war – Orwell’s impact on the language has proven considerable. “Newspeak”, “doublethink”, “Big Brother”, the “Thought Police” all exist as understood paradigms within our culture even among those who haven’t read his work. In the USA, “Big Brother” is a TV show where people covet the very public intrusion of constant surveillance – in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother’s attentions were devoutly avoided. This is instructive.

Newspeak is the systematic elimination of language deemed by the Party as problematic. The Party, much as most states (especially Nazi Germany, one of Orwell’s models) had a definitive anti-intellectual bent. Slaves illiterate don’t know of the delights (or costs) of freedom, of liberty and if there is no one to tell them, they cannot appreciate their discontentment. They have no context. Literacy offers context. The more literate one becomes the more of the world around them they can understand and the better they can express their perceptions thereof. Newspeak is the Party’s way to eliminate dissent as in Newspeak dissent is not a word.

We still foster this anti-intellectual bias, still suffer for it as our amazing language gets reduced to acronyms, abbrvtns & emoticons. Newspeak is alive and functional as words don’t disappear from dictionaries so much as from use or cultural understanding while others achieve prominence. Our expressions and responses are governed through the media which compels us and defines our socialization. Reduced linguistic proficiency equals limited understanding; limited understanding in an anti-intellectual culture equals reduced desire to understand. Apathy.

Orwell describes a machine which cranks out sentimental and Party-inspirational songs: simple, heavily percussive, a glorious machine called the versificator. The songs are proffered in Newspeak but Orwell never defines the music in similar form. It seems such a style of music, which uses very little by way of music to drive manipulative lyrics, would be called Newsound. Perhaps that which emanates from Newsound would even be called Newsic.

The song “Big Bother”, inspired by its brilliant antecedents, is composed in Newsound. It has but one note throughout. That note is A. “Big Bother” is a song about Newspeak (and doublethink) in the style of Newsound. A singular piece of music to be sure.


© 2014

Big Bother


Torment is delight

Employment vacation

Love eternal fight

Sex is masturbation

Blindness is insight

Victimhood predation

The left think they’re right

Sufficiency starvation

Charity is just theft

Approval indignation

Ineptitude is deft

The vagabond vocation

Abundance is bereft

Destruction is creation

The right is all that’s left

Big Bother is listening

Just like God the father

Through fire a christening

Sing praise for Big Bother

Newspeak is awesome

Too many words

Reduce the clutter

Silence the herds

Double plus goodness

Emptiness girds

Preventing face crimes

Living inwards

Newsound astounding

Too many notes

Just use the old ones

“Musical quotes”

Repress expression

Groupthink promotes

Regress progression

Art’s antidotes

Big Bother is watching us

Prepare for the slaughter

Right after debauching us

Hosed off by Big Bother

Debt is really profit

Divisions unite

Loss is acquisition

Ill iterate right

Disdain is affection

Frailty is strong

Peace in insurrection

Where the rite is wrong

Ignorance is knowledge

Wisdom stupidity

Brutality kindness

Largess cupidity

Escape is containment

Slander validity

Hate is entertainment

Confinement liberty

Big Bother ubiquity

Earth and air and water

Outrage and iniquity

Blessings of Big Bother

© 2014

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