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Propaganda in 1984: Role & Examples

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  • 0:00 Telescreens
  • 1:09 Two Minutes Hate
  • 2:50 History
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

The ruling party produces propaganda to promote Big Brother and to control its citizens in '1984,' a novel by George Orwell. The Party ensures that the citizens' minds are filled with propaganda and confusion so that thoughts of rebellion cannot be sustained.

Telescreens

Propaganda is continually broadcast on the ever-present telescreens in George Orwell's 1984. Telescreens broadcast news that has been manipulated to make the government appear efficient and effective. In addition, the telescreens often air military music to evoke feelings of patriotism in the citizens. And since the screens cannot be turned off, citizens are unable to escape the Party's propaganda.

As we'll see in this lesson, propaganda plays an important role in Orwell's story. We define propaganda as information, usually biased, used to promote a political cause. Because the telescreens are always transmitting propaganda, the citizens are inundated with information that confuses them. As a result, they are unable to formulate thoughts of rebellion against the government. As O'Brien tortures Winston, he explains: ''We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.'' Since the telescreens are two-way, citizens present a happy face to the telescreen to avoid being labeled malcontents or troublemakers. The people of Oceania know that Big Brother, the face of the Party, is always watching.

Two Minutes Hate

Two Minutes Hate is a program regularly broadcast on the telescreens, and everyone stops their activities to participate. Goldstein, a traitor to the Party, is always featured in these broadcasts. Goldstein is the face of rebellion just as Big Brother is the physical depiction of the Party. Goldstein is presented as such a despicable figure. The propaganda claims that ''all subsequent crimes against the Party, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, and deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching.''

According to the Party, Goldstein is the leader of a confederacy of traitors that seeks to make peace with the enemy Eurasia. This confederacy is know as the Brotherhood. In addition, Goldstein is the author of The Book, which contains radical ideas about government. However, there is no proof that Goldstein actually exists; he may simply be a prop used to focus the people's hatred.

Viewers inevitably become enraged while watching the Two Minutes Hate. Winston describes the feeling as ''a hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.''

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