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June 12, 2013

George Orwell back in fashion as Prism stokes paranoia about Big Brother

1984-Nineteen-Eighty-FourNineteen Eighty-Four depicts a society in which liberty was impossible – so how should we respond to this new threat?

By Stephen Moss

The NSA Prism surveillance scandal has been good news for George Orwell, and in particular for his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was originally published in 1949. Sales of the centennial edition have risen by more than 7,000% on . Having been languishing at 13,074 in the list, it is now up to 193 and rising.

It may not rival Caroline Barnett’s Willing to Walk on Water: Step Out in Faith and Let God Work Miracles through Your Life, which has miraculously surged from 144th to first in the past 24 hours with a 267,000% rise, but clearly many people are finding parallels between the US government’s willingness to snoop on Joe Public’s emails and phone calls and Orwell’s vision of a future in which Big Brother is everywhere.

“Orwellian” is the word on everyone’s lips.

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June 14, 2012

From Civilization to Big Brother: how a game recreated Orwell’s 1984

Civilization: not so civilizing?

It turns out that if you play Civilization II for long enough, you enter a world very much like Orwell’s 1984. Coincidence?

By Sam Jordison

If you happen to have touched a computer some time within the last 20 years, the chances are you may well have spent a regrettably long time playing on one of the many instalments of Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise. I doubt, however, that you will have devoted quite as much of your life to it as a contributor to the Reddit forums going by the name of Lycerius. He (it must be a he!) posted the following extraordinary statement:

“I’ve been playing the same game of Civ II for 10 years. Though long outdated, I grew fascinated with this particular game because by the time Civ III was released, I was already well into the distant future. I then thought that it might be interesting to see just how far into the future I could get and see what the ramifications would be.”

Just in case you are one of the few people not to have played Civilization, and are therefore unaware of the planet-shifting magnetism of Lycerius’ post, Here’s a quick primer.

Civilization is a game that – true to its name – enables you to build your own civilisation. You start in 4000BC in a small village, which you gradually expand by farming, building things like libraries (so that you can develop technologies), and producing armies to conquer other territories. It’s addictive, vaguely educational and most sane people stopped playing some time around 1997 (both in real and game years), once they’d built a spaceship and reached Alpha Centauri.

Not so Lycerius. He has carried on for an extra 2,000 years – although he is at pains to point out he doesn’t just play Civilization II non-stop (“Naturally, I play other games and have a life…”). Yet, as quickly becomes apparent when you read through the rest of his post (as I urge you to do), even if Lycerius had dedicated all of his time to playing Civilization, it wouldn’t have been wasted. The results are fascinating. He summarises them thus:

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April 3, 2012

Tim Robbins: I’ve thrown out my TV

Actor Tim Robbins Photo: EPA

Oscar winning actor Tim Robbins says he has got rid of his television because it was making him aggressive.

Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins says his experience directing a play based on George Orwell’s 1984 has prompted a life choice as personal as it is political: He’s living without a TV.

“I have done an experiment for the past three years: I got rid of my television. One of the things Orwell talks about in the book ‘1984’ is this thing called ‘the two-minute hate,'” Robbins said in a press conference in Bogota.

“People go in front of their television screens and they yell at the person they object to politically. I realised I had been doing that for two hours every day during (the administration of George W.) Bush. I said, ‘I’ve got to stop hating.'”

Robbins’ Actors Gang production of “1984” is among nearly 200 works being performed during this year’s biennial IberoAmerican Theater Festival in Bogota.

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