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Went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 this afternoon which delighted me by containing a long quote from Nineteen Eighty-Four at the end: despite the fact I raised the notion that Orwell isn't a simple 'good guy' in History 101, I do feel Nineteen Eighty-Four is worth rereading at the start of the C21st. His analysis of how governments use propaganda and suerveillence to control the population was a running theme in Moore's film, and it's hard not to see that underlying Moore's latest polemic is the same argument his previous films have had: that the poor of America are disenfranchised by the rich elite, hence his us of Orwell's:

The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.
Of course, that quote comes from the Goldstein book within Nineteen Eighty-Four - an apparently subversive text actually designed by IngSoc to flush out potential revolutionaries. So let's hope they're not watching who goes to see F9/11...

Walking home, I began by thinking about Orwell. Except it was raining and a little chilly so I put on my blazer and realised it was the first time I'd put it on since I got a replacement Number 6 badge (a 1970s or 80s version, identical to the one I lost sometime in the late 80s). What with the fact I was wearing white-soled shoes (converse all stars, not deck shoes) and the fact that the BBC4 repeat season of The Prisoner just finished, I tangented.

Like a lot of people who spent way too much time thinking about The Prisoner*, I've tended towards the pyschological analysis: the Village is in the Prisoner's head, the creation of a paranoid delusional. His fights with the various Number 2s are indicative of his fight with himself. Obviously, that's backed up by the final unmasking of Number 1 in Fall Out. PPH provided a lovely little explanation about why the Prisoner is always "Number 6" or "sir" and not outright identified as John Drake.

In the early 80s, which is when I first watched the show (back when C4 wasn't all t'n'a but understood the concept of minority broadcasting), mapping The Prisoner onto real world politics didn't seem to work: The Chimes of Big Ben seems to deliberately damage the idea that the Village belonged to either side in the Cold War and besides, we had things like Smiley's People and Edge of Darkness as paranoid political commentary. The Prisoner was obviously a pyschological curiosity from the mid-60s. Walking back through town today, wearing my Number 6 badge, I developed an urge to make the 'be seeing you' gesture at the CCTV cameras I passed because I realised that you can invest the Prisoner with a modern political meaning just as Orwell still speaks his warnings. We are watched, filed, stamped. When we buy something using plastic we give our postcode, a number, to identify ourselves. We are given meaningless elections (Free for All) and are expected to provide information to the authorities should they ask (and these days you can be arrested without charge for far too long). We're not expected to want to leave our colourful Village and find out what's going on beyond it. Sadly, we don't get to drive about in mini-Mokes.

be seeing youI can't think of a good conclusion to this ramble. Am I going to start making 'be seeing you' gestures at CCTV? It's tempting, but it would only really be good if lots of other people started to do it as well, to indicate we are all in the Village. Although I wouldn't mind knowing why the old "pop goes the weasel" rhyme is used in the background throughout the series...

*I'm sure the mid-80s repeat prepped the late-80s tv audience for analysing Twin Peaks.

Posted @ 5:34 pm on Sunday, August 08, 2004
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