Part 28. Big Brother
In George Orwell's classic *1984*, an authoritarian regime known as "Big Brother"
ruled over the people, watching their every move, telling them how to think, speak,
and live. Every word had a different definition from reality, so that conflicts
between what people observed and what Big Brother said could be resolved. Truth
is a lie, work is play, conformity is freedom, that sort of thing.
The purpose of all propaganda is to develop a class of mindless, obedient servants
who have neither conscience nor initiative. People who do what they are told without
flinching, such as concentration camp guards, are a convenient force for dictators
to have around, because unquestioning obedience to evil means never having to say
you're sorry. It makes things go smoothly if you can have a set of henchmen who
go around beating people's heads in without ever feeling pity, remorse, or guilt.
It reduces training costs, too, because they don't want to leave. They have found
a safe haven from which to carry out their sinister fantasies.
The purpose of observing every move the citizens make is thus to quickly detect
any deviation from the enforced norm of obedience. If a subject begins changing
their habits of buying, selling, eating, drinking, speaking, or working, then Big
Brother wants to know. Why did you change? Who told you to do things differently?
What's wrong with you, so we can fix you?
In the "bad old days" of dictatorships and closed societies, that percentage
of the population that likes this sort of thing was very active in politics. People
who get their jollies from controlling others could find lots of work in political
parties, graft machines like Tammany Hall, military dictatorships, and various banana
republics and other top-heavy regimes. But the world is changing, and opportunities
like that are disappearing. Where is a bully going to find satisfying work nowadays?
The Big Brother mentality has migrated out of politics, to some extent, and taken
up residence in big business. Companies like Microsoft use Internet cookie software,
automated registration scans of customer hard drives, and sophisticated data tracking
systems to observe every detail of their customers' lives. They devour reams of
federal financial filings by their competitors to find sources of cash flow to squelch.
They use increasingly restrictive license policies to force alternatives and choices
out of customers' business lives. They target advertising dollars to make or break
specific elements of the media, co-opting them as Microsoft mouthpieces. And then
they have the gall to say "This is what the consumer wants" and "We
listen to our customers."
"Conformity is freedom" tells customers to mindlessly accept the lowest
common denominator of shoddy Microsoft products, and not to investigate superior
alternatives like Linux, OS/2, and mainframes. "Work is play" tells customers
that every software product must have childish cartoons, infantile color themes,
and mindless graphics instead of reliable, informative text. "Truth is a lie"
tells customers that technological realities are unimportant, just accept the software
slop you're given because there are no principles of science to violate, no laws
of good product design to disobey, so what's under the covers doesn't matter anyway.
Should we really be surprised, then, to hear of the antics of Microsoft minions
and henchmen like Steve Ballmer, Joachim Kempin, David Cutler, and their cohorts?
Microsoft's goal of growth at all costs provides these head-bashers with a steady
supply of fresh meat. This generation's bullies have found a safe haven.
Most recent revision: February 3, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.