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kottke.org posts about 1984

American teens have had it with this authoritarian crap

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 21, 2018

Dina Leygerman is a high school teacher who teaches George Orwell’s novel 1984 to her students every year. Before she does, with the assistance of other teachers and the school’s administration, she turns her classroom into a totalitarian regime to give the kids a taste of life in Oceania. Rules are strict and favor is given to students who report on rule-breaking by their classmates.

I tell my seniors that in order to battle “Senioritis,” the teachers and admin have adapted an evidence-based strategy, a strategy that has “been implemented in many schools throughout the country and has had immense success.” I hang posters with motivational quotes and falsified statistics, and provide a false narrative for the problem that is “Senioritis.” I tell the students that in order to help them succeed, I must implement strict classroom rules.

However, when Leygerman tried the experiment this year, the students weren’t having it. They rebelled. They protested. They fought harder as the rules became more onerous.

The President of the SGA, whom I don’t even teach, wrote an email demanding an end to this “program.” He wrote that this program is “simply fascism at its worst. Statements such as these are the base of a dictatorship rule, this school, as well as this country cannot and will not fall prey to these totalitarian behaviors.” I did everything in my power to fight their rebellion. I “bribed” the President of the SGA. I “forced” him to publicly “resign.” And, yet, the students did not back down. They fought even harder. They were more vigilant. They became more organized. They found a new leader. They were more than ready to fight. They knew they would win in numbers.

An upcoming book edited by Cass Sunstein asks if authoritarianism can happen in America. The experiment in Leygerman’s classroom and the inspiring movement started by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL suggest perhaps not. The nation’s youth, raised on The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, are reminding the baby boomers that considering what their own parents went through in the Great Depression and World War II, they should fucking know better than to slam the door on succeeding generations.

A reading list for resistance

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2016

Over at Literary Hub, Emily Temple offers a “reading list for resistance”, a list of 25 Works of Fiction and Poetry for Anger and Action.

Included are The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood:

This is the book women will be whispering about to one another in Trump’s America-an all-too-real vision of our country under a totalitarian theocracy where women are stripped of their rights and kept around only as breeders or servants.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin:

There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real.

And of course, George Orwell’s 1984:

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic…

1984 was my favorite book for a long time — I first read it when I was about 10 years old and reread it every year or two well into my 20s. I haven’t read it in more than 10 years…perhaps it’s time for another go.

Brilliant book cover design for Orwell’s 1984

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2013

A new series of George Orwell’s books are being published by Penguin and this is the cover for 1984:

Penguin 1984

Cover design by David Pearsonmore covers from the same series here. (via @torrez)

Rodney Mullen free style skating

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 20, 2012

Here’s Kevin Staab, Tony Hawk, and Greg Smith watching a 1983 video of free style skateboarder Rodney Mullen. “Look at him just creating modern street skating, right there”. “Yeah, he goes through this run twice. I’ve seen this video before.” The 1983 version of Tony Hawk makes an appearance at around 3:50 trying to figure out how to ride 2 boards.

This Mullen video from 1984 is even cooler to watch, but there’s no commentary. 1984, by the way, is pretty much the most talked about year on this site.

Original NY Times review of Orwell’s 1984

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2011

Published just a few days after what would become George Orwell’s most well-known novel in 1949, here’s what the New York Times had to say about Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In the excesses of satire one may take a certain comfort. They provide a distance from the human condition as we meet it in our daily life that preserves our habitual refuge in sloth or blindness or self-righteousness. Mr. Orwell’s earlier book, Animal Farm, is such a work. Its characters are animals, and its content is therefore fabulous, and its horror, shading into comedy, remains in the generalized realm of intellect, from which our feelings need fear no onslaught. But ”Nineteen Eighty-four” is a work of pure horror, and its horror is crushingly immediate.

Revisiting 1984

posted by Tim Carmody   May 06, 2011

After yesterday’s post on Ghostbusters (“Don’t cross the streams”), I got hit with a few follow-ups worth following up:

I particularly like Simmons’s note about college basketball (maybe even more relevant today):

College hoops meant something in ‘84. You stayed home on Monday nights to watch the Big East. You knew the players because they had been around for years. And since guys stuck around, you could follow Ewing and Georgetown, Hakeem and Phi Slamma Jamma, Mullin and St. John’s, Pearl and Syracuse, MJ at UNC … these were like pro teams on a smaller scale. I’m telling you, a Georgetown-St. John’s game in the middle of February was an event. These moments aren’t even possibilities anymore. They’re gone.

My favorite document of 1984 (sports or otherwise) is undoubtedly Sparky Anderson’s Bless You Boys, his running diary/memoir of the Detroit Tigers’ amazing season that year. It’s about baseball, but so many other things — life, death, perspective. I wrote about it last year for The Idler when Sparky Anderson passed away.

One last “what if?” note from Simmons:

Rolling Stone was offered the chance to buy MTV, and Sports Illustrated was offered the chance to buy ESPN. Both magazines decided against it.

Talk about crossing the streams.

From a poll in the Guardian: George

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2007

From a poll in the Guardian: George Orwell’s 1984 is the definitive book of the 20th century. Gatsby, Grapes, and Brave New World also make the top 10 list.

The British government is installing talking CCTV

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2007

The British government is installing talking CCTV cameras in public places…the control center staff will be able to yell at people they see on the camera to stop littering and the like. “Smith! 6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade.”

Map of the world as described in

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2007

Map of the world as described in George Orwell’s 1984. (via strange maps)

Totalitarian Institutions That Would Have Been More

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 29, 2005

Totalitarian Institutions That Would Have Been More Fitting for George Orwell’s 1984, Considering How That Year Turned Out. “The Ministry of the Beef, and Where It Currently Is”.