The Orwellian Popular Culture of Modernity

G. Stolyarov II
Issue XVII - October 12, 2003
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The society of Oceania in Orwell’s 1984 employs entertainment of the utmost vulgarity and a perversity not encountered by a man of proper tastes in order to satisfy the “instinctive urges” of its proletariat. Their music possesses an inhuman crudeness and resembles more the severe thumping of a drum than a melody. Their films are pornographic and founded on crude animal lust instead of reason. Their encouragement of prostitution and outright debasement of the human condition plunge the metaphorical boot of oppression further into the face of man. Our society, musically, cinematically, and culturally, has, as a man of conscience will shamefully admit, descended to the same indoctrinating level which diverts individuals away from the exercising of their unalienable rights.

A skeletal history of the evolution (retrogression, however, would be a more fitting term) of fashion trends will demonstrate that mass following for the hippie culture has by no means become diminished. It has grown and simultaneously plummeted deeper into the chasm of decadence. Yet it is in the "Live and Let Die" doctrines broadcast by popular indoctrinators of the 1960s that the movement's origins can be pinpointed. The original song of such a title was concocted by Paul McCartney of the Beatles, which had in that decade gradually shifted from the status of an innocuous "boy band" to that of deranged fanatics. The philosophy advocated within the title and lyrics is one of utter submission to the status quo; because a man happens to be breathing at the present moment he should not, as would state common sense, deprive himself of his existence, however he should remain passive to his surrounding conditions and should not attempt to reverse the destructive toll of universal decay, while fatalistically keeping in mind the fact that the decay will eventually claim him as well. In effect, it is a framework which prohibits any manner of intervention with the natural state of things, one that dictates that a man accept his own presence only for so long a time as it is "given him", to let himself perish "when time comes." It is a restatement of the Ishmaelian ethic that man must relinquish his power over life and death (unlike the laissez-faire expression, "Live and Let Live" which embodies the desire of Western man to ameliorate conditions to such an extent where complexity and prosperity can reach all individual persons, where man wields power over his own life, but has no right to trample on the lives of others) and is, in essence, a recipe for suicide.

 Members of The Beatles, both prior to and following the band's dissolution, have packaged suicidal philosophies into their music, disguised as clever metaphors. The music itself, although fairly simplistic in comparison with the great Classics, does not evoke repulsion. The tainted nature of their lyrics, however, had evaded the conscious evaluation of devoted fans, who had thus absorbed them and connected with them through the unconscious bond upon which an orthodoxy relies. One might console himself by stating that the song, "I'm a Walrus", was a mere lapse of The Beatles into the delusions of narcotic intoxication. However, a deeper message can be detected, as devoid of thought as the superficial blunders of the lyrics. It is one of equating the standing of man with that of an animal, a creature lacking in sentience and reason, a complete instinctive automaton of the Wilderness. Since animals are incapable of rational education and a thorough introduction into a civilized lifestyle, the suggested process of fulfilling the equation would be the diminution of man into the position of a slave to untamed Nature. "Imagine" was another more directly ideological song in which the author, John Lennon, preached on the matter of an ideal society, "a world that is one", where freedom of religion is nullified, technology is discarded, private property is abolished, and all men are bound by a collective "brotherhood". The inherent anti-individualism of such a perception, as opposed to free worship, progress, and laissez-faire economy, is blatantly exposed by the lyrics themselves, without the guise which had been placed upon earlier projects such as "I'm a Walrus."       

Which is but the foremost example of overtness in the pop-culturists' tirades increasing with the passage of time. Clever analogies and metaphors are no longer a fitting means of indoctrination because each subsequent generation reared in a Deweyite setting is afflicted by doublethink to a greater extent than the previous one and is thus empowered with the awesome capacity of not grasping them. Yet, civility plummeting and instinctive savagery on the rise, the typical youths are thoroughly supportive of the Witch Doctors’ propaganda to such an extent that even the unveiling of its intentions in their crude sincerity will not alter the witchlings' lack of resolve to oppose them.

 At present the pinnacle of the fashion elite is occupied by an abomination known by the pseudonym, "Eminem". The "musical" style practiced by this man is referred to as rap, i.e. naught but the rare beating of drums (with a primitive rhythm) and the mouthing of lyrics, in the case of males with a voice distorted and high-pitched and in the case of females in a tone coarse, piercing, and low to such an extent that both become the virtual antonyms of the voices of opera signers of their respective genders. Rap is a torrent of cacophony which is erratic and crude as is but requires the support of thousands of broken voices, screeching and hollering out of tune in order to uphold that, which triggers their destructive urges. It depends upon, in other words, the violent and uncivil energy of a unit politely referred to as a collective while its genuine name should be "horde". This corresponds almost identically with the depiction of a savage drumbeat enlarged by numerous fanatical yells in 1984 as the music of the Party during Hate Week.

The messages broadcast by Eminem are, to even greater disturbance, also those of unrestrained hatred. In every "tune" he threatens to murder, rape, devastate, abuse, and deprive of dignity fellow human beings. Frequently such threats are accompanied by names. At other times they are general and aimed at the public. But the purpose remains the same, the imposition of sheer terror which, giving its recipients the option to either join the horde or be desecrated by it, will result in the targets themselves upholding this credo and entering the suggested spree of fanatical degradation incited by such a crucial "authority" in their lives as Eminem. The youths of today, even those of high academic performance and a reputation of intelligence, frequently offer reverent praise to this "artist" for his "unparalleled creativity and innovation". Their puny and unquestioning minds neglect the fact that he had composed no melodies and even devised no new rhythms, that his language is the repulsive Newspeak of the slums, and that the sentiments he manifests are not the result of an active imagination but of the Wilderness shackling the creative spirit and bludgeoning into the brain the previously latent obsessions: to maim, to tarnish, to destroy...

          Between the Beatles and Eminem had existed transitional stages spanning thirty years. The melodies themselves forfeited any traces of complexity they had possessed during the 1960s. The moderate "rock" music of the Beatles decayed into a louder form dependent to a greater extent on percussion and to a smaller extent on the impression of dignity conveyed by the performers. The Beatles themselves had shifted to such a form in their later years, swept into the current of Oriental Daoist ideology to justify their tasteless and demeaning conduct of "Sex, Drugs, and Rock-and-Roll". During the 1970s a harsher variety of vulgar "music," known as "disco" was devised. The revolutionary aspect introduced by this form was that of creation predominantly by a machine known as a synthesizer. The element of human creativity when producing popular entertainment had begun to fade; musicians and composers were no longer of key significance. The popular-culture industry neared in time proximity the Orwellian versificator, an utter detachment of the human mind from the crafting of musical works.

The subsequent step in the devolution of mass obsessions was initiated in the 1980s under the name of "hip-hop" (defining the movements which the paradigm expects the victims of its melodies to replicate, a graceless, awkward, rapid swinging of the hips, of which a parallel can be seen in the realm of haphazardly hopping animals), "music" almost entirely dependent upon the beating of drums and the unsophisticated emissions of a synthesizer. Played at a swift and monotonous pace and with extraordinarily high volume, its intent is to produce collective orgies of bodily distortion into numerous inhuman forms, bent out of shape in every manner imaginable. Still a powerful influence today, its lyrics are occasionally indecent, frequently violent, usually simplistic, and always devoid of logical reasoning. Their "authors" seek to hold the attention of the masses with variations on a theme which can be called anything but love, for it lacks in chivalrous nobility and respect for the opposite gender. Hip-hop and its subsequent mutations are odes instead to sadomasochistic rape, where the lyrics ostensibly display the intent to "enslave one", "to become one's slave", "to beat one", and other abominable desires not to be mentioned in a proper public setting.

The most recent wave of hip-hop idols have themselves taken to wearing scandalous clothing, and mutilating their images in every which way in order to present living embodiments of "their" "music". Themselves, they are, like Big Brother, mere figureheads. Britney Spears, the prime target of worship for mindless witchlings of today, does not compose her mostly computer-generated "hits", does not play a musical instrument, and is frequently accompanied by other voices on stage or dubbed over with another woman's replications of the mindless lyrics in "her" songs within “her” recordings. Her figure is artificially engineered through heaps of makeup and computer "modifications". She remains absolutely devoid of any manner of talent in music or performance; the fabrications encompass every field of her activity. She is not compatible with a "great man" personality, but as in the situation of Big Brother, the reverence displayed for her fuels the indoctrinating capacity of the collective behind the image. The masses possess the access to resources necessary to discover the fraud that is Britney Spears. Yet they, in their majority, continue to pervert themselves before her likeness. Why? Because popular culture is not dependent upon conscious reasoning. Had it been, its absolute rejection by all as irrational would have occurred simultaneously with its inception. Its hold remains because it is illogical, subconscious, and employs appeal to “instinct” over reason. It is the Wilderness rendered socially permissible. A branch of the hip-hop movement is the monstrosity known as rap, which had completed the passage from hidden implications of collectivism to outright manifestations of murder. Popular culture, in its retrogression, has reduced to its bare essence the fact that collectivism is murder, but the masses are no less eager to embrace its doctrine. The movement of the hippies has not disappeared; it has been, in the true spirit of a collective, carried on by different individuals, all disposable in a tribal framework, but as the same "ideal," revealed in greater detail by each subsequent performer and variation.

          Numerous films and periodicals of present days are, too, compatible with Mr. Orwell's depiction of the superficial material loaded with aimless sentimentality and indecent conduct, designed not to teach a truth or to provide food for thought, but to create sensations, to awaken temptations of the wild in order to suppress aspiration. So-called "bathroom humor" has spread from the mouths of the uneducated onto the big screen. Comedies are designed not through wit and insight, but through obscenity, profanity, and hollering. Films with a theme of romance no longer portray poetic manifestations of admiration, nor courageous deeds performed in the name of love, nor a rational calculus which would somehow suggest that the existence of such undertakings is of greater benefit than their absence. Instead, they display entanglements of human flesh in surface-based physical exchanges, replete with lust, the prerequisite of molestation. They are films of couples demeaning themselves to the level of animals, with no nobility remaining in their interactions. Because such cinematic abominations awaken a subconscious sympathy within the irrational and cause it to be elevated to the brain's metaphorical surface, the overall submission of the viewer to instinct becomes augmented. A preference for lewd and vulgar behaviors replaces objective moral values. Shelves in grocery stores are with far greater frequency than previously packed with what can be referred to as "yellow journalism". The scandalous magazines in question are not merely littered with slandering "news" stories of no credibility, but also of photographs where the human organism is indecently exposed and of articles where the personal lives of celebrities are prodded at for the purpose of evoking a tainted amusement from ignorami whose lives are centered on divulging matters which are none of their business. This mixture of deception, pornography, and space occupiers is identical to the literature spread by the Party to the proletariat of Oceania.

          Aside from enforcing the order of chaos desired by the Witch Doctors, even such base forms of entertainment seek to instill not merely behaviors but an ideology as well. Professor Thomas Hibbs at Boston College has been performing in-depth explorations on the attitudinal repercussions of popular culture, discovering the growing trend of nihilism among its slaves.

"Hibbs describes nihilism as a state of spiritual impoverishment in which 'there is no higher or lower, in which the higher aspirations that have motivated mankind over the ages lose their attractions for the human soul,' and in which 'there is no fundamental meaning or ultimate point in human life.' He sees a trend toward such shrunken aspirations in the greater culture reflected in American films, television and music of the past generation. Films once presented evil as a serious threat that was to be overcome by virtue, Hibbs said. But in recent years, provision has rarely been made for the pursuit of justice. Rebellion has been all, he said, and the result has been a void. 'If nothing positive comes out of rebellion, both rebellion and convention seem foolish,' he said, 'and you're left with snickering irony,' a smirking 'detachment from everything' a la 'Seinfeld' that is the seedbed for cynicism. Evil ceases to be terrifying and becomes merely banal, he said, resulting in a comic view of life as meaningless." (Mark Sullivan, Newspaper Staff Writer at Boston College. "Nihilism and Popular Culture: Hibbs' Class Strikes Chord with Students")

Here Professor Hibbs reveals a noteworthy detail. In modern popular culture as well as in that of 1984, the proletarians who were exposed to indecent entertainment or that littered with opposition to the Absolute Morality perceive that their reverence for this degrading material stems from a desire to rebel and to separate oneself from the crowd. This is yet another still present disguise that grants evil a moral sanction. The men falling prey to popular culture commit the most disgraceful acts of conformity and, in their actions, reject the very concept of genuine rebellion. Their subconscious rushes toward imitation of the herd and self-debasement, and what remains of their reasoning minds is occupied with the delusion of defiance. The deception plaguing them is that the acceptance of nihilism possesses an individualistic motive. But, in reality, nihilism is fundamental in all ideologies which seek to deprive human life of value. Michael Miller explains:

"An early nihilist mutant hid behind the good of other men. It held that pursuing your own good is wicked, but you could rescue your virtue by serving other men's good. This, of course, is altruism. Altruism had a long run, but was doomed by its own nihilist origins. After all, other men's good means other men's selfishness. Collectivism is another nihilist mutant. It holds that seeking individual goods is wicked, but seeking group goods is virtuous; there is virtue in serving the Race, the State, the Fatherland, the Proletariat, Womankind or what have you. Collectivism, too, is doomed by its nihilist essence. Groups are made up of members, and there is no good of a group apart from the good of its members. So we're back to plain old individual selfishness. Environmentalism is the latest nihilist mutant. It holds that man's good must be destroyed, but the good of other species preserved. There is virtue in seeking the good of trees, birds and soft-shelled clams! Environmentalism, too, is doomed by its own nihilist essence. It will die when enviros see that every living being seeks its own good. Then even the enviro ideal of a wilderness devoid of human life will be damned as a cesspit of selfishness, in which all inhabitants-from bacteria to beans to bugs to buffaloes-ceaselessly, selfishly seek to live! Rejection of self-interest boils down to rejection of life. Nihilism's final ideal is a moonscape scrubbed clean of life." (Michael Miller, Engineer, Objectivist philosopher, founder of Quackgrass Press. "Nihilist Mutants.")

Sacrifice, tribalism, and the Ishmael Paradigm are all abhorrent stems off the root of nihilism. All were devised by men like the Party bureaucrats, who were driven by the savage urge to inflict evil as an end in itself. Relativism, too, is an offspring of nihilism. It accepts the nihilistic premise that objective values must be combated; it merely takes the blunder a step further by mandating the acceptance of arbitrary perceptions devised by a herd.

          The mass indoctrination industries of today through their commodities, be those vulgar comedies such as "Seinfeld", hate-filled hollers such as those of Eminem, pornographic literature, or films advocating the humiliation of man, seek to institute the ideology of nihilism in the populace precisely because it will result in a voluntary rejection of such a fundamental absolute virtue as individual life by the very persons whose destruction is the aim of the leftist paradigm. It is no coincidence that the hippie generation had been educated under the (anti)"progressive" system and had engaged in the first massive outbreak of nihilism in the United States. It is also no coincidence that the youths of today, educated in the elite universities by adult hippies, have embraced a more frightening variation on the same brutish theme. They support the nihilism under pretext of "self-expression" when they in reality but replicate automatically the stern commands imposed upon them from all directions by the establishment, killing the self. In that same manner, they support prostitution under pretext of "free love" when it is merely the exertion of the Wilderness's urge to molest, to rape, to exploit those who are suffering. Such a brutal trade in human flesh has not declined or ceased in our society despite its abolition by law. It had not declined in Oceania, either.

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This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA Statement of Policy.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.