Huxley vs. Orwell: The Webcomic

Stuart McMillen’s webcomic does a marvelous job of adapting (and updating!) Neil Postman’s famous book-length essay, Amusing Ourselves to Death, which argues that Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future in Brave New World was ultimately more accurate than the one proposed by George Orwell in 1984. (Via).

12 thoughts on “Huxley vs. Orwell: The Webcomic”

  1. Both theories are right – Orwell is one of “Control comes from the barrel of a gun” and Huxley’s “Control comes from keeping the people dumb up
    and doped out”! Unfortunately, both factions are currently running our government!


  2. This is really interesting. Obviously our society has not yet fallen (I think…?) so I’m not too frightened by either theory, but I do think a good society would sit somewhere between the two ideas. Or… something…


  3. I’ve had a few afternoon/xmas beers and I’ll jump in—
    I’ve actually read some of Postman’s book, and I think he makes a pretty convincing argument that the predominant mechanism of control is Huxleyian. It’s not that Orwellian methods of control don’t exist (see also: gov’t response to WikiLeaks, extraordinary renditions, etc.), it’s that they are not that necessary. M. Zuckerberg recently said something like “people shouldn’t expect privacy,” and the Facebook generation has no problem with this. Orwell’s fear that we wouldn’t be able to read certain books is deeply undercut by the far-more real problem that nobody wants to fucking read, or that nobody wants to read deeply. I think that Postman’s claim that we are a trivial cultural is spot on.


  4. […] Neil Postman is probably right—our contemporary society is more Brave New World than 1984. Again, the concept of the greenzone is instructive here. Simply put, greenzoning is far more prevalent in BNW than it is in 1984 (along with rigid and hierarchical class distinctions — “Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse”). And it is not so much the greenzone but the idea of getting to share the greenzone that we will latch on to, distracted as we cede hard fought freedoms. We will convince ourselves that a double-fence (electrified and monitored by predator drones) will protect our freedom to be comfortable, even as other walls are built to keep us—and our children—out. […]


  5. The general public has access to lots of information, but they choose to ignore much of it. Big sensational stories dominate the news, and big irrelevant issues dominate the political arena. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. Even those who know what’s going on don’t do much more than slacktivism and soliciting “likes”.


  6. Reblogged this on Meng's Note and commented:
    I think this piece is interesting. It might connect to the readings this week. If our mind and ideology is conquered by the mass media and redundant information, a “functional technology” might be good to us. Especially the redundant information and all kinds of “voices” might be created by ourselves.


  7. Reblogged this on Stephen Gerald Weber and commented:
    Today was the end of our time with Brave New World in my class. The students had already read 1984 and had it solidly embedded in their conspiracy-theory-inclined imaginations. I’ve always felt that, while there are traces of 1984 in our culture, it more aptly describes Cuba or Russia; our weakness in America, Europe and Europe’s colonial progeny is much closer to Huxley’s dystopia than Orwell’s. After two weeks of discussing the text, I was able to sway some opinions. Today I shared this summation of Neil Postman’s hypothesis in Amusing Ourselves to Death, I book I’ve taught alongside Brave New World and 1984 in the past. I shared the cartoon with some colleagues over drinks and they were so fascinated by it, it seemed worthwhile to share it with any of you out there who might not have seen it. So, enjoy!


  8. Huxley gets credit for being more prophetic, but Orwell wasn’t really trying. 1984 is nominally science fiction but has the distinctive feel of Europe during the depression and second world war. Orwell could have called it 1934.

    Also, there are still plenty of governments that maintain obedience through brute force. Living in a non-police state while being bombarded by narcotizing insipid media is literally a first world problem.


  9. There are places in the world where both are happening simultaneously.
    A government that is oppressive of free speech and critical thinking and a media that runs away from things that matter to the most bullshit diversions ever (India).


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