The events of the past few weeks in the Middle East are a welcome counter to the very famous book, 1984, written by George Orwell. Orwell began the book in 1944, completed it in 1948, and it was published shortly after in 1949. It is the bleak tale of a Winston Smith who lives in the ruins of London, subsequent to a global atomic war. He is approximately 39 in the year the story takes place.
The society that Winston lives in is tripartite consisting of the Proles that make up 85% of the population. The Outer Party, of which Winston is a member, and finally, the Inner Party, that totals less than 2 % of the population. But it is this latter part of the population headed by Big Brother that rules the country with an iron hand. The Inner Party is privy to information that the other two segments of society cannot access. The manner in which the Party presides over the populace is by distorting language using such slogans as WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, AND IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
Unlike 1984, where information to the people is both stifled and distorted, the Internet allowed Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing manager for the Middle East and North Africa, to show how an Egyptian businessman, Khaled Said, had been beaten to death by the police. He was killed by the police because he had been trying to show police corruption on YouTube. Just as in 1984, the Inner Party ruled by lies, Egyptian authorities tried to cover up the cause of death of Mr. Said. However, Mr. Ghonim was able to show the visual evidence of Said’s face from the morgue and then, subsequently, he posted the pictures on a Facebook page. Facebook, as we all know, has some 500 million members.
Attempts by Hosni Mubarak to prevent the masses from having access to the Internet were too late. The message had been received by the people. Whether or not open access to the social media will result in a greater democratic world remains to be seen. However, what is clear is that it will be more difficult for those in power to hide acts of corruption given the ease and speed in which information can be passed through cyberspace.