Just two or three generations ago, most Americans understood that George Orwell’s classics Animal Farm and 1984 were written to explain how freedom is lost to totalitarianism and the intolerance that accompanies it.
“Big Brother,” a term that many people still casually use to describe an all-knowing governing authority, comes right out of 1984. In the society that Orwell describes, all citizens are continually reminded that “Big Brother is watching you,” by way of a constant surveillance through the pervasive use of “telescreens” by the ruling class.
Orwell’s warnings about totalitarianism written in novel form in Animal Farm and 1984 came shortly after Freidrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom was published at the end of World War II. But it took the shocking revelations from books on Nazism and Soviet Communism, by scholars like William Shirer and Robert Conquest in the 1960s, to really make Orwell relevant for teaching to the masses educated in American public schools. And it was not just an academic exercise insofar as Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, was at that time brutally crushing all resistance, enforcing the Soviet model of totalitarian control on East European countries that became satellite states of Moscow.
Reading Orwell, it was thought, would help American students appreciate their freedoms and gain perspective and critical faculties so as to understand socialist totalitarianism and its defining features…