This is a great idea. In the past, I’ve dedicated quite a few neurons to this exact question. Forgive me, Gentle Reader, because I’m now finding I have a flood of things to say. To paraphrase Mark Twain: I’m writing a long blog because I didn’t have time to figure out how to tweet it in 140 characters.
The common thread running through Wag the Dog, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984 is the manipulation of the public through information control. In other words: it’s Conspiracy Time!
I should say at the outset that I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist because I don’t claim to have any evidence of powerful, shadowy secret organizations beyond what I read about in the news. Maybe our lives really are controlled by a single, Illuminati-like society (or maybe the Illuminati themselves!), but if we are then I don’t know about it. I have nothing that disproves it, but I am unable to perceive its impact and therefore will not be going off the grid and creating a doomsday bunker to defend myself from them.
The bunker’s for Zombies. I mean, duh.
However, human beings are quite conspiratorial by nature and we are surrounded by conspiracies in every aspect of our lives. It is our nature to form not-necessarily-public alliances that conceal facts from our economic, political, and military rivals. Some every-day conspiracies include:
- Corporations illegally fix prices, as a set of publishers recently did to artificially jack up e-book prices
- Legislators agree to vote for one another’s bills in return for support on their own legislation
- Tech-firm require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements to hide information from non-employees, even their own families
- Governments have their military and diplomatic secrets, such as in the growing field of international cyber-warfare
Nations conspire against nations, corporations against corporations, and people against people. In fact, if you’ve ever kept a secret, you might say you’ve been a part of a miniature conspiracy, too.
With all those little conspiracies around us, it’s only logical that there might be some bigger ones out there, too.
Conspiracies against Conspiracies
The difference between these little conspiracies and the big, global, “Sinister Secret Government” conspiracy is that the little ones conflict with each other. Organized crime is certainly a conspiracy, but the FBI conspires against them to undermine their operations. One political regime might conspire to keep something secret, while a news agency might conspire to find whistle-blowers.
Ever play the board game Risk? If one player gets ahead, the others naturally align to bring him down, and then they re-align as soon as a different front-runner emerges.
It’s difficult to see how one group could get so far ahead of the pack that they could run the world without anyone else knowing it. But that doesn’t mean that some other conspiracies really do shape our perceptions of the world in exactly the way many works of fiction predict.
Wag the Fahrenheit 1984
Whew! I’m just getting warmed up and I haven’t even gotten to the fun part about Wag the Dog, Fahrenehit 451, and 1984. I need to split right now, but I’ll have another post extra soon.
How about that: I didn’t end up having time to write a long post OR a short one! I guess that’s yet another reason why Mark Twain is the man.
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