One of the frequent comparisons that comes up in the Dissident Right is who was more correct or prescient, Orwell or Huxley.
In fact, as the only truly oppressed intellectual group, the Dissident Right are the only ones in a position to offer a valid opinion on this, as no other group of intellectuals suffers deplatforming, doxxing, and dismissal from jobs as much as we do. In the present day, it is only the Dissident Right that exists in the ‘tyrannical space’ explored in those two dystopian classics.
But, despite this, this debate exists not only on the Dissident Right but further afield. Believe it or not, even Left-wingers and Liberals debate this question, as if they too are under the heel of the oppressor’s jackboot. In fact, they feel so oppressed that some of them are even driven to discuss it in the pages of the New York Times at the despotically high rate of pay which that no doubt involves.
In both the Left and the Dissident Right, the consensus is that Huxley is far superior to Orwell, although, according to the New York Times article just alluded to, Orwell has caught up a lot since the election of Donald Trump. Have a look at this laughable, “I’m literally shaking” prose from New York Times writer Charles McGrath:
And yet [Huxley’s] novel much more accurately evokes the country we live in now, especially in its depiction of a culture preoccupied with sex and mindless pop entertainment, than does Orwell’s more ominous book, which seems to be imagining someplace like North Korea. Or it did until Donald Trump was inaugurated.
All of a sudden, as many commentators have pointed out, there were almost daily echoes of Orwell in the news…The most obvious connection to Orwell was the new president’s repeated insistence that even his most pointless and transparent lies were in fact true, and then his adviser Kellyanne Conway’s explanation that these statements were not really falsehoods but, rather, “alternative facts.” As any reader of “1984” knows, this is exactly Big Brother’s standard of truth: The facts are whatever the leader says they are.
…those endless wars in “1984,” during which the enemy keeps changing — now Eurasia, now Eastasia — no longer seem as far-fetched as they once did, and neither do the book’s organized hate rallies, in which the citizenry works itself into a frenzy against nameless foreigners.
The counter to this is that Trump is the only non-establishment candidate to get elected President since Andrew Jackson and therefore almost the exact opposite of the idea of top-down tyranny.
But to return to the notion that Huxley is superior to Orwell, both on the Left and the Dissident Right, this is based on a common view that Huxley presents a much more subtle, nuanced, and sophisticated view of soft tyranny more in keeping with the appearance of our own age. Here’s McGrath summarizing this viewpoint, which could just as easily have come out of the mouth of an Alt-Righter, Alt-Liter, or Affirmative Righter:
Orwell didn’t really have much feel for the future, which to his mind was just another version of the present. His imagined London is merely a drabber, more joyless version of the city, still recovering from the Blitz, where he was living in the mid-1940s, just before beginning the novel. The main technological advancement there is the two-way telescreen, essentially an electronic peephole.
Huxley, on the other hand, writing almost two decades earlier than Orwell (his former Eton pupil, as it happened), foresaw a world that included space travel; private helicopters; genetically engineered test tube babies; enhanced birth control; an immensely popular drug that appears to combine the best features of Valium and Ecstasy; hormone-laced chewing gum that seems to work the way Viagra does; a full sensory entertainment system that outdoes IMAX; and maybe even breast implants. (The book is a little unclear on this point, but in “Brave New World” the highest compliment you can pay a woman is to call her “pneumatic.”)
Huxley was not entirely serious about this. He began “Brave New World” as a parody of H.G. Wells, whose writing he detested, and it remained a book that means to be as playful as it is prophetic. And yet his novel much more accurately evokes the country we live in now, especially in its depiction of a culture preoccupied with sex and mindless pop entertainment, than does Orwell’s more ominous book, which seems to be imagining someplace like North Korea.
It is easy to see why some might see Huxley as more relevant to the reality around us than Orwell, because basically “Big Brother,” in the guise of the Soviet Union, lost the Cold War, or so it seems.
But while initially convincing, the case for Huxley’s superiority can be dismantled.
Most importantly, Huxley’s main insight, namely that control can be maintained more effectively through “entertainment, distraction, and superficial pleasure rather than through overt modes of policing and strict control over food supplies” is not actually absent in 1984.
In fact, exactly these kind of methods are used to control the Proles, on whom pornography is pushed and prostitution allowed. In fact porn is such an important means of social control that the IngSoc authorities even have a pornography section called “PornSec,” which mass produces porn for the Proles. One of the LOL moments in Michael Radford’s film version is when Mr. Charrington, the agent of the thought police who poses as a kindly pawnbroker to rent a room to Winston and Julia for their sexual trysts, informs them on their arrest that their surveillance film will be ‘repurposed’ as porn.
In fact, Orwell’s view of sex as a means of control is much more dialectical and sophisticated than Huxley’s, as the latter was, as mentioned above, essentially writing a parody of the naive “free love” notions of H.G.Wells.
While sex is used as a means to weaken the Proles, ‘anti-Sex’ is used to strengthen the hive-mind of Party members. Indeed, we see today how the most hysterical elements of the Left — and to a certain degree the Dissident Right — are the most undersexed.
Also addictive substances are not absent from Orwell’s dystopian vision. While Brave New World only has soma, 1984 has Victory Gin, Victory Wine, Victory Beer, Victory Coffee, and Victory Tobacco — all highly addictive substances that affect people’s moods and reconcile them to unpleasant realities. Winston himself is something of a cigarette junkie and gin fiend, as we see in this quote from the final chapter:
The Chestnut Tree was almost empty. A ray of sunlight slanting through a window fell on dusty table-tops. It was the lonely hour of fifteen. A tinny music trickled from the telescreens.
Winston sat in his usual corner, gazing into an empty glass. Now and again he glanced up at a vast face which eyed him from the opposite wall. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said. Unbidden, a waiter came and filled his glass up with Victory Gin, shaking into it a few drops from another bottle with a quill through the cork. It was saccharine flavoured with cloves, the speciality of the cafe…
In these days he could never fix his mind on any one subject for more than a few moments at a time. He picked up his glass and drained it at a gulp.
But while 1984 includes almost everything that Brave New World contains in terms of controlling people through sex, drugs, and distractions, it also includes much, much more, especially regarding how censorship and language are used to control people and how tyranny is internalised. The chapter from which the above quote comes, shows how Winston, a formerly autonomous agent, has come to accept the power of the system so much that he no longer needs policing.
But most brilliant of all is Orwell’s prescient description of how language is changed through banning certain words and the expression of certain ideas or observations deemed “thought crime,” to say nothing of the constant rewriting of history. The activities of Big Tech and their deplatforming of all who use words, phrases, and ideas not in the latest edition of their “Newspeak” dictionary, have radically changed the way that people communicate and what they talk about in a comparatively short period of time.
Orwell’s insights into how language can be manipulated into a tool of control shows his much deeper understanding of human psychology than that evident in Huxley’s novel. The same can be said about Orwell’s treatment of emotions, which is another aspect of his novel that rings particularly true today.
In 1984 hate figures, like Emmanuel Goldstein, and fake enemies, like Eastasia and Eurasia, are used to unite, mobilise, and control certain groups. Orwell was well aware of the group-psychological dynamics of the tribe projected to the largest scale of a totalitarian empire. The concept of “three minutes hate” has so much resonance with our own age, where triggered Twitter-borne hordes of SJWs and others slosh around the news cycle like emotional zombies, railing against Trump or George Soros.
In Huxley’s book, there are different classes but this is not a source of conflict. Indeed they are so clearly defined — in fact biologically so — that there is no conflict between them, as each class carries out its predetermined role like harmonious orbit of Aristotlean spheres.
In short, Brave New World sees man as he likes to see himself — a rational actor, controlling his world and taking his pleasures. It is essentially the vision of a well-heeled member of the British upper classes.
Orwell’s book, by contrast, sees man as the tribal primitive, forced to live on a scale of social organisation far beyond his natural capacity, and thereby distorted into a mad and cruel creature. It is essentially the vision of a not-so-well-heeled member of the British middle classes in daily contact with the working class. But is all the richer and more profound for it.