Through a telescreen darkly

In Ezio Di Nucci & Stefan Storrie (eds.), 1984 and philosophy, is resistance futile? Open Court. pp. 187-198 (2018)
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“It was a peculiarly beautiful book. its smooth creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past. . . . Even with nothing written in it, it was a compromising possession. The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp.” The Party fears blank paper. On every street corner, you can find newspapers printed With propaganda but blank paper, now that’s nearly impossible to find. For nearly half a century no more notebooks were produced, no blank papers allowed to touch the hands of the masses. This restriction seems odd. Why is blank paper dangerous? What is treacherous about a nice leather-bound book With creamy pages? The very act of Writing on a blank paper is thoughtcrime and Winston knows it. The intriguing question for us is: What’s at stake in the potential of a blank page? There is political potential in a blank page, it could contain a subversive message that could be passed on to others, yet blank paper to Write on is much Weaker than owning a manual printing press hidden in a basement. If Winston Wanted to instigate rebellion against the Party, he Would not handwrite manifestos, he should print them somehow. There’s something else going on with Writing your thoughts in a notebook, and that is related to Newspeak.

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Lavinia Marin
Delft University of Technology


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