Orwell In Five Words

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In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

In the late 1930s, Orwell worried that bourgeois democracy was just fascism’s more civilised twin. But within a couple of years, his position had swung round to champion democracy as the radical enemy of totalitarianism.

Today, many worry that democracy is in its greatest crisis since the 1930s. Phil asks a leading historian of totalitarianism, Timothy Snyder, if Orwell’s dramatic switch can help us work out how to tackle it.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

01Fascism20200120

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

In the late 1930s, Orwell worried that bourgeois democracy was just fascism’s more civilised twin. But within a couple of years, his position had swung round to champion democracy as the radical enemy of totalitarianism.

Today, many worry that democracy is in its greatest crisis since the 1930s. Phil asks a leading historian of totalitarianism, Timothy Snyder, if Orwell’s dramatic switch can help us work out how to tackle it.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

01Fascism2020012020200121 (R4)

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

In the late 1930s, Orwell worried that bourgeois democracy was just fascism’s more civilised twin. But within a couple of years, his position had swung round to champion democracy as the radical enemy of totalitarianism.

Today, many worry that democracy is in its greatest crisis since the 1930s. Phil asks a leading historian of totalitarianism, Timothy Snyder, if Orwell’s dramatic switch can help us work out how to tackle it.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

02Truth2020012120200122 (R4)

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

Orwell thought the very idea of objective truth was in mortal danger from the totalitarian mindset, writing that: “The truth, it is felt, becomes untruth when your enemy utters it.”

In the era of ‘fake news’ and extreme online polarisation, copies of Orwell’s work have been flying off the shelves. But he wasn’t only worried about dictators and demagogues. So today, just how widely do his fears for the future of truth apply?

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

03Big20200122

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

Throughout the 1940s, Orwell grew alarmed at the rise of the ‘oligarchical collectivists’ – the cadres of unaccountable technicians and managers on whom superstates – and large organisations – depend.

Free market economics was supposed to have upended all that – so do Orwell’s anxieties have anything to tell us about today’s corporations and big tech companies as well as resurgent authoritarian states? The conservative writer Ferdinand Mount, who once worked with a thinker who shaped Orwell’s ideas, argues that the oligarchs are back.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

03Big2020012220200123 (R4)

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

Throughout the 1940s, Orwell grew alarmed at the rise of the ‘oligarchical collectivists’ – the cadres of unaccountable technicians and managers on whom superstates – and large organisations – depend.

Free market economics was supposed to have upended all that – so do Orwell’s anxieties have anything to tell us about today’s corporations and big tech companies as well as resurgent authoritarian states? The conservative writer Ferdinand Mount, who once worked with a thinker who shaped Orwell’s ideas, argues that the oligarchs are back.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

04Law20200123

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

Early in Nineteen Eighty Four, Orwell makes clear that in Big Brother’s dictatorship, “there were no longer any laws” – because this is a regime which doesn’t distinguish between thought and deed, and where the only law is state power.

So we explore how useful are Orwell’s ideas about power in countries that still have the rule of law? And we hear from a Uyghur writer who spent months in a Chinese prison about his experience of law in the world’s most powerful authoritarian state.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

04Law2020012320200124 (R4)

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

Early in Nineteen Eighty Four, Orwell makes clear that in Big Brother’s dictatorship, “there were no longer any laws” – because this is a regime which doesn’t distinguish between thought and deed, and where the only law is state power.

So we explore how useful are Orwell’s ideas about power in countries that still have the rule of law? And we hear from a Uyghur writer who spent months in a Chinese prison about his experience of law in the world’s most powerful authoritarian state.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

05Love20200124

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

After Winston Smith has been tortured, brainwashed and broken in the Ministry of Love, Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty Four ends: “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

In this final programme, Phil traces the common origins of the world Orwell imagined in Nineteen Eighty Four and the ‘thought transformation’ process that the Chinese government is currently applying to hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in ‘vocational training centres’ across Xinjiang.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?

05Love2020012420200125 (R4)

In the last few years, George Orwell’s writing and thinking have come to seem ever more timely. But they are also much misrepresented. As BBC Radio 4 marks the 70th anniversary of his early death, BBC documentary-maker Phil Tinline takes five words that resonate through Orwell’s work, and tests out what light they can shed on our problems today.

After Winston Smith has been tortured, brainwashed and broken in the Ministry of Love, Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty Four ends: “He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

In this final programme, Phil traces the common origins of the world Orwell imagined in Nineteen Eighty Four and the ‘thought transformation’ process that the Chinese government is currently applying to hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in ‘vocational training centres’ across Xinjiang.

Series contributors include: Nick Cohen, David Dwan, Maurice Glasman, Joanna Kavenna, Robert Jay Lifton, Dorian Lynskey, Ferdinand Mount, Jean Seaton, Timothy Snyder

Presenter/ Producer: Phil Tinline

George Orwell has been dead for 70 years. What can his ideas tell us about life in 2020?