Orwell: History Stopped in 1936

Most people are familiar with the plot of The Matrix. The 1999 film portrays a dystopian future where the “reality” that people inhabit is actually a simulation created by machines intent on subjugating the human race.

The film has continued to resonate with many people because of a growing sense that our modern world is a largely simulated reality conditioned by technology and mass media.

As it turns out, many decades ago author George Orwell sounded the warning bell of modern man’s Matrix-like condition when he said, “History stopped in 1936”.

The source of this intriguing observation is not Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, but his 1943 essay “Looking back on the Spanish War.” It was written as a reflection on Orwell’s participation in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), in which he fought for the Republican side against the Franco-led fascists. According to Orwell, it was during the Spanish War that he became aware of the pervasive use of propaganda used to support the modern totalitarian regimes.

“I remember saying once to Arthur Koestler, ‘History stopped in 1936’, at which he nodded in immediate understanding. We were both thinking of totalitarianism in general, but more particularly of the Spanish civil war. Early in life I have noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the…

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