Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Morning Briefing - Two Minutes Hate

An undercover report from the Teacher Morning Briefing by our Teaching Editor, Eric Arthur Blair...

It was nearly eleven hundred, and in the Ingrish Department, where Winston worked, they were dragging the chairs out of the classrooms and grouping them in the centre of the hall opposite the big telescreen whiteboard, in preparation for the Two Minutes Hate. Winston was just taking his place in one of the middle rows when two people whom he knew by sight, but had never spoken to, came unexpectedly into the room. One of them was a girl whom he often passed in the corridors. He did not know her name, but he knew that she worked in the School Council Fiction Department. Presumably—since he had sometimes seen her with bloody hands and carrying a stone—she had some mechanical job on one of the press-release machines. She was a bold-looking girl, of about twenty-seven, with thick hair, a freckled face, and swift, athletic movements. A narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior Anti-Bullying League (formerly HABZ), was wound several times round the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough to bring out the shapeliness of her hips. Winston had disliked her from the very first moment of seeing her. He knew the reason. It was because of the atmosphere of astro-fields and cold showers and community mile runs and general clean-mindedness which she managed to carry about with her. It was always the women, and above all the young ones, who were the most bigoted adherents of the Management, the swallowers of slogans, the amateur apathetics and nosers-out of unorthodoxy. But this particular girl gave him the impression of being more dangerous than most. Once when they passed in the corridor she gave him a quick sidelong glance which seemed to pierce right into him and for a moment had filled him with black terror. The idea had even crossed his mind that she might be an agent of the Senior Thought Police. That, it was true, was very unlikely. Still, he continued to feel a peculiar uneasiness, which had fear mixed up in it as well as hostility, whenever she was anywhere near him. 

The other person was a man named O’Brookman, a member of the Inner Management and holder of some post so important and remote that Winston had only a dim idea of its nature (it involved target grades). A momentary hush passed over the group of people round the chairs as they saw the black overalls of an Inner Management member approaching. O’Brookman was a large, burly man with a thick neck and a coarse, humorous, brutal face. In spite of his formidable appearance he had a certain charm of manner. He had a trick of resettling his spectacles on his nose which was curiously disarming—in some indefinable way, curiously civilized. It was a gesture which, if anyone had still thought in such terms, might have recalled an eighteenth-century musician offering his snuffbox. Winston had seen O’Brookman perhaps a dozen times in almost as many years. At this moment O’Brookman glanced at his wrist-watch, saw that it was nearly eleven hundred, and evidently decided to stay in the Ingrish Department until the Two Minutes Hate was over. He took a chair in the same row as Winston, a couple of places away. A small, sandy-haired woman who worked at the next desk to Winston was between them. The girl with dark hair was sitting immediately behind. 

The next moment a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big whiteboard at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one’s neck. The Hate had started. As usual, the face of Kinnan Zaloom, the Enemy of the People, had flashed on to the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The little sandy-haired woman gave a squeak of mingled fear and disgust. Zaloom was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago (how long ago, nobody quite remembered), had engaged in counter-revolutionary activities, had been condemned to death, and had mysteriously escaped and disappeared. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Zaloom was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Management’s purity. All subsequent crimes against the Management, all treacheries, acts of sabotage, heresies, deviations, sprang directly out of his teaching. Somewhere or other he was still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the city, under the protection of his foreign paymasters, perhaps even—so it was occasionally rumoured—in some hiding place in Portsmouth itself.

Winston’s diaphragm was constricted. He could never see the face of Zaloom without a painful mixture of emotions. It was a lean Arab face, with a great fuzzy aureole of black hair and a small goatee beard—a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end of which a dragonfly was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality. Zaloom was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Management—an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing Big Szemelikowski, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Management, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Whitefield, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, he was crying hysterically that the revolution had been betrayed. And all the while, lest one should be in any doubt as to the reality which Zaloom’s specious claptrap covered, behind his head on the telescreen there marched the endless columns of the Whitefield squad—row after row of solid-looking men with expressionless Cricklewoodgrad faces, who swam up to the surface of the screen and vanished, to be replaced by others exactly similar. The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers’ boots formed the background to Zaloom’s bleating voice. Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied sheep-like face on the screen, and the terrifying power of the Whitefield squad behind it, were too much to be borne: besides, the sight or even the thought of Zaloom produced fear and anger automatically. There were also whispered stories of a terrible blog, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Zaloom was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a blog with no title in the bounds of the school. People referred to it, if at all, simply as THE BLOG.

In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O’Brookmans’s heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. The voice of Zaloom had become an actual sheep’s bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Whitefield soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seats. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Szemelikowski, grey-haired, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Szemelikowski was saying. It was merely a few words of 'motivation', the sort of words that are uttered in the din of assembly, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Szemelikowski faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Management stood out  in bold capitals:


DISCLAIMER: This is a poor semblance of an excerpt from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and so any copyrighted material, if there is any, is not our original work.

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