[E]ven in the absence of the Stalinist superpower that honed his perceptions, a handful of states continue to provide unabashed variations on the “Orwellian” — particularly Iran.
Orwell provided the world a new vocabulary for modes of oppression. When, in January, Iranian authorities pressured Café Prague, a popular hangout for Tehran’s students and intellectuals, to install cameras whose footage the state could access, the cafe’s owners protested by closing down their business. Their explanation: “We take comfort in knowing that we at least didn’t let Big Brother’s glass eyes scan and record our every step, minute, and memory from dawn till dusk.”
Meanwhile, on the western side of Orwell’s bridge, Iranian journalists working for non-Iranian media — in particular, BBC Persian — accused their government of forging websites and Facebook pages in their names, built around salacious themes. Close readers of Nineteen Eighty-Four will recall not only the Party’s fabrications and forgeries, but the cheap pornography it distributed to the “proles” of Airstrip One, Orwell’s dystopian England. …
If Orwell’s satires apply plausibly to the Islamic Republic, it may be because Soviet and Iranian history “rhyme” in ways that complement his worldview. Orwell’s materialism and anti-theism were, unlike the Soviet variety, anti-utopian, while Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s vision of Islamic government was theistic, anti-materialist, and utopian.