Fake News: NOT George Orwell: 'The People Will Not Revolt, They Will Not Look Up From Their Screens Long Enough To Notice What's Happening'

Fact Check

  • by: Alan Duke
Fake News: NOT George Orwell: 'The People Will Not Revolt, They Will Not Look Up From Their Screens Long Enough To Notice What's Happening'

Did George Orwell's "1984" novel include the quote "The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what's happening"? No, that's not true: Orwell's dystopian classic written in 1949 did not include that quote. It was a line included in a British theatrical adaptation of the book that toured the world starting in 2013. While Orwell's vision of the future offers many lessons about how 2019 technology might impact a government's relationship with its citizens, this prediction is not Orwell's.

The false claim originated from a meme (archived here) posted in September 2019 with this text over a photo of eight young ladies looking down at smartphones:

'The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what's happening.'
From 1984 Written by George Orwell in 1949

This is what social media users saw:

Orwell's "1984," written in 1949, presented a vision of a future world in which government propaganda, "DoubleThink," and perpetual wars dominated society, and where every home had a camera through which Big Brother monitored citizens.

The quote from the meme is not in the 1949 book. It was in the script for a stage play that debuted in 2013, which was not written by Orwell. This is a description of the play from it's website:

April, 1984. 13:00. Comrade 6079, Winston Smith, thinks a thought, starts a diary, and falls in love. But Big Brother is always watching.

Set in a world where an invasive government keeps a malevolently watchful eye on its citizens, this radical and much-lauded staging explores surveillance, identity and why Orwell's vision of the future is as relevant now as ever.

Produced by UK theatrical innovators Headlong along with Nottingham Playhouse and the Almeida Theatre, George Orwell's dystopian classic came roaring onto the stage in 2013 and since then it has become an international phenomenon.

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  Alan Duke

Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke co-founded Lead Stories after ending a 26-year career with CNN, where he mainly covered entertainment, current affairs and politics. Duke closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat. Duke also co-hosted a daily podcast with former HLN host Nancy Grace, "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" and hosted the podcast series "Stan Lee's World: His Real Life Battle with Heroes & Villains." You'll also see Duke in many news documentaries, including on the Reelz channel, CNN and HLN.

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