In 1984 your host was twelve years old and like George Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith, he kept a diary, for the citizens of the future. For this special installment of Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything we travel back in time and give this diary a soundtrack. TV commercials, radio spots, movie clips – all sound from 1984 (the year, not the book). Find out what totalitarianism really sounds like.

Plus check out this short piece on my 1984 “where’s the beef” record collection for Hilobrow’s Political Objects series.

Today is January 1st, 1984.

I got up early to watch a show on PBS. The show was called Good Morning, Mr. Orwell — but it was very confusing…

I have no idea what these people were trying to say.

Later in the afternoon I watched a special by Walter Cronkite — this was more what I was looking for. He explained how there are lots of ways in which we are already living in 1984.

I have decided to keep a diary, like Winston Smith did in Orwell’s novel. Only my diary is going to come with a soundtrack. Using my tape recorder I am going to collect sounds from the TV, movies people’s home recordings, music.

I am doing this for the citizens of the future, so that they will know the truth — so they will know that it is possible to live in a totalitarian society and not even know it.

My teacher says I am nuts to compare our world with George Orwell’s, but this diary will prove people like her wrong.

January 12th, 1984

Today is my birthday, I am 12 years old.

Josh, Mike and I went to Burger King and we went up to the counter and got our orders and then I shouted out “Where’s the beef?!” but no-one got the joke!! Don’t they see why this woman is so awesome???

That lady from the Wendy’s commercial is like the embodiment of our collective fatigue with bullshit. She’s demanding the truth for all of us.

I think I’m in love!

January 31st, 1984

If we were living in Oceania, Ronald Reagan’s new reelection commercial would be playing on a loop on the giant telescreens in Victory Square. I’ve seen it three times already! The message of these Morning in America ads is clear: it is not enough to obey Big Brother, we must love him! 

But this morning Ronald Reagan was on Good Morning America- it was 2min of hate!

March 8, 1984

It turns out I’m not the only person who is in love with the where’s the beef lady. Her name is Clara Peller and she’s become super famous.


While it’s great to see her get all this attention, it kinda bothers me that a-holes like Ryan, this dick in my class, like her too. His dad, who’s a cop, picked him up after school the other day in his cop car and he went “Where’s the Beef” over the loudspeaker when we walked out of the building. Then they both shouted where’s the beef at each other like it was their own private joke — I almost puked!! I considered disavowing all of my allegiances to this lady.

But then, this morning I saw her on the TV. She was on the Today show with the guy who made her commercial.

I think “Where’s the beef” is not an advertising slogan or a catch phrase, it is a revolutionary war cry!

Shouting where’s the beef is like saying I refuse to accept the fake — I demand the real!

Clara Peller is like one of those secret freedom fighters Philip K. Dick talks about in his VALISSYSTEM book — something I read about in the Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter — he wrote:

I sensed the Empire without seeing it, sensed a vast iron prison in which human slaves toiled. And I saw as if superimposed on the black metal walls of this huge prison certain rapidly scurrying figures in gray robes: enemies of the Empire and its tyranny, a remnant opposed to it.

I’m certain that if Philip K. Dick was still alive he would recognize that Clara Peller is one of those enemies of the Black Iron Prison.

Clara Peller is proof that in our 1984 the resistance is real!

August 12th, 1984

I’m seeing VCRs and video cameras everywhere — its like overnight there was a video invasion.


In our 1984 there might not be that many hidden cameras, but that doesn’t mean George Orwell is wrong. Big Brother doesn’t have to record us, we are doing it for him.

There are even TV shows now where the whole point is to get people to send in their own recordings!

This weekend Josh, Mike and I tried to make a video for one of these shows — a new comedy series on NBC called the homemade comedy special. It was a total disaster. I think the problem that we each have our own definition of what comedy is.

My idea was clearly superior, it was a sci-fi author dystopia Olympic competition. We would each portray famous sci-fi writers and describe a nightmare dystopia and the joke would be that the winner — me — would describe our actual world, which would scare all the judges into giving me a perfect ten.

But we didn’t film anything. We spent the entire day fighting.


August 22nd, 1984

I saw something tonight that I am sure will haunt me for the rest of my life.

"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"

I was watching the Republican convention on TV with my mom. Nancy Reagan was giving a speech, and then all of a sudden Ronald Reagan appeared on the giant screen behind her. They must have set up a two way camera system in his hotel room, because he could see her and he started waving — and she then she turned around and started waving back… and the crowd screamed and roared like they were still at the olympics. 

You know, this is gonna sound a little weird, but i swear i could hear the voice of O’Brien — coming from somewhere in that coliseum. “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?” he croaked, as Reagan’s hand flopped up and down on the giant telescreen. 

It’s been kind of fun playing detective — searching for hidden clues about the Orwellian nature of our world. but tonight I realized that nothing is actually hidden — its all right there — in the open.. and it kinda freaks me out. 

I’m worried. If Ronald Reagan wins we might end up living in 1984 forever!

November 6th, 1984

This is one of the worst nights of my life. Ronald Reagan just got re-elected, and it wasn’t even close.

Looking at that red map I really do feel like a minority of one.

December 31, 1984

Dear Citizen of the future,

I hope wherever you are in the future — that this diary will be of use to you.

I sure hope you are not living in the Black Iron Prison, but if you are I hope you have a really cool reality distortion field that makes your life bearable.

Perhaps you’ve succeeded in burning the Black Iron Prison down?

Perhaps in the future it’s totalitarianism that gets stamped out, and the only boot — is the one you hear, before the face on your screen lights up.


2 comments on 1984 (the year not the book) r

  1. drew says:

    I’m down to the last six minutes. This is hands down one of the best podcasts I’ve heard in awhile, and I listen to a lot of podcasts. I really need to know what happened to Theresa.

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