Propaganda is arguably the most important element in dystopian literature. Propaganda, or biased media usually published with a specific agenda, is essential to the type of authoritarian government so often seen in dystopian novels. Since the beginning of time, people have gotten their information about the world from other people. As technology and social media have spread, this access to information has gotten quicker, but still many people remain informed by the words of others. Even in the world of “alternative facts” today, the idea that anyone can share news with anyone else has remained a central theme to democracy and freedom. The multitude of news sources today’s generation sees (FOX, CNN, twitter, etc.) ensures that many different opinions on a single topic can be shared. This in incredibly important because if only one source was reporting, many Americans (or other citizens of the free world) would only hear one side of the story. Imagine how different elections would be if debates weren’t live for the people to watch? If every sentence spoken by a candidate was carefully structured and only released by a single news source, people would have much different opinions. Thus, it is easy to see how he (or she) who controls the media can easily control a large group of people.
Propaganda is utilized in dystopias because it is easier to control a group of people that doesn’t know they’re being controlled. “Any” utilitarian government with the right resources can force people to work or force them to live in designated areas; but a government that controls the people’s media (and thus, their opinions) can make the people willingly take themselves to laborious work.
The chilling effects of propaganda are best seen in George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Even home is equipped with a telescreen (basically just a TV) which sounds cool at first, until you realize you can’t turn it off. Even in the “privacy” of one’s own home, the government and their messages cannot be escaped. A citizen of this dystopian setting is constantly bombarded with biased messages about amazing feats their government has achieved. While a citizen might be suspicious, since constant success seems unlikely, they have no other news source to check their facts against so they must have faith in their government. Every newspaper and handout is also only from the government as well. This, combined with the military music that often accompanies the boastful news, inspires patriotism in the citizens. Thus, they begin to trust and rely on their government and desire for rebellion is essentially extinguished.