Eric Gredwell, an historical reappraisal,
by Donald J Smith, Steve Bannon Tech, year VI,
How many readers are aware that Eric Gredwell originally wanted to call his most famous book Twenty Seventeen? Afraid that the work would seem ominously pessimistic and counter to the prevailing mood of societies set on rediscovering their nationalistic greatness, his publishers convinced him to reverse the title to the now notorious Twenty Seventy-one, leading readers to see it as a piece of speculative fiction rather than a ham-fisted allegory. Now that even this ominous date is finally past. and his works can be read again (by state-approved readers only, of course) it may be time to take stock of the work of this man. Born George Corbyn in the late Twentieth Century, he changed his name to avoid confusion with a minor politician of the time and to protect his family from the anger of true conservatives, offended by his liberal whinings. Fortunately, he reckoned without the data capture abilities of the security services, even in those technologically backward times.
So do we now see him as a gifted critic and visionary, or just another justly neglected limp-dick liberal hack? It’s the latter, of course, but it is still valuable to consider his works and ideas, when the spectres of personal freedom and democracy are once more rearing their ugly heads in some quarters. And a salutary reminder to scholars and casual readers alike, that these books, seen now as blueprints for our authoritarian utopia, were intended as warnings of a dark future, by a man so blinkered by liberal nonsense and facts that he became a poster boy for socialist idealists everywhere, despite being an archetypal product of the metropolitan elite (I am assuming my readers can look up these historical term on Truthipedia for themselves).
After leaving elitist establishment institutions Harrow School and Cambridge University, Gredwell went into journalism, working for legendary lie-mongers, the Grauniad. While there he brought out his first two books, about life in the ‘misunderstood’ hipster movement, Keep the Antipasti Coming and The Road to Canary Wharf. But then the after-effects of Brexit and the poverty which we now see as an important stage in the restructuring of society, led him to travel extensively ‘up North’, resulting in his first really important work of social study, Down and Out in Sleaford and Bolton.
His cry-baby liberal posturing reached its peak when he travelled to America to fight for the anti-Trump forces, along with many other artists and intellectuals, in the Civil War of the late ‘Teens. Although the result of this conflict was a foregone conclusion, quinoa recipes, Dalai Lama quotes and factional infighting being no match for heavily armed butch home boys (and girls), like all artists he was only too prepared to milk his experiences for material and make money out of them. The resulting book, Homage to California, made his name, but it was the turning of all this material into allegorical novels that made him popular with foolish adolescents the world over.
Before Twenty Seventy-one came Poultry Farm, in which the chickens, geese and turkeys, led by Nigel the rooster, take over the running of their farm from Farmer Cameron. Arguing that the farmers have long ceased to listen to the poultry, but ruled them with arrogance and lies from the comfort of their elaborate farmhouse, the slogan ‘false facts bad, true facts good’ and the promise to spend all the profits wasted on admin for the farmers union on better veterinary provision, the roosters soon sweep away the old order, only to find that Nigel and his fellow cocks begin to act just like the farmers they replace. They also replace the motto with ‘true facts good, false facts better’ and famously say that ‘of course the turkeys will vote for Christmas and even gloat about winning it, as long as they can be distracted from reading the menu’.
But it is his most notorious work I wish to concentrate on. It follows the experiences of one Wilson Jones a citizen of the fictional ‘Fifty-first State’, a huge shopping mall populated almost entirely by native born ‘Staters’, only a select few of whom have productive jobs or the money to buy the goods on offer in the dilapidated stores, The private health system concentrates all its resources (as is only right, a fact apparently lost on Gredwell) on treating the wealthy few and keeping sufficient ‘scroungers’ alive to play alien-hunting games with their mobile devices until they are needed to do some menial task. Of course Gredwell failed to realise the full impact that cybernetics would have in very few years, making this provision for the health of undesirably indolent citizens almost totally unnecessary.
Society is controlled from the offices of Factcorp, Tradecorp and Coolcorp, corporations charged with maintaining order by (respectively) spreading misinformation, ensuring business deals are unopposed by their potential ‘victims’ (we would now say ‘beneficiaries’ of course) and ensuring that no one worried openly about the environment or spread the pernicious doctrine of ‘global warming’. In one very heavy-handed scene, Jones’s neighbour Alan is seen being taken away to a correctional facility:
xxx“What have you done?” asked Wilson.
xxx“Oh, I’ve been such a fool,” Alan replied, “I went out without a coat on yesterday and my son heard me say that it was surprisingly warm for February. He reported me to Coolcorp. I’m so proud of him; I’ve only myself to blame. Make sure you wrap up well, if you’re going out, Wilson.”
xxxWiping sweat from his eyes, Wilson looked at the old thermometer on the outside wall. It read three degrees above zero on the McMorris-Rogers scale. Under the peeling piece of paper stuck onto it, he could just make out the old Celsius marking of 38. The maker’s name and town reminded him that, before the perfectly natural cyclic sunspot activity had removed the polar ice caps and caused the seas to burn off their methane, creating the barmy climate people now enjoyed in the North, there had indeed been a Hull, a few miles South of the coastal city of Beverley.
Wilson works in the Photoshop (primitive image manipulation software without any suitability checking) department of Factcorp, editing images to suit the changing requirements of reality. While there he develops a dangerous distrust of official facts and begins to believe in the myth of an ‘objective reality’. For instance when he sees the sponsored rejoicing (we’re making the State great!) in the street over the government’s deal to save 1,000 jobs in Kettering, he is sure he remembers a report of the same factory moving 2,000 jobs to its factories in China only the day before. But the footage of the Great Orange Leader, Big Don, decrying this has been deleted from the files.
Then, at a Vitriol Rally, where he watches speeches by the hated enemy, Crooked Hillary (speeches which he has had a part in making ‘true’) and joins in with the ritual yelling of Lock Her Up!! he notices a young woman, Juliet, who also seems less than enthusiastic about joining in the mob hysteria. They begin the inevitable affair and start to talk about the possibility of introducing ideas like verifiable truth and co-operative living into the perfect world of business and cut-throat competition. He notes in his private diary software that if there is any hope it must lie with the disaffected and out of work people, if only they could be made to see that their destitution is caused by the system and the plutocrats that control it, rather than the hated Metropolitan Elite, a shadowy and in fact extinct group, thought of by the oiks as being almost mythical beings, festooned with tattoos and bushy beards.
Thinking they can make themselves safe from detection by turning off their mobile phones, Wilson and Juliet go out among the workers of Bury and hide out above a run-down Apple store, run by a strange old man. But they have underestimated the power of the NSA and the phone companies. When in the middle of a sexual act, their phones turn themselves on and tell them they have been caught (and instantly share film of their activities on social media), they are taken into custody for reprogramming.
In the headquarters of Tradecorp, Wilson meets the CEO, McBride, who shows him a photoshopped picture of his hand from the Daily Express and asks how many fingers he was holding up when the photo was taken; Wilson of course cannot answer as he cannot see the accompanying article. McBride explains the basic principle on which society is controlled for the good of all shareholders:
xxx“‘Facts’, Wilson, are simply those assertions in which it is nicer to believe, ‘evidence’ is an apparently collaborative website, and ‘proof’ is a meaningless dream, a trick with smoke and mirrors. If Big Don says he never said something, any footage that may exist of him saying that very thing simply isn’t real.”
When he asks about the identity and apparent longevity of the shadowy leader, Big Don, McBride admits that the original demagogue, one ‘Trump’, was assassinated as soon as he served his purpose of getting white supremacist ‘ctrl-right’ operators into key positions, but he lives on in manipulated videos and the fake tans and wigs worn at rallies by his supporters:
xxx“Charisma is the great thing. A man with charisma can be a complete and utter bastard, even on the surface, talk unmitigated shite and still have people yelling mindless slogans until they go hoarse and drop dead from exhaustion. But charismatic men are also unstable, unpredictable, dangerous. Fortunately their charisma is now something we can bottle, store on video files, edit and replay in endless variation, while firmer but less erratic hands move the tiller of society, through the turbulent but profitable waters of all-embracing commerce. And the object of the market is the market. Imagine if you will an eternal picture of a boot stamping on a human face, framed and constantly being traded up on e-Bay. That is the world as it is, Wilson. Suck it up.”
Sadly, Wilson, like his creator, can’t suck it up and has to be written out of life. Eventually he is sent to Room 202 to face his greatest fear (101 was seen as reminiscent of the American version of a class for dummies; as Gredwell wrote after the UK chose Brexit and Trump took power in America, issuing in the ‘Golden Age, Honest’, the morons have taken over the remedial class). Unfortunately, Wilson is an acrophobic, terrified of heights, and Room 202 is in the basement. The State budget doesn’t run to moving the room to the top of Manchester-on-Sea’s Trump Tower, so Wilson is merely told he has been hung screaming out of a window on the 63rd floor, a statement verified by his own doctored footage on Snapchat. As an unperson and a broken man he is doomed to wander the sweltering Winter streets, surrounded by people who have been told he doesn’t exist, that he is a ‘false fact’.
After writing a number of articles critical of the Nutall and Pence regimes and disturbing the equilibrium of a society making itself great again through the great gift of recession, Gredwell took his own life by tying himself to the High Speed 2 railway line South of Birmingham. After a three year wait, his head was sliced clean off by a testing car. In this student’s opinion, this was no great loss.
[Compiled and written by Autowrite, checked for intellectual risk factor by Agent 3624]