I am building a society where people believe that the past (or today's present) was much worse than it actually was. Freedom = slavery, truth = lies, science = correlation, and so on.

One of the ways they do this is inaccurately comparing lifespan and life expectancy by ignoring mass mortality events. For example, people born before WW2 had a good life expectancy, but a bad life span, because everyone died in a single group of few years which makes the life expectancy loss concentrated in a mass mortality event. I.e., if people live for 20 years with low mortality, then 99.99% of people die, then some small part of that cohort survives and then lives to 80, the average life expectancy is nearly 80 even if almost everyone dies at 20.

Basically the Orwellians argue that the life expectancy in the old times was 30 (based on a few wars in the 20th century) and the life expectancy now is 70 (although in reality there are still wars and disasters, you are just taking a single year life expectancy and not cohort life span). Would this work?

Another tactic is using correlational evidence. Say a medicine is proven to work because you try it in 10000 experiments that each have a 5% confidence interval. 5%*5%*5% means three experiments will succeed in row after 10000 tries. Would this deceive people into thinking their medicine is effective even if they are just spamming studies and selectively data mining?

Another science thing is to make the falls in mortality unrealistic. If I give a medicine to 60% of people and the disease prevalence falls 99% will people be suspicious?

Another tactic is to use atrocities where the picture clearly shows your own side in uniform committing them, but don't mention the uniform. Would people take that at face value, i.e. not check the uniforms?

How do I get my denizens to accept Big Brother in this particular way?

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    $\begingroup$ "How do I get my denizens to accept Big Brother?" Keep them ignorant. There is a reason if school systems have become what they are... $\endgroup$ – Duncan Drake Sep 11 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ No, they will ask questions and that is too easy. $\endgroup$ – user79369 Sep 11 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ This reminds me of Attack on Titan, where people were fooled into living within a walled country because they thought they were prey to giants before that. $\endgroup$ – Renan Sep 11 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't exactly see the problem. Most people have only a very vague idea about the past beyond the last 60 years or so, that is, the past beyond the lives of their grandparents. See the most weird and wonderful ideas people on this board have about the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. (Pet peeve: many movies set in the Middle Ages choose to depict a gray world, with just about everybody dirty and dressed in rags. No, it wasn't like that. People liked to keep clean, they liked color, and women's fashions are not a modern invention.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 12 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ Hi user79369. I apologize, but I need to VTC:Too Story Based. This idea is literally the core of your story - but not your world. We focus only on worldbuilding. We will happily help you design your government, but we won't tell you how to use your government to achieve what is fundamentally the plot of your story. You can ask what forces of government control population indoctrination. You can even ask what tools a specific aspect of government might use. But the moment you ask how they'd use that tool to indoctrinate... you've crossed into storybuilding. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 12 at 3:07

Lie to them. Clamp down on alternative sources of information.

The USSR produced people who, seeing an ad for Smuckers on TV and talking with Americans they were working with, casually revealed that they assumed it was just propaganda, you couldn't possibly have jam like that for anyone but the high muckety-mucks.

And it took decades before the British admitted officially that it was the USSR, not the Nazis, who staged the Katyn massacre, so the atrocity trick is definitely possible.

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If a charismatic leader repeats a lie often enough, the majority will accept it as truth.

All your examples fall down when someone digs into it a bit, but the people who do so are un-loyal, they're not true your-country-ians. Paraphrasing a particular world leader; They've spent their time watching false news, and are at risk of being radicalised by the violent left.

They need to be taken to reeducatiion camps and helped with their double-plus-un-good-thought-crime. (All Orwellian societies have newspeak, right?)

Examples of lies seeming true when repeated often enough are plenty is modern US politics, eg the recent RNC took a heavy focus on race relations, Trump directly said: "I have done more for African Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln", and a significant percentage of people believe it (60% black vote increase over the RNC period), but if you deep dive into opportunity zones and HBCU funding and pre-covid employment growth the picture is much more mediocre.

A few generations of charismatic, populist, leaders repeating the same lies, and the truth of history will become forgotten easily.

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    $\begingroup$ The trump example is different because that is more subjective/evaluative. I'm talking about a specific verifiable fact that they somehow change. $\endgroup$ – user79369 Sep 12 at 4:54

Even without lying you can manipulate your people as a government. Just select the kind of news they see from the major newspaper's and TV shows. A lot of history documentaries on TV and optimistic statistics about current problems.

With statistics, governments can lie without saying something's wrong. That happens all the time.

  • Homeless People, only count the people who are going to the government help organisation.
  • Jobless people, only count them if they are registered and looking for a new job.
  • Deaths in traffic, talk most of the time about one kind of vehicle.
  • Poor children, you decide the income level in which someone is poor.

Just look at the news from different sources, Fox News, CNN, Russia today... They all have their own perspective of truth and in all countries, politicians use different tricks to sell their own truth. Corona is a flu vs. Corona is deadly, global warming is important vs. a lie. Look at the USA, each half thinks that the other half is evil or stupid.

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