The Irony of Surveillance Cameras in George Orwell Square

Katlyn Roberts
12 min readMar 19, 2021

“Orwellian debate” is an oxymoron, but that appears to be what we’re having.

Image by Stafford GREEN from Pixabay

Tourists go to George Orwell Square in Barcelona all the time, hoping to relive that spooked/sanctimonious feeling they felt when they first read 1984 as an angry teenager. They’re often disappointed by the fact that the square has nothing to do with Orwell. He probably passed by… once... maybe… sometime between signing up to fight a war against fascism and getting shot in the neck.

“They laid me down again while somebody fetched a stretcher. As soon as I knew that the bullet had gone clean through my neck I took it for granted that I was done for. … I thought of the man who had shot me — wondered what he was like, whether he was a Spaniard or a foreigner, whether he knew he had got me, and so forth. I could not feel any resentment against him. I reflected that as he was a Fascist I would have killed him if I could, but that if he had been taken prisoner and brought before me at this moment I would merely have congratulated him on his good shooting. It may be, though, that if you were really dying your thoughts would be quite different.”

— George Orwell, Homage to Catalunya

The city of Barcelona was tasked with choosing any old square with which to honor the British man on the 60th anniversary of his volunteering to fight for the Republic during the Spanish Civil War. They ended up going with a square that was quickly becoming known as “La Plaça Tripi” a reference both to the surrealist (or trippy) statue by Leandre Christòfol placed in the center of the plaza and to the accessibility of drugs in the area.

I suppose you could argue that this name change was the first semi-nefarious instance of Orwellian shenanigans to go down in this plaza. Orwell hated doublespeaklanguage that deliberately obscured, disguised, distorted, or reversed the meaning of words. Particularly when it was for the purpose of instilling authoritarian rule. Think, a “Department of Defense” that invades countries, or saying “servicing the target” when you mean “bombing people”. I dunno, guys. Does this apply?

“There are no drugs here,” says a potentially tyrannical Barcelona city board. “Only a reverence for honorable military service, literature, and…

Katlyn Roberts

Katlyn writes about history, travel, and culture… with some snark.