As the headlines say, George Orwell’s classic 1984 has started flying off the shelves since Trump’s election. People are rushing to read through the dystopian classic as they fear impending fascism.
From the Washington Post:
Almost 70 years after “1984” was first published, Orwell suddenly feels doubleplus relevant. Considering the New Trumpmatics, it’s impossible not to remember Winston Smith, the hero of “1984,” who predicted, “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it.”
The obvious question–to me, at least–is why now? With numerous administrations enacting economic policies that essentially have 2+2=5 as their foundation, why get all uppity about it a few days into Trump’s presidency?
Both the Bush and Obama administrations charged full steam ahead with economic policies (stimulus, bailouts, etc.) that have, at their core, the demonstrably flawed belief that government can create wealth by taking it from one place and moving it to another. There isn’t much difference between that and bad math.
From The New York Times:
We all have to adjust to this unprecedented assault on the truth and stand ready to vigilantly defend against it, because without truth, what’s left? Our president is a pathological liar. Say it. Write it. Never become inured to it. And dispense with the terms of art to describe it. A lie by any other name portends the same.
Remember the famous line from President Obama, “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it”? It was dubbed “lie of the year” by Politifact–a fact-checking website not exactly known as “right wing.” So where was this rush to understand a possible slide into a dystopian future then? Keep in mind, that didn’t turn out to be a lie because it just didn’t work out the way President Obama wanted–it was 100% predictable.
I’ve also seen a number of sources referencing President Trump’s attempt to silence critics, especially those in the media. If true, this is not only despicable, but also a flagrant abuse of power that flies in the face of the First Amendment.
But where were these critics when President Obama’s administration put pressure on YouTube to remove a video that dared to criticize Islam? Where were they when the Obama administration pushed for speech codes on college campuses that would allow students to be punished for saying things that offended others?
Or how about the fact no one seems to be discussing–that the Obama administration prosecuted more “whistleblowers” than all other presidential administrations combined?
Listen, I’m all in favor of people becoming aware of literature like 1984 and the concepts discussed therein. And if it takes a Donald Trump for people to finally start taking this little thing called “liberty” seriously, then I say, hooray! At least people are finally paying attention.
Where this becomes a problem is in the horrible inconsistency. The warnings George Orwell issued weren’t intended for specific individuals–or ones that we just don’t like. They were meant to be applied to everyone. In missing this, people are going to miss one of his most prescient quotes:
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
If you don’t understand that the roots of fascism, progressivism, and socialism (or any other ism) have their roots in our society much deeper than Donald Trump, then you’ll never understand how much these things matter; or how to view them consistently. If we ignore the history of these movements and how they have evolved over time (or, in some cases, really not changed at all), then criticism of one politician over another will sound just as it does now–hollow and unserious.