[DISCLAIMER: I wrote this in early March, so facts might have changed.]
Dystopias such as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four were written as a warning to readers to ensure that the events described in the novels, which are usually loosely based on real-life historical events, are not allowed to happen again. In 2017, almost seventy years since the publication of Orwell’s masterpiece, has some of the world missed the point?
Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four in response to his experiences reporting on the Spanish Civil War, and in response to the rise of political dictators, such as Adolf Hitler in Germany and Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union. Following his work in Burma as a British Imperial Policeman, where he was contractually obliged to enforce the harsh political regime, he pursued a career as a writer, and dedicated his career to writing politically-charged works about dictatorships and harsh political regimes, aiming to discourage their existence in the future. One might say that Orwell wrote as a protestor against ‘establishment politics’.
Someone else who claims to protest against ‘establishment politics’ is the forty-fifth President of the United States of America, the one and only Donald Trump. Voted in in November 2016 and sworn in two months later, in January 2017, Trump promised to fight the establishment and bring change. He was the candidate for the people, not for politics. Many perceived him as a ‘joke candidate’. For some, that perception hasn’t changed.
Orwell wrote 1984 as a warning – there could be dire consequences if we let society descend into a totalitarian and capitalist regime similar to that of the novel. Assuming that The Donald possesses the literary talents to read the novel, I don’t see any way that he can have read it, and continue to tear apart the so-called ‘free world’, or if he did, did he not take the massive hint? He seems to see himself as a ‘Big Brother’ figure who has control over everything, and if anyone tries to stop him, they shall not succeed. The US may not technically be a single-party political system, but with the number of Executive orders that Trump’s issued in the past two months, it cannot be called a true democracy. Personally, I don’t understand how the United States of America’s election system can be called a true democracy either, but that’s a whole new kettle of fish.
The Party don’t have to worry about a free press holding them to account in 1984. If something is printed in a newspaper that could make them look bad in any way, shape or form, they destroy every trace of negativity against them and re-write the news archives. Unfortunately for the Trump administration, they don’t have the power to destroy all traces of – for example – a Reuters photograph taken at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, or an equivalent image captured eight years later. Even if the administration had access to the Reuters archives, the image will have been duplicated thousands – if not millions – of times within minutes of being published online. News organisations across the world will have had permission to publish the images within their own articles, and individuals will have tweeted the images and posted them on their social network streams. Social media is, in many ways, the enemy of the Trump administration.
However, social media is also partly responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump into the most powerful office in the world. Not many people could have predicted that he would win. Nobody really knew the full extent to which he had taken over the US. This is partly due to the ‘echo chamber’ effect of social media, and the fact that we are all living in our own personal social network bubbles, alongside people who share our views. We surround ourselves online with the people and the organisations who share our views. I know that personally, none of my Facebook friends were rejoicing on the morning of 9th November 2016, as the news broke that Donald Trump had been elected, and there were no pro-Trump tweets in my timeline. When it comes to politics, my Facebook timeline is filled with the views of my mainly leftwards-leaning ‘friends’ (I don’t really have any actively far-right-wing Facebook friends), and the views of the public pages I have chosen to follow – pages like The Guardian, The Independent, Britain Against Britain First, and a variety of LGBT+-supporting pages which – understandably – are not the biggest supporters of a president who stripped back the rights of transgender children, or a vice-president who believes in ‘conversion therapy’. Therefore, my experience online is that everyone is against Trump, and as such, there is no way that he could possibly be elected as the leader of the free world. How wrong we were.
So…let’s pause for a second and get a hang of things. Trump represents Big Brother. The Party is represented by the Trump administration, as they seem to have a total disregard for what either of the two actual main American political parties think, with the Donald taking more than a month of his presidency to stop signing executive orders and actually get around to visiting a joint session of congress. The main culprits for enforcing The Party’s nonsense are two …logically challenged… robots, going by the names of Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer.
Kellyanne Conway is the Trump administration’s chief enforcer of doublethink, presenting “alternative facts” at every possible opportunity. It’s hardly surprising that soon after she stumbled her way into the press spotlight, sales of Orwell’s novel skyrocketed, so much so that Amazon’s warehouse ran out of copies. In the novel, the main occurrences of doublethink come when The Party insists that ‘2+2=5’ is a statement of fact. The Trump administration attempted this, with press secretary Sean Spicer insisting that despite the fact that the Washington Metro was used 513,000 times by 11am on the day of Obama’s inauguration in 2009, Trump had a better turn out with 193,000 journeys in the same time period eight years later. Yes, you read that correctly: the Trump administration tried to insist that 193,000 is greater than 513,000. Conway also tried to re-write history, citing the ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ to support her argument in favour of Trump’s first attempt at a travel ban on refugees. The only issue is the fact that no such massacre took place. Again, The Party could just insert a news story into the newspapers of 2011 to include such a massacre, and then claim what Conway claimed, saying that the incident didn’t get much media attention. Of course, the ‘massacre’ received absolute zilch when it comes to media attention, because THERE WAS NOTHING TO REPORT ON – THE ‘MASSACRE’ NEVER HAPPENED! Reporting in such a way, on a totally fictitious event, would surely have been an instance of… (wait for it) …Fake News!?
The Party had no free and impartial press to worry about. The Trump administration does have a free and impartial press to worry about. The Party produced its own press in the form of a newspaper that was the source of news for everyone. Unfortunately for The Donald, not everyone believes everything reported by Fox News. The solution, according to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer? Block any news organisations who have ever said anything negative about the administration from a press briefing, instead holding a ‘gaggle’ with a select few pro-Trump news organisations. This rocky relationship with the press is largely down to the mainstream media’s tendency to report facts. Real facts, rather than alternative facts. Throughout his campaign, Trump’s outlandish claims were debunked by press organisations making use of ‘hard facts’ to counteract Trump’s arguments on most topics…
Finally, Trump’s grasp of the English language does leave a lot to be desired. Taking his personal Twitter account away from him would seem a good idea, but instead he has runned his Twitter account into a rather ungood state. In fact, his use of language is occasionally closer to newspeak than standard English, as many of us grammar nerds, who are not in any way loyally blackwhite, are keen to point out on social media. So as The Donald continues to churn out his duckspeak, we can only hope that some anteDonald normality returns sometime soon, before the world makes too speedful a decline. Donald, please ungo with your sorry excuse for a presidency, and take a leaf or two out of the Obama administration, which was indisputably a doubleplusgood time for everyone involved.