Trump a master of ‘Newspeak’
DONALD Trump may not be a big reader, but he has been a boon for sales of dystopian literature. Amid our thirst for adult colouring books and stories about missing girls and reincarnated puppies, some grim old classics are speaking to us with new urgency.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale have all risen up the latest paperback best-seller list.
But by far the greatest beneficiary of our newly piqued national anxiety is George Orwell’s 1984. Soon after senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said yesterday that the administration was issuing “alternative facts”, Orwell’s classic novel spiked to No 1 on Amazon.
Like officials from the Ministry of Truth, Conway and press secretary Sean Spicer doubled down on Trump’s fanciful contention that his inauguration drew the “largest audience ever”, despite photographic evidence to the contrary.
The Twittersphere responded with allusions to 1984, and Penguin announced plans for a special 75 000-copy reprint noting that, since the inauguration, sales for the novel have increased by 9 500%.
Leaders have always tried to manipulate the truth, of course, and modern politicians of all persuasions want to “control the narrative”, but there’s something freshly audacious about the president’s assault on basic maths, his effort to assemble from the substance of his vanity hundreds of thousands of fans on the Mall.
Almost 70 years after 1984 was first published, Orwell suddenly feels double-plus 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”.
Born in 1903, Orwell lived through two world wars and saw the rise of totalitarian regimes on an unprecedented scale. He decried “the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth”.
Now we’re being told that millions of illegal immigrants kept Trump from winning the popular vote, and that the science behind climate change is a Chinese hoax. This is ungood.
But Democrats shouldn’t feel smug about Trump’s fluency in Newspeak. The Obama administration did its best to conceal that the National Security Agency was listening to our electronic communications, an eerie parallel to the surveillance described in 1984.
Fortunately, we’re not living under the dystopian terror that Orwell described. Our new leader is not the manufactured icon of a supreme state. He’s a supernova of insecurities, tweeting out his insults and threats to increasingly perplexed citizens who still enjoy the right to object in whatever language they choose. – Washington Post
DÉJÀ VU?: George Orwell’s “Nineteen EightyFour”