Trump a mas­ter of ‘Newspeak’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - RON CHARLES

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”

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