Leftists looking to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four for an idea of how the Trump era might look could realize they’ve already brought parts of the seminal dystopia to life themselves. Brendan O’Neill writes:
I was delighted to read that leftists and millennials and others are snapping up George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in a bid to make some sense of Trump’s presidency. Because I’m hoping that when they get deep into this dystopian tale—into the Newspeaking, sex-fearing, history-rewriting meat of Orwell’s nightmare vision—they might just realize that it describes their authoritarianism better than Trump’s. I can picture their faces now: “Guys… is this novel about us?”
The book shot to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list after Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway used the phrase “alternative facts” to describe the Trump administration’s belief that the crowds at his inauguration were larger than the media had let on. People pointed out that “alternative facts” sounds creepily like something the Party in Orwell’s story would say. Like the Party, Trump seems to believe he can mould reality, fashion fact itself from thin air, to boost his own political standing.
“Alternative facts is a George Orwell phrase,” said Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty. MSNBC correspondent Joy Reid tweeted the following lines from the novel: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Within hours Nineteen Eighty-Four was a bestseller again, people buying it as a guide, a map, to what promises to be the liberty-challenging era of Trump.
But the novel is a better guide to what preceded Trump, to the nannying, nudging, speech-policing, sex-panicking, P.C. culture that Trumpism is in some ways a reaction against. Consider the Junior Anti-Sex League, the prudish youths in Orwell’s story who think the “sex impulse” is dangerous and who devote themselves to spying on interactions between the sexes. “Eroticism was the enemy,” they believed. “Desire was thoughtcrime.” If this prissiness finds its echo in anyone today, it isn’t in the creepily oversexed, pussy-grabbing Trump, but in the stiff buzz-killers of the campus feminist movement.