George Orwell’s best-selling dystopian novel 1984 has sold out on Amazon in the U.S, with publisher Penguin struggling to print copies to meet the increasing demand. Since readers have compared the novel to modern politics ever since its publication in 1949, this suggests a more notable shift than ever in the current political climate. When even calling aspects of society “Orwellian” has the tendency to sound clichéd due to its overuse, what does the sudden surge in the novel’s popularity say about the state of political affairs?
The novel’s rise to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list came within days of President Trump’s adviser, Kellyanne Conway, coining the phrase “alternative facts,” in response to Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false assertions about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd. Additionally, in a press conference Spicer claimed that “sometimes we can disagree with the facts.”
When even calling aspects of society “Orwellian” has the tendency to sound clichéd due to its overuse, what does the sudden surge in the novel’s popularity say about the state of political affairs?
This lack of basis in any rational truth was perhaps the spark behind a sudden urge to compare today’s politics to 1984, and evocative to many of Orwell’s concept of “Doublethink.” If the government chooses to believe that two and two equal five, and the public think it also, then it is true, in spite of clear evidence that it does not.
Conway, Trump and Spicer surely must know that anything other than a fact is nothing more than falsehood; are they therefore demonstrating “Doublethink,” in which if they believe strongly enough that something should be true, it will become fact?
If the government chooses to believe that two and two equal five, and the public think it also, then it is true
Never before have we had a democratically-elected government openly stating falsehoods and claiming them to be fact. There is little surprise that Oxford Dictionaries announced “post-truth” as its word of 2016, and thus little surprise that readers are drawing parallels between this and 1984′s Ministry of Truth, which censors, alters, and completely rewrites events from history.
This week, Conway referred to a “Bowling Green Massacre” which never happened; her assertion that it did is worryingly reminiscent of Big Brother fabricating and erasing events on a whim, unbeknownst to the public.
There is little surprise that Oxford Dictionaries announced “post-truth” as its word of 2016, and … little surprise that readers are drawing parallels between this and 1984′s Ministry of Truth
With personal feelings increasingly replacing truth as the driving force behind garnering political support, it has become necessary to stir up an alarmingly strong emotional response, often through inciting hatred. Trump’s politics, centred on a fear of terrorism and illegal immigration, make it all too easy to think of the Ministry of Truth’s “Two Minutes Hate,” where the face of the “enemy” is shown to anger the workers to the point of screaming and throwing objects at it. Even the protagonist Winston admits to feeling swept up in the powerful emotions evoked, something reflected in today’s society from Trump rallies to the echo chambers created on social media.
It is evident that more and more people are drawing on literature to find frightening comparisons to their current political situation, from across the pond to our own government, where politicians claim that “people have had enough of experts” and solid facts. The demand for more copies of Orwell’s novel shows that, even after seven decades, 1984 resonates the strongest as governments edge closer and closer to the Ministry of Truth’s slogan: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”