As the age of Donald Trump begins and we see his first few policies taking effect, many are saying there is something unsettlingly uncanny about the turn of recent events. While some say history might be repeating itself, others are suggesting the prospect of literary fiction manifesting into reality.
In the last few weeks, sales have soared for George Orwell’s novel about a dystopian world oppressed by intense government surveillance and public control.
Nineteen Eighty-Four went to the top of Amazon’s best selling list, with sales rising by 20 percent in Britain and Australia. Publishers have reportedly had to print tens of thousands of new copies in order to satisfy this increase in demand.
The rush in sales came after the “Meet the Press” interview with one of Donald Trump’s advisors, Kellyanne Conway. After being asked why false reports were given on the number of people at Trump’s inauguration, Conway argued that these were “alternative facts”, after shunning the interviewer for being “overly dramatic about it”.
The false claim was made by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, as he claimed that Trump’s inauguration saw the “largest audience ever to witness an inauguration”. Having been proved incorrect since then, the claim has gone viral, as people worldwide have both mocked and seriously condemned this false report.
Conway’s interview has struck many as sharing similarities with “newspeak” in Nineteen Eighty-Four, a language created and controlled by the government to restrict freedom of speech and to alternate facts. Trump’s precedency has been compared to the politics of the “Ministry of Truth” in the novel, where knowledge is filtered through the government to satisfy an image of success and nationwide support.
As Conway avoided addressing the issue directly in the interview, she argued that you cannot “prove those numbers”. This manipulation of basic numerical fact sparks similarities with the most iconic alteration of factual reality in Nineteen Eighty-four: “In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it”.
The issues of truth in the media and the facts given by the government is a topic frequently brought to our attention. While a lot of the press clearly filters information in support of certain political views, the power of the media on public belief systems is undeniable. The government has often been scrutinised for miscommunication and the frequent glossing-over of the truth in order to conceal weaknesses.
Although almost accepted now as a part of life, many still urge us to challenge these manipulations the government gives in its public communications. It is times like these where we need to fight for our right to not be put in the dark by politics, while keeping an eye on the truth between the lines.
Orwell’s novel has often been commended as having exceptional futuristic intuition, and is read widely as a novel warning us of the potential future of capitalism. The American government now having shifted to the far right, warning signs are glaring as we venture into an era of greater public oppression and reduced liberty for many under Trump’s precedency.
The surge in sales for Orwell’s novel is an interesting phenomenon as the figures suggest a mass public anticipation and worldwide anxiety towards what the future holds in the age of Trump.
Are we about to see Nineteen Eighty-Four become a reality?