January 20th saw the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America. Great crowds of people showed up to watch the event in person. However, not as many as the Trump administration might have liked. Not long after the inauguration, comparisons were being made between President Trump’s crowds, and those of President Obama eight years previous. The truthful claim that President Obama’s crowds were bigger sparked a swift backlash from the Trump administration.
On Saturday, January 21st, Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, hosted a press release in which he claimed that the media were engaged in deliberate false reporting. According to Spicer’s announcement, photos of the inauguration were framed in such a way as to make it appear to have fewer people. He claimed that for the first time lawn covers were used and that they highlighted the spaces where people were not standing. Lastly, he claimed that the use of magnetometers made it difficult for people to access the lawn as quickly as they did during President Obama’s inauguration.
Media and public alike were quick to point out that all of these statements were false in some way. In defense of Sean Spicer, one of President Trump’s counselor’s, Kellyanne Conway, said that the statements were not wrong but rather “alternative facts.”
This became one of the few times the term “Orwellian” was absolutely appropriate. George Orwell’s book 1984 is set in a world of a totalitarian government known as Ingsoc, ruled by an unseen force known only as Big Brother. This book popularized the term Orwellian to mean a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past.
That definition is almost too perfect with what the Trump administration was doing last weekend. They fed misinformation, denied the truth (Sean Spicer refused to take questions after the press release), all in an attempt to manipulate the past.
The idea of “alternative facts” brought up the idea of several core concepts of 1984. The most talked of right now is Newspeak, a language in 1984 that has been stripped down to limit the ability for free thought. There is no room in Newspeak for controversial words like “lie,” “false,” or “wrong.” Instead you get “alternative” facts.
We also have Doublethink, the act of believing two contradictory thoughts in your mind at one time and believing them both to be true. Doublethink brings the contradictory slogan of Big Brother, “Was is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”
Lastly, we have the Ministry of Truth. In 1984, the “truth” is simply whatever Big Brother decides it to be. If Big Brother tells you that the sky is green, you had better believe it or else you will be guilty of a thought crime. In the novel, the main character Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth. His job is to edit past newspapers so that even the past upholds to Big Brother’s “truth.” Everything else is sent down the “memory hole” to be incinerated.
If this is how the Trump administration handles trivial information, how will they handle what’s important?
What other similarities do you see?
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Featured image via Business Insider