Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 skyrocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list a few days after Donald Trump’s inauguration. The spike in sales was likely precipitated by one of his aides, KellyAnne Conway, discussing the use of “alternative facts.” This statement led many to draw comparisons between the Trump administration and the authoritarian government featured in 1984. The easiest comparisons to make are between “Newspeak” and The Party’s absolute requirement that citizens believe in everything the government says.
In 1984, the government in power — known as “The Party” — requires citizens to use “Newspeak,” a variation of English. Newspeak serves to merge words together and ultimately limit the English language and span of thought. This aspect of 1984 becomes increasingly evident in the ways Trump chooses to communicate with American citizens. His preferred mode of communication would be Twitter, a social media platform that limits each post or “tweet” to 140 characters. Trump typically tweets in two or three tweet intervals amounting to a total of 420 characters, including punctuation, maximum. This, by default limits, the range of speech available for Trump to use.
Of course, Twitter is not the only place aspects of “Newspeak” are evident. In Trump’s speeches, his language ranges from the not so eloquent to the most basic English. He rarely uses words with more than three syllables and when he does it is typically in speeches he did not write for himself. Once again, his fondness for basic language and limited vocabulary is reflective of The Party’s view that the bigger one’s range of vocabulary is, the more likely one will learn enough to be able to find flaws in the government.
Claiming that Trump chooses to use such a limited range of speech intentionally to limit the American people’s range of thought could be seen as quite a stretch. It is possible that Trump simply does not like big words, however, according to Trump himself, he “knows words” and “has the best words.” If this is true, then logically Trump must make a conscious decision to not use his “best words.” Therefore, the parallel between Trump’s speeches and “Newspeak” could likely be intentional.
The next comparison between the Trump Administration and The Party comes from Conway’s assertion that that the Trump administration does not lie, they just use “alternative facts.” In 1984, The Party asserts that in order to truly be seen as a supporter of the government one must accept everything the government claims, even if what they say is not necessarily true. Winston, the main character in 1984, works for the Ministry of Truth. The Ministry works to erase and rewrite historical events so that they agree with The Party’s platform.
The Party’s systematic erasure of facts looks a lot like these “alternative facts” that Conway has suggested. Their case is not helped by the fact that Conway continues to tell lies to somehow support the Trump administration’s views. Recently, she claimed that Trump’s travel ban on refugees was necessary to prevent attacks like the “Bowling Green Massacre,” which is not real. After criticism, Conway explained that she had meant to refer to the Bowling Green terrorists, and apologized for the mistake.
Even further, Trump himself is guilty of spreading “alternative facts” when reality does not agree with him. He constantly tries to blur the lines between facts and reality by spreading fake news and lies while calling real news “fake news”. His administration also released a list of terrorist attacks that they claimed the media had not covered but these attacks were actually covered heavily.These actions, while seemingly harmless, correspond with central themes in 1984 and are eerily similar to The Party’s ability to manipulate the truth.
There is always the option that Trump and his administration simply do not know that they are making these mistakes, instead they choose to live in ignorance about the issues that are affecting America. However, this certainly does not void the 1984 comparisons.
The Party’s slogan includes the line “Ignorance is strength.” Despite criticism,Trump and his administration have made very little effort to reassure the public that they do in fact know what is going on. It seems to them that ignorance is a virtue and a strength, stressing further the similarities between 1984 and the Trump administration.
Whether these similarities are intentional on Trump’s part or not, it is hard to deny that they exist. As the Trump administration continues to raise eyebrows, everyone should be aware of the similarities between 1984 and our current government. If these parallels seem worrisome make sure to call your representatives, attend protests and vote when 2020 comes around.