George Orwell was an optimist. As bleak as “1984” is to read, his cautionary tale against totalitarianism makes an assumption about people that, almost 75 years after its writing, has proven an unrealistically generous take on human nature.
The novel is remembered for telescreens, the system of constant surveillance necessary to enforce the party line, and “Big Brother is watching you!” But it is also about the link between oppression and lies. Its hero, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth writing lies, specifically rewriting old news stories so they jibe with the current political pieties. Disgraced party members must be edited out. When the eternal enemy shifts from Eastasia to Eurasia, history must be revised. Orwell suggested people need to be forced to accept lies, and that they will care if those lies are contradicted in news accounts and text books.
Turns out, they don’t. Not judging from Donald Trump and the Republican Party. In their protracted war against truth, they don’t bother altering the past. People will edit reality themselves. The continual lies pouring out of Trump’s mouth—does the media still count them, with a certain idiot gravity, or have we finally given up?— are just taken automatically as gospel, a refinement of totalitarianism George Orwell never dreamed of. Nobody has to do it for them. They volunteer.
This week, the so-called “full forensic audit” run by Trump’s Arizona allies showed that Joe Biden won by more votes than he was initially credited with.
“Truth is truth, numbers are numbers,” said Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, sharing the news.
To some. For now.
In “1984,” “Ignorance is Strength,” and that sure works for Trump, who didn’t bother trying to dismiss the Arizona report. He didn’t say it is unreliable because it was performed by his amateur supporters. No, Trump simply pretended that the report offers vindication, and any suggestion otherwise is not to be believed because it comes from the media.
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