A note before I start: I know this is the first time I’ve posted in a week. I want to thank all of you for being here, and for allowing me to take a few days off for the holiday and to celebrate some special anniversaries. We’re back to our regular schedule!
Earlier this year, I was reading an interesting article about how sales of the book 1984 had skyrocketed since the Trump election. While the article didn’t say why this was the case, I had some ideas, so I decided to read it again myself.
First and foremost, this blog is not going to be spoiler free. If you haven’t read 1984 yet then I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. Whatever it is, put it down, log off, whatever, and go read the book. You won’t regret it.
With that out of the way, I should probably give you my actual opinion on this one before we go into it, because how I feel about the actual content of the book could change how relevant I feel the book is to our current political atmosphere. As you may have guessed from my previous recommendation, this is one of my all time favorites. It’s funny though, because a lot of people read 1984 in high school for an English class or whatever. I also read it in high school, but I remember going into Borders (praise be, you will be missed) and seeing it on a “required reading” display. The cover was a huge blue eye and when I read the synopsis on the back it sounded like nothing I’d ever read before in my life, so I bought it and read it when I got home. George Orwell is really an incredible author, and although I’ve never lived through any sort of political dictatorship, the book makes me feel a certain way. It’s just so dismal. The best word I can use to describe it is just gray. Everything is grey, cold, and completely void of joy, which is absolutely what makes this book perfect for the subject matter. I love that he didn’t try to save any of his characters, that no one rose up against the powers that be and won. His resistance didn’t stand a chance, and his characters couldn’t fight the machine. It’s just brilliant.
All that to say, with the election of our Fearless Leader Donald Trump, how closely are we walking to this same gray, dismal political crevasse? And are we leaving ourselves any breadcrumbs to find ourselves out again?
The obvious connection between Trump and this explosion in 1984‘s popularity is political falsehood on several levels. I mean, it started before he was elected, sure, but we couldn’t even get through the first week without the lies staring.
I’m talking, of course, about Trump’s inauguration crowd. After his first day in office, an image surfaced on the internet of the plaza during the event, which had a crowd smaller than most rock concerts. It’s actually amazing to see the difference between Obama’s crowd and his. Well, being the pompous SOB he is, he immediately went on the defensive, which is not shocking at all. What IS shocking is that his press secretary Sean Spicer claimed that the press was lying, that the crowd was one of if not the largest in history, and that the pictures had been taken at the wrong time or at bad angles, a pretty classic example of attempting to distort the truth. If you remember from the book, facts could easily be changed, which meant history could be changed. If there was nothing about an event in the papers, or if the event was written one way, then it didn’t matter what actually happened, right?
Which brings us to another point about this entire election. I don’t know if this is an issue that’s come about due to this particular election or before then, but the emerging popularity of viral fake news stories is alarming to say the least. I say I don’t know much about this issue because I don’t use any social media platforms, so I’m not really exposed to fake news as often as say a regular Facebook user. So what are these fake news stories? Obviously, it can be hard to tell. So I googled it, and here are some of the headlines I found:
“Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement.”
“Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide”
Okay, so those both sound a little ridiculous. What’s the issue? The issue is that the average Facebook user will read one of those headlines, clutch their pearls, and immediately share it with their friends. They don’t take the time to look at the article in order to determine if the information is fake or not. These fake articles spread like wild fire through the social media world, reaching thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. Many of them only share these stories because they believe them. So if enough people think that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump, who’s to say he hasn’t? What happens when people look back into our history decades or centuries from now and can’t determine what’s real from what’s fake?
There has also been a lot of concern about fake news changing the course of politics in our country. For example, we know that fake news regarding both presidential candidates was circling during the election. Could those articles have swayed voters to one or another candidate? There are also whispers of other countries spreading this fake news, but we will get to that soon.
So, I’ve reached the end of my first point and we are already closing in on a thousand words. In the interest of not making one book length post, I’m going to make this a series and spread the wealth a little bit, so look for part two on Friday.
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