The New York Times recently published an article entitled, “Why ‘1984’ is a 2017 Must Read,” a statement I can whole heartedly agree with, only for different reasons. Now, stepping aside the irony of the New York Times calling anything Orwellian, given they were caught in a WikiLeaks release exchanging emails with John Podesta, they are correct that George Orwell’s novel did predict the current state of the world, only it is, as I would argue, the state of the left not the current Trump administration nor any right-wing upsurge he predicted. I would go one step further and say that the right-wing upsurge is a revolution against what has become the IngSoc (English Socialism).
I can argue this on four points.
1. Doublethink & “Alternative Facts”.
The controversy over Kellyanne Conway’s statement, “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts”, led to a reported boom in sales of the George Orwell classic. The argument is that the notion of “alternative facts” was similar to Orwell’s doublethink – the idea that you could have two conflicting truths exist simultaneously. In the novel, people learn doublethink in order to fit in and is tied to the Big Brother propaganda. In other words, “alternative facts” are given by a government to manipulate people into thinking that both their statements and the facts they’ve been given elsewhere are mutually correct, even though they are contradictory; this leads neither of them to be able to be considered correct over the other. The purpose of doing so, as I interpret it, would be to make it unclear in a person’s mind who is telling the truth, therefore allowing the government to lie and not be held accountable for it.
While I agree that Conway’s wording was stupid, she did not outright say “we present alternative facts” full stop. Rather, I think, in the context of the conversation she was probably implying that the media’s “facts” were not facts at all. Maybe they had alternative information that backed up their own statements. Or maybe she did mean that in which case I won’t defend her for it, but it doesn’t seem likely, actually if you read the transcript it does just sound like a bad phrasing that reporters leaped on. But why? Why would a journalist seek to find any opportunity, however far fetched, to delegitimise the president? Well it’s a simple answer, because they see him as an opponent to their ideology. I mean think about it, imagine how stupid a masterfully manipulative totalitarian administration would have to be to accidentally tell people they’re lying to them, and yet the media is treating this like a full blown scandal.
By its very nature, two contradicting arguments accepted as fact does imply that one of them is false but it does not say which one. It could be either, so who do you believe? The media, or the government? This is an easy question to answer. First, you do not believe the media, who has spent the last year corroborating the Democratic party doctrine and favouring the Obama administration by cult of personality, but you do not believe any government who can use that precedent of trust to tell you anything they want to in future. So who do you believe? Well, that’s just it. To even ask the question is a problem in itself, if you have to rely on a statement of fact to believe that a fact is correct, without evidence, based solely on the reliability of its source, you are setting that same precedent.
2. Big Brother & Thought Crime.
The Big Brother character in Orwell’s book represents a totalitarian state, one that surveils its people, and punishes them for what is considered a thought crime. There are thought police who seek to make sure that everyone believes universally that which is dictated by a big brother government. If I were to put anything in the modern day to this category, barring the advocacy of big governments like the European Union, it would be political correctness.
By its very origin, political correctness (the “I don’t know if I can say that” ideology), was used to silence alternative opinions. According to Kohl, “The term “politically correct” was used disparagingly, to refer to someone whose loyalty overrode compassion, and led to bad politics.”
Now, whether or not you accept Kohl’s analysis, just look at the term itself. A ‘politic’ is an opinion on how the world should be run. To say that someone’s opinion on how the world should be run is not ‘correct’ is to say that they are guilty of wrong think; a thought crime. However, rarely is it used in the modern day to refer to someone’s politics – it may not be politically incorrect to vote for Donald Trump, but both Donald Trump and his supporters are likely politically incorrect, which is a subtle difference. Equally, it is not often used to direct or punish thought (unless you belong to the “objectification” school of Feminism), but to direct or punish the expression of thought, in language. Language policing is not thought policing, that is unless you apply motive. Then you can demonise based on the assumption of thought by association to, or expression of, thought which is seen to be “incorrect”.
Closer still, is the concept of “hate crime”. To punish differently a man who attacks someone else, from a man who attacks someone else based on a protected characteristic, is to make motive the only arbiter. If to commit a crime based on prejudice is worse than that same crime with any other motive, you are punishing the thought of hate, so you are ruling on a thought crime. It also sets a precedent, where motive can be assumed and applied by the ideology of political correctness, for which, given its ever-changing set of rules, anyone at any moment can be culpable. A regular crime today, can be a hate crime tomorrow even if, to you, your motive is the same.
Either way political correctness toes a fine line to Orwell’s thought police.
3. The Ministry of Truth & Plenty.
I published an article last week discussing what I called the Papacy of Experts, tying the concept of “expert opinions” to propaganda and religiosity. From that article I assert that “bishops of the holy see pass down some truth which is known to be had by the holiness of the man who told it to them, as so can an expert pass down his truth, which is known to be had by the intelligence of the man who told it to him.” My point being that facts from institutions whether it’s centered around climate change, psychology, economics or other sciences should not be trusted religiously by the titles of the men who claim them. Anyone labeled a “science denier” for being sceptical about any of these purported facts are being silenced from doing the job of a scientist, which is scepticism, by a threat of social exclusion. This in no small way can be attributed to Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, responsible for revising the truth, in line with the state’s interpretation of events.
In the same vein, the “fake news” witch trials in the mainstream media which primarily targeted conservative websites who disagreed with their liberal narrative, is a perfect example of an attempt to control “truth” as it is perceived and to do so on credibility and overt representation. In other words, in every paper, on every screen, on every website, bleeding its way even to the entertainment industry. We are so much dominated by celebrity and fiction that when Kellyanne Conway used the phrase “alternative facts”, millions of people rushed to purchase a fictional novel, it is also why we watch Schindler’s List in History class to teach us about the holocaust, because education shares too a philosophy and a message. It does not seek to inform, it seeks to instruct. By definition, it seeks to “educate” (give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to…).
4. IngSoc (English Socialism).
Make no mistake, Orwell’s nineteen eighty-four was not a criticism of right wing nationalism, nor really fascism (if fascism is to be believed on the far right), but rather soviet-socialism. It was anti-collectivism; or Oligarchical Collectivism, as described in the book, which “rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it does so in the name of socialism.”
Another passage in the book explains the ideology as follows, “The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close […] in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that.”
Now, from the left at the moment we have the democratic socialists, of Bernie Sanders, who probably do believe that human beings would be free and equal as a result of government power. We have global socialism, of Hillary Clinton and the European Union, probably belonging to the ideology of the Ingsoc, and we have the antifas, or anti fascists, a sub section of protesters, often seen in the modern day sporting socialist flags, seeking to “defeat capitalism” for the sake of humanity; not to mention the Newspeak style shortening of the name. It seems then a bit ironic to label the Trump administration, by most extreme accounts protectionist, patriotic and nationalist, to the Big Brother of nineteen eighty-four, when the labelers represent everything within that ideology.
Ingsoc is formed of moral relativism and collectivism, so too, is the modern left – from identity politics to nihilism and existentialism, the modern left is the perfect representation of Ingsoc.
Even such a brief analysis as this, it seems absurd to apply the Orwellian label anywhere else than in an ideology where anyone opposed to the prevailing narrative is “post-truth” (a far more dangerous and subtle form of manipulation than “alternative truth”); where people march in the streets for a global European superstate; where non-liberal voters are called “low information”; where in Nottingham it is a hate crime to be “mysogynistic”; where in Scotland there is an Offensive Behaviours Act; where in Canada, they tried to ban gossiping in public places; where in America Barack Obama used the IRS to target conservatives, preventing them from running against him; where the government can decide how much you should earn, and where the rest of that earning should go; where a candidate can be considered for office who deleted documents so that they cannot be investigated (an Orwellian memory hole); and worse, where people can be so brainwashed as to read a copy of nineteen eighty-four, and believe it to be a book opposed to patriotism, nationalism, and constitutional conservatism.
Although, the only thing a boom in copies sold of nineteen-eighty four proves, is that none of these people have read it yet, so I suppose that makes sense.