Sales of 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, skyrocketed after Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s campaign-manager-turned-senior-advisor, used the phrase “alternative facts” in an interview.
Soon after Conway took it upon herself to bizarrely rename “lies” as “alternative facts”, Orwell’s post-modern classic soared to No.1 on Amazon.com.
First published in 1949 and imagining a future authoritarian society, 1984 is widely regarded as one of the most influential novels of the 20th century - and almost 70 years after its publication, it suddenly feels frighteningly relevant.
Here are five ways 1984 resonates today...
In 1984, nearly all public and private places have large TV screens broadcasting government propaganda, news and approved entertainment. But there’s a more sinister side, too, as they are also two-way monitors that spy on the citizens’ private lives. Today, the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter use our information to find out where we go, what we like, who we know, what we buy online... and much more. There are also CCTV cameras in every town and city that follow us as we go about daily business. Big Brother is, most certainly, watching.
The endless war
In 1984, there’s a global war that’s seemingly been going on forever and, as Winston Smith comes to realise, the enemy keeps on changing. Sound familiar? Today we have the so-called “War On Terror”, with no end in sight. Oh, and the ill-defined enemy could be anywhere, doing anything, at any time.
The government in 1984 uses “Newspeak”, stripped down language that’s used to limit free thought. OMG! Lol! RU serious? Yes, 1984 basically gives Orwell the credit for coming up with the majority of our text conversations.
Orwell said political language can be “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”. Some might say Trump takes doublethink to a new extreme. Indeed, Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote that this week’s reference by Trump spokesperson Conway to “alternative facts” means we have “come full Orwell”.
In 1984, the speakwrite is a dictation machine that transcribes speech into text. Should we, then, be giving Mr Orwell credit for Siri and Ask Google too?