Reading 1984 in America

Back during the first revolution, in the 60s, we all carried Mao’s Little Red Book [properly called Quotations from Chairman Mao, see it here]. Few of us read it; fewer still understood it.  But having it in the back pocket of one’s jeans conveyed hip activism, someone engaged in America’s cultural revolution, never mind the fact that Mao’s cultural revolution was a brutal suppression of free expression that resulted in [unverified] deaths numbering in the millions. Ironically, the China’s Central Committee bore a great resemblance to The Party in 1984.

Now 1984 is the number one best seller on Amazon, but I suspect many more people  bought it than will actually read it. That’s OK: I bought my Signet edition in 1966 [!] and didn’t get around to reading it until a few weeks ago. But once I did I discovered that it’s a work of literature, a terrific read that bears more than a little resemblance to the political morass we find ourselves in today.

However: those who know only the superficial aspects of the story think that the central parallel is Big Brother Is Watching You now refers to how the NSA and Homeland Security are spying on our words, our faces, our meta-data, our browser histories and our visas. Or that, with the use of the Trumpian word salad or the Conway alternative facts, we are seeing the use of newspeak and doublethink. They are entirely different things with entirely different purposes, but you won’t know that unless you actually read the book. You can read the Cliff notes version at Wikipedia, but the most direct parallels, amazing and horrifying in their seeming prescience, are embedded into the text proper and not the story:

At all times the Party is in possession of absolute truth, and clearly the absolute can never have been different from it is now.  1984

I never used the word ban … I never said they insulted the “intelligence”services that was the fake news …I never said I would consider using nuclear weapons … Donald Trump

The enemy of the moment always represented absolute absolute evil …` 1984

“Islam is a political ideology…it definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion …It’s like cancer…a malignant cancer in this case.” Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, security advisor to Donald Trump.




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