Back in January, a two-word phrase uttered by Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway gave George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four its biggest sales boost in years.
In response to White House secretary Sean Spicer’s assertion that, contrary to the mainstream media’s head-count, citizens who attended the Trump swearing-in represented the “largest audience” ever to appear at an inauguration, Conway defended his claim, stating that he was merely giving out “alternative facts.”
For many on the anti-Trump left, this phrase was evidence that Big Brother had arrived in the White House, and, perhaps to understand the nature of the “beast” in the oval office, (one purchaser called Nineteen Eighty-Four the “Perfect Primer for Potus 45”) purchased en masse copies of Orwell’s 68-year-old novel, making it a best-seller on Amazon.
Pundits went further in the comparison than merely Trump abusing language. For mainstream media journalists, the administration was trying control information rather than sharing it.
Writing in the flagship paper of the mainstream media, New York Times reporter Michiko Kaktutani described sinister moves by the administration “to curb the flow of information from several government agencies involved in environmental issues.”
For Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker, the very character of the administration was Big Brother-like.
To get the “flavor” of Trump’s “primitive, atavistic, and uncomplicatedly brutal,” he wrote, “brand of authoritarianism,” one must return to the novel.
But these leftist assaults on Trump are a double-edged sword. First, it must be said that Trump is a bully, and expresses disturbing authoritarian tendencies, and that his supporters during the campaign had a tendency to chant and scream (i.e, their screaming “Goldman Sachs” at Senator Ted Cruz’s wife at the Republican National Convention when the Senator refused to support Trump in a speech).
However, the Big Brother comparison only goes so far. In the novel, Orwell stated that the only salvation for overthrowing Big Brother resided in the working class. But it was this very working class, admittedly of a white variety, that in all probability put Trump into office.
Moreover, liberals have at times expressed an O’Brien-like (O’Brien was the chief torturer of Winston Smith) smug disdain of the working class supporters of Trump; this was typified in Hillary Clinton’s characterization of them as “deplorables” (O’Brien called them “animals”).
Orwell, by comparison, had a much more favorable view of the working class. For him, they were essential to a socialist revolution that upheld civil liberties because they were the repository of “common decency.”
“I believe very deeply…in the English people and in their capacity to centralize their economy without destroying freedom in doing so.”
Intellectuals had no such sentiments, and were instead totalitarian in outlook, especially of the Stalinist variety. Orwell saw the intellectuals of his day as “perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history, etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.”
Orwell located these totalitarian tendencies as less about theoretical Marxism than in a sort of penis envy for Soviet brutality. For them, support of Soviet brutality represented a form of hope that one day they too “could get their hands on the whip.”
The anti-Trump left has no such allegiance to any country, but they are nevertheless totalitarian in outlook, and preach violence and an abandonment of free speech guarantees under the Constitution toward their opponents.
Foremost in this intellectual assault on individual liberty have been journalists Natasha Lennard and Jesse Benns.
Lennard, a British-born writer, who was in the forefront of strategizing with Occupy Wall Street groups, has argued that Trump’s “fascism” renders those who follow him ineligible for free speech protections. For those liberals who argue otherwise, Lennard has harsh words. In her estimation, liberals who support the First Amendment are “deranged.”
“Liberals cling to institutions: They begged to no avail for faithless electors, they see ‘evisceration’ in a friendly late-night-talk-show debate, they put faith in investigations and justice with regards to Russian interference and business conflicts of interest. They grasp at hypotheticals about who could have won, were things not as they in fact are,” Lennard said.
She added, “They forget, too, that while the First Amendment ensures that the government will not interfere with free speech, this has no bearing on neo-fascists having the right to be heard or countenanced by the rest of us.”
Even before Trump won, her co-thinker, Jesse Benn, was asserting that the First Amendment did not apply to those who dared to nominate Trump. And like Lennard, he condemned those liberals who recoiled from the concept of street violence.
Calling such violence a “perfectly logical reaction” to Trump’s very presence as the Republican presidential candidate, Benn condemned liberals in class warrior terms. Liberals, in his estimation, had a privileged position that those torching cars and generators did not.
Hence, liberals were carrying out their own “fascism” by attempting to “silence forms of resistance disagreeable to privileged sensibilities.”
Lennard and Benn’s frankly “fascist” positions are flanked by left-coast celebrities. Rosie O’Donnell and Sarah Silverman have argued for martial law in order to stop Trump, as those like Kathy Griffin clearly fantasize about Trump’s death by holding up bloody, severed heads depicting the President.
Such sentiments are much closer to Big Brother than, at the moment, Trump. Orwell’s regime began with imposing martial law, and left-coast celebrities who use performance art and chant for Trump’s death are engaging in their own form of “the two-minutes hate.”
Before writing the novel, Orwell left us his sentiments regarding the Benn’s, Lennard’s and O’Donnell’s of his day. For a quote by Orwell perfectly encapsulates the left-wing terrorism carried out against Trump “fascism” today:
“The sin of nearly all left-wingers from 1933 onward is that they have wanted to be anti-fascist without being anti-totalitarian.”
Hence, to some extent, the recipe for Nineteen Eighty-Four is evident, and those who purchase the novel should be aware that the Left is laying the groundwork for it.