Doublethink: Make America Non-Orwellian Again

Trump "Enemy of the People" tweet

Trump “Enemy of the People” tweet

On August 16 – our publication day – almost one hundred newspapers and magazines, ranging from major national dailies to small local operations, will respond to a call from Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor for the editorial page of The Boston Globe, to editorialize against a ‘‘dirty war against the free press’’ being waged by President Donald Trump. Trump regularly and repeatedly uses inflammatory language, tweeting as recently as August 5: “The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE.”

Those are dangerous words: “Stalin introduced the concept of ‘enemy of the people.’ This term [враг народа] immediately freed from the need for any evidence of ideological error…” said Nikita Khrushchev in his famous denunciation of his predecessor, “On the Personality Cult and its Consequences” (1956). In Stalin’s Russia, being labeled an “enemy of the people” was a death warrant.

Trump lies often, almost compulsively and pathologically, and does not like to be caught by the press and confronted. Fact-checker PolitiFact keeps a running tally: 69% of his statements have been rated either “Mostly False” (22%), “False” (33%), or “Pants on Fire” (14%). Not only did they award Trump “Lie of the Year” in 2015, but all four finalist lies came from him.

Such lying is a deliberate strategy by a narcissistic and egomaniacal authoritarian. As Hannah Arendt said in a 1974 interview in The New York Review of Books, “The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer… And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

As journalist and novelist George Orwell put it in his 1949 masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, explaining that all written records, including newspapers, would have to be falsified to conceal a shifting alliance in war: “Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. A large part of the political literature of five years was now completely obsolete.”

Read our writers’ essays here:

Speak Up … While You Still Can by Amadeus Finlay

Fine. Just Fine.  Everything Is Fine. by Mike Bilow

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