Copies of 1984 have sold out on Amazon in recent weeks, and you do not need to be Sherlock to figure out why that might be. For the American far-right, and the Trump administration which represents it, the world is the way they say it is. That is true even, or perhaps especially, when the established facts disagree with them. This trend culminated in a key Trump spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, coining the phrase “alternative facts.”
The phrase immediately calls to mind Orwell’s infamous book about a totalitarian fascist state. To draw parallels between Big Brother and Trump, however, is to give the man far more credit than he deserves. The administration in 1984 is so frightening because of its cold, calculated efficiency. It effectively controls the flow of information, to the point where people do not know with certainty what year it actually is.
Contrast this with the mess that the Trump administration has made over the disputed inauguration attendance figures. Press Secretary Sean Spicer delivered the blatant lie that Trump drew “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration”. That lie was delivered with such desperation, it was plain for all to see that it was little more than a knee-jerk reaction. Trump himself is notoriously thin skinned, often taking to Twitter late at night to snap back at even the slightest perceived insult.
Trump is, by all accounts, a man who tends to trust his instincts. A far cry, then, from such master manipulators as General Franco and Mussolini. If Trump is a fascist, then he has seemingly become so without realising it. For one thing, the man has been politically liberal for most of his life. It was only when he needed the support of grassroots Republicans that he suddenly decided he was right-wing.
It is equally doubtful that he even planned to become president. If he had, he would surely have devoted time to acquiring political experience rather than perusing a career as a reality TV star. The scary part is not that a member of the WWE Hall of Fame is now president, it is that there are actual professional wrestlers better qualified for the role. His fellow Hall of Famer, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, was Governor of Minnesota.
We are facing a dystopian future, but it is not of the kind depicted in 1984. That administration cared little for the “proles” that made up the bulk of the population, and sought to manipulate the middle classes instead. Trump, in contrast, is a populist strongman who knows how to work a crowd. He rose to power not by suppressing people’s emotions, but by working them up into a frenzy. If he is a fascist, racist, or hostile to the free press, it is only because his supporters want him to be.
There is a case to be made for calling Donald Trump a fascist but, if he is, then it is not by design. That thought, in itself, is frightening.
(Image courtesy of Metro)