The demos-bashing elite are the real Orwellians
Today, right now, George Orwell’s earth-shaking novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, is being read aloud from Senate House in London – the inspiration for the book’s fearsome Ministry of Truth, in which Winston Smith works rewriting history and deleting ‘unpersons’. Journalists, authors and Orwell’s (nee Blair’s) descendants are taking turns reading passages, and it is being livestreamed around the world.
Nineteen Eighty-Four, the great tale of totalitarianism and thought control, is not just one of the 20th century’s great novels – it also gave us a political lexicon for understanding and guarding against authoritarianism. When censorship or surveillance rear their heads, references to the thoughtpolice, Ingsoc and the memory hole are never far away. Most keenly, it elucidated how elite control of thought and speech can work to warp reality.
Which is what makes the newfound elite interest in the novel a bit rich. Since Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, sales of Nineteen Eighty-Four have soared. In a post-truth age, cultural types snort, in which slogans on buses and Trumpite alternative facts have brainwashed the unthinking masses, Orwell’s book is more relevant than ever. In this time of bullshiting politicians and gullible plebs, we need to relearn George’s tough lessons.
And yet, if there’s an Orwellian strain to political discourse today, it’s not coming from those who dared in the past 12 months to revolt against the elite. No, it’s in the branding of the democratic Brexit revolt as a ‘tyranny’. It’s in the so-called Progressive Alliance, whose intent – overturning that mandate, the biggest in British history – is anything but progressive. It’s in a Labour MP labelling May’s calling of a free and open election the work of a ‘dictator’.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Democracy is dictatorship. Tim Farron is a liberal democrat. The true Orwellians today are those who constantly cite Orwell to condemn the demos. They should tune in to the livestream. Maybe they’ll learn something.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_