The opinion of George Orwell’s 1984 as a truly extrapolative piece of fiction regarding political turmoil has been questioned by modern and contemporary critics of Orwell’s time. This was often due to the overtly primitive, regressive, and openly vicious nature of the antagonism in Orwell’s work in contrast to other dystopian fiction of the time that portrayed the same hardships with more nuance. However, the brutal, atavistic nature and rudimentary tactics of dictatorship in 1984 have been progressively prevalent in modern politics, possibly with the start of Donald Trump’s presidency. The brutal and crude presidency and behavior of Donald Trump and its worship have a number of overlapping characteristics with the worshiping of Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984.
In a very distinct way from previous politicians, Trump asserts power through confrontational and abrasive speech and actions. Despite this, much of his talking points remain untrue, but many supporters believe them due to the force with which they are communicated (Gopnik, 2017). In parallel, the citizens of Oceania are also being lied to but continue to follow Big Brother’s will as if it was the truth. Both implement tactics of fear and pressure in order for their followers to submit to their lies, despite some potentially not even believing in them, as evidenced by the protagonist of 1984 and reactions to Trump’s falsifications about three million illegal voters.
How Donald Trump engaged with media, news, and information were reflective of the strategy implemented by Big Brother. In 1984, the regime used a ‘memory hole’, a concept that destroys facts or documents either inconvenient or threatening Big Brother’s selected narrative (Klaas, 2017). After the facts were disposed of, citizens were taught alternative facts while they were forced to forget things they knew as the truth before. The primary purpose of this action was to segment one belief that Big Brother was never wrong. Trump’s influence is not as severe, but the attempt to quell any negative reporting is just as prevalent. In fact, Trump had taken well-sourced and credible writing and reporting to the Senate Intelligence Committee so that they may investigate the criticism directed towards him. Similarly, he labeled all negative regard as false information.
The collaboration of induced ‘truth’, the rejection of criticism, and behavior and speech that is attention-grabbing have resulted in Trump gaining a devout following. In many ways, it mirrors the landscape of 1984, specifically the individuals that follow and worship Big Brother and may even view him as an overseeing god-like figure. The quote ‘Big Brother is watching you’ is especially relevant in terms of Big Brother’s almost superhuman powers. When dissecting Trump rallies, it is often found that certain categories of his supporters have heavily religious and ethnically and culturally homogenous backgrounds (Sharlet, 2020). Unlike Big Brother, Trump is not seen as a god-figure himself but is viewed as either a connection or messenger of either some religious ideal or ambition.
These perceptions of Big Brother and Trump frequently result in both fictional characters and real supporters appointing both the concept and the man with additional power and purpose. Big Brother’s opposition is punished by the Thought Police and those who worship him. This often manifests within Trump rallies as religious or white supremacy, often resulting in extremely anti-Democratic sentiments and possible conflict or violence.
Gopnik, Adam. “Orwell’s 1984 and Trump’s America”. The New Yorker, 2017. Web.
Klaas, Brian. “Trump owes Orwell for ‘1984.’ Big Brother is his role model”. USA Today, 2017. Web.
Sharlet, Jeff. “Inside the cult of Trump, his rallies are the church and he is the gospel”. Hive, 2020, Web.