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Trump Versus Biden Revisited on the 75th Anniversary of Orwell's '1984'

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Tyrants must destroy God. Totalitarians must erase all references to Him.

This is central to their enterprise. After all, people who remain conscious of an omnipotent Creator will not worship earthly rulers or man-made institutions. Anyone who loves freedom and has lived in the world these last few years can attest to these truths.

Nonetheless, we do not always recognize the tyrants’ methods or the depth of their evil. For instance, the world’s subtlest totalitarians will advance totalitarianism even by citing books that warn against it. To do this, of course, they must ignore the book’s actual warning.

Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of perhaps the most important anti-totalitarian book ever written. On June 8, 1949, English author George Orwell published “1984,” a dystopian novel about an imagined future in which England belonged to a totalitarian superstate called “Oceania.”



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Winston Smith, the book’s protagonist, works in London’s Ministry of Truth. There, he rewrites history on behalf of The Party, which exerts total control over the people of Oceania through surveillance, censorship and other brutal methods. Mentally, Smith begins to rebel against The Party. He meets and falls for a young woman named Julia, who thinks the same way he does. But his arrest and subsequent torture cures him of both his interest in Julia and his individualistic aspirations.

Orwell’s book introduced “Big Brother” and the “Thought Police” as instruments of totalitarian control. Today, we associate those phrases with surveillance, cancel culture and oppression. Even the author’s name has morphed into an adjective often used to describe something diabolically tyrannical: “Orwellian.”

Alas, the general public’s familiarity with “1984” has also led to abuses that distort Orwell’s original message. Careless or dogmatic writers have used the book the same way they have used the word “Nazi” — as mere shorthand for people or words they dislike.

In this, as in most things dishonorable, the establishment media has led the way.

For the last nine years, the usual suspects, including The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker and MSNBC, have slandered former President Donald Trump and his populist MAGA supporters by depicting them as torchbearers of a new “1984”-style totalitarianism, thereby fueling deranged liberal readers’ and viewers’ hate-filled fantasies.

The entire spectacle involves one hideous irony. A Google search of “George Orwell 1984” brought up no opinion pieces from pro-Trump or pro-populist sources, only establishment media stories warning about Trump and populism as harbingers of tyranny. Thus, the voices amplified by the Google algorithm want you to believe that the totalitarian threat comes from those whose voices the algorithm has censored.

In that way, the world’s subtlest totalitarians in media and big tech have used “1984,” a book warning about the dangers of totalitarianism, to advance totalitarianism.

Nor have the slanderers of Trump and populism confined themselves to “1984.” In 2023, English writer Adam Biles published “Beasts of England,” a sequel to Orwell’s anti-totalitarian classic “Animal Farm.” According to BBC, Biles’ book “satirizes 21st-Century populism in the U.K. and elsewhere.”

By focusing on Trump and his populist movement, the establishment scribes have also inverted Orwell’s original argument. In sum, “1984” warned not against a Trump populism but against a totalitarian revolution by a sinister establishment like the one over which President Joe Biden now presides — the one to which he has belonged for his entire political career.

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On June 10, 1949 — two days after the publication of “1984” — a perceptive review of the book by American author and literary critic Lionel Trilling appeared in The New Yorker.

Trilling called “1984” a “momentous” book that signaled a “turn in thought.” By this, he meant that Orwell had upended a century-old assumption that industrial capitalism would devour the working classes and trigger either a tyrannical alliance between government and business or a totalitarian Communist revolution of the workers unless bridled by progressive administrators engaged in “rational” economic planning.

In other words, early-20th-century liberals assumed that the totalitarian threat came from greedy capitalists and aggrieved workers.

“But,” Trilling wrote, “Orwell tells us that the final oligarchical revolution of the future, which, once established, could never be escaped or countered, will be made not by men who have property to defend but by men of will and intellect, by ‘the new aristocracy . . . of bureaucrats, scientists, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians.'”

One could scarcely imagine a more prescient and jarring description of the modern U.S. establishment. In 1949, Orwell identified “bureaucrats, scientists … teachers, journalists, and professional politicians” as “the new aristocracy.” These were the storm troopers in Oceania’s “final oligarchical revolution.”

That does not sound like Trump-ian populism. In fact, it sounds as if Orwell recognized the establishment, including its media lapdogs, as the torchbearers of totalitarianism.

Orwell, of course, had it right. After all, who could forget the “professional politician” Biden and his efforts to establish his own Ministry of Truth in the form of a Disinformation Governance Board?

Furthermore, modern readers remember “Big Brother,” the “Thought Police” and other instruments of state terror. But do they remember how Smith learned of Oceania’s descent into totalitarianism?

In Part 2 of “1984,” Smith discovered a forbidden book entitled, “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,” written by Emmanuel Goldstein, a former member of The Party who had rebelled against it and thereby became the totalitarian regime’s principal enemy. Oceania’s handful of brave dissidents knew Goldstein’s work as simply, “THE BOOK.”

Smith first read Chapter III, “War is Peace.” That title reflected not only The Party’s use of “Doublethink,” i.e. a required assent to two contradictory statements, but also the regime’s dependence on constant war as an instrument of repression, what Trilling called “the perpetuation of war without victory and without defeat.”

Later, after Julia arrived, Smith read Goldstein’s Chapter I, “Ignorance Is Strength.” There, he learned about “the alteration of the past” so as to “safeguard the infallibility of the Party” — his exact job at the Ministry of Truth.

The Thought Police arrested the couple before they could finish THE BOOK.

Do modern-day populists push for war? Do they celebrate willful ignorance by shaming people who do not simply “follow the science” as directed?

Of course not. The true tyrants among us revealed themselves long ago. And they look to Biden, the totalitarian-in-chief, as their leader.

Finally, while in custody, Smith encountered Ampleforth, a colleague from the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth. Ampleforth edited poems to conform to Party ideology. Smith asked why his colleague had been arrested. It turned out that Ampleforth had committed the worst crime of all.

“We were producing a definitive edition of the poems of Kipling,” Ampleforth recalled. “I allowed the word ‘God’ to remain at the end of a line.”

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Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.
Michael Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in History and has taught at multiple colleges and universities. He has published one book and numerous essays on Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Early U.S. Republic. He loves dogs, baseball, and freedom. After meandering spiritually through most of early adulthood, he has rediscovered his faith in midlife and is eager to continue learning about it from the great Christian thinkers.




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