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Rants & Reason

Trump et al. are liars, and that’s not an ‘alternative fact’

1/27/2017

Here’s an “alternative fact” for you:

The Nobel Foundation announced today that, given the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, it will award a posthumous Nobel Prize for literature to George Orwell (1903-1950) for his writing that includes “Animal Farm,” “1984” and the essay “Politics and the English Language.” Professor Carl-Hendrik Heldin, chairman of the Nobel Foundation board of directors, said, “George Orwell’s mängd litteratur är snabbare och mer imponerande än någonsin” (George Orwell’s body of literature is more timely and more impressive today than ever).

If that’s too much of a stretch for you — even as an “alternative fact” — how about this:

Signet Classics announced today that it will publish a collector’s edition of George Orwell’s “1984” under the new title of ‘2017.’

Well, at least this second item is closer to the mark. Consider this honest-to-goodness Associated Press story about Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway defending lies by Trump’s press secretary as merely “alternative facts”:

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NEW YORK (AP) — In the wake of incorrect or unprovable statements made by President Donald Trump and some White House aides, one truth is undeniable: Sales are soaring for George Orwell’s “1984.”

Orwell’s classic dystopian tale of a society in which facts are distorted and suppressed in a cloud of “newspeak” was in the top 5 on Amazon.com. The sales bump comes after the administration’s assertions that Trump’s inaugural had record attendance and Trump’s unfounded allegation that millions of illegal votes were cast against him last fall.

The phrase “alternative facts” calls to mind many passages from Orwell’s 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language.” His targets then were abuse of language to justify British rule in India and repression in the Soviet Union. Here’s one such passage:

“Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called ‘pacification.’ Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called ‘transfer of population’ or ‘rectification of frontiers.’ People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called ‘elimination of unreliable elements.’ ”

Sadly, Conway’s use of “alternative facts” mirrors Orwell’s “1984” coining of the word “newspeak,” the term for government lies, distortions and re-writing of history as hallmarks of tyranny.

Any dark humor is lost, however, when one also recalls one of the most quoted and chilling summaries of life in “1984.” Winston Smith, the would-be hero of the book, is told: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” ♦

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