In George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Winston Smith’s job in the country of Oceania was to put stories that disagreed with Big Brother down the memory hole, never to be viewed again. His research on the streets to find out about history was frustrated to find that no one remembered the way things used to be. Big Brother had so stifled the rights and freedoms of individuals that over time no one knew how to get them back. Facts didn’t matter. As Big Brother explained: 2 + 2 equals 5, because no one could prove otherwise. There was no mathematical or scientific principles. There was no record of the way it was supposed to be. History was irrelevant. Facts and truth went down the memory hole.
Today facts and truth are being challenged. Russians attacked the United States by hacking the election systems in seven states, organizing thousands of fake stories and fake demonstrations in social media, turning thousands of electronic bots to influence users of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat and hacking into our electrical grid; yet, President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed this story is a witch hunt, a hoax. Consequently, 50 percent of his supporters believe the Russian investigation is a Democratic scam. Worse yet, 75 percent Republicans support Trump in spite of his potential involvement and repeated lies. (According to the Washington Post, on average Trump lies four times a day.) The president has attacked the press as ”Enemy of the People.” Trump has attacked the FBI because they are investigating the Russian attack. Trump and associates have threatened physical threats or arrest of political opponents. He has claimed climate change is a fake story; whereas, climate change is a scientific fact. He has claimed he would have won the popular vote were it not for prevalent voter fraud – his claim is a fact, his assertion a myth. He claims Americans pay the most in taxes and that the tax reform law would cost him a fortune – false and false. The dishonesty goes on and on while the truth disappears.
When facts don’t matter, 2 + 2 equals 5. If 2 + 2 equals 4, everything will follow because facts and truth do matter. They are essential in a republican form of government. It is why we study history because sometimes the simple act of remembrance is an act of resistance to a tyrant. When truth stops, tyranny begins. It is why the institutions of law and order, the press, the freedom to protest or to petition our leaders, must be respected and maintained. It is why we have a Constitution that outlines the historical objectives of this country. By examining the dystopia of Oceania in 1984, we learn that when facts and truth become irrelevant, there can be no republic. When the people of the United States decide truth doesn’t matter, the United States will no longer be the leader of the free world. We will take our place among the many authoritarian states that chose the cult of personality over country and join those countries in the dustbin of failed states of world history. In light of what is transpiring in America, Orwell must be rolling in his grave.
David R. James