George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was likely considered a frightening work of fiction when it was published in 1949. But as each decade passed, Orwell began to look less and less like an author of fiction and more and more like a soothsayer. In his famous book, Orwell detailed his view of an authoritarian dystopia so well that "dystopian" stories are often referred to as "Orwellian" nowadays.
Nineteen Eighty-Four was required reading when I was in school, and it should be. I honestly always thought it was such a clear, beautiful, and unnerving piece of work that readers couldn't help but be moved by the grim prospects described in it. That is until I saw this excerpt from Hillary Clinton's new book, What Happened (right).
Here's what it says (bold emphasis mine):
Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism. This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves. For Trump, as with so much he does, it's about simple dominance.
Even just retyping that, it gave me chills. Hillary Clinton believes the lesson of Nineteen Eighty-Four isn't that we should fear authoritarianism; the lesson of Nineteen Eighty-Four is that we should trust authority! That we should listen to our leaders, the press, and "experts" who guide public policy!
This is the most insane interpretation of Nineteen Eighty-Four that I've ever seen.
To be clear, in the ever-lasting struggle between Authoritarianism and Libertarianism (in the Political Compass at right), I'm firmly libertarian. I believe in the rights of the people above all. I believe in making this the "free country" we always talk about, and making it so for everybody in it. I didn't vote for Trump, although I do support him as our president and I hope he does a great job for our sake. (I didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, either.) I won't support authoritarianism, largely because of George Orwell's amazing book Nineteen Eighty-Four. And Hillary Clinton's inconceivable take on this portentous book makes me feel relief that she didn't win the presidency last November. Leadership that delusional would've been more dangerous than most of us could possibly imagine.
What do you think?