I hadn’t realized that it was 70 years ago that George Orwell wrote “1984,” until Steve Hilton masterfully used the book for the theme of his June 30 show on Fox News, “The Next Revolution,” to show how the left has tried to hijack and misappropriate with their hysterical hyperbole the classic’s message against totalitarianism.
Like most Americans who went to high school in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I was required to read “1984.” In the wake of World War II, history classes were still teaching factual history, and the evils of communism in the USSR and China under Stalin and Mao, even before the world became aware of the wholesale slaughter that totalitarianism had wrought.
In English classes, “1984” was being taught because Orwell was a master of the English language, creating a vocabulary, “newspeak,” to describe and discuss surveillance, police states and authoritarianism, including “big brother,” “thought police,” “unperson” and “doublethink.”
At its core, “1984” is a dystopian novel about how the misuse of language can be used by governments to subjugate, obfuscate and oppress citizens, in a false and dangerous narrative of “helping society” through control by an elite. Orwell’s nightmare vision is of a world after an atomic war.
By 1998, sadly, “1984” had been removed from high school reading lists, as American students were taught to question the country’s world role following the Vietnam War. Members of college faculties, as well as high schools, whose teachers were part of the Woodstock Generation that came of age under the standard of “Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” did not want to provide a debatable stage for the classic, upon which they couldn’t win.
Since 2016, the same myopic academia and its minions have been trying to compare Orwell’s dystopia to the country under the presidency of Donald Trump. Not surprisingly, Orwell’s book has been flying off Amazon’s shelves.
Mr. Hilton invited four savvy and humorous guests to help make his case about the growing intolerance and drift of the Democrats toward totalitarianism through social media ? author Bret Easton Ellis, comedian Adam Corolla, Red State Editor Kira Davis and Tezlyn Figaro, former racial justice director for Bernie Sanders.
Mr. Hilton, the bright and charming former Brit, who cut his political teeth in David Cameron’s administration, as usual, didn’t disappoint. His guests brilliantly made the case that the left, with its socialist agenda and increasing authoritarianism and intolerance, has no justification to claim Orwell’s opus is a perceptive look into Donald Trump and his administration. Quite the contrary, they all argued.
Mr. Ellis, whose latest book, “White,” where he takes on the danger of PC-controlled speech and admits to having once been a Democrat, was particularly offended as a writer to be told he has to follow rules that stifle creative thought. He cites the cancellation in 1990 of his novel “The American Psycho,” after criticism by The New York Times, NOW and other left-leaning entities.
Mr. Corolla dryly and succinctly took on the very meaning of the progressive movement: “If you think about it,” argued Mr. Corolla, “it never takes inventory of where it’s going or how fast it’s going. It’s just move forward. It’s a movement that never stops.”
Ms. Davis read a passage from the biography of George Washington, written by Chief Justice John Marshall, who knew well our first president. He was writing about the founding of the republic and the early days of the colonies: “So true is it that men close their eyes on encroachments, committed by that party to which they are attached, in the delusive hope that power in such hands will always be wielded against their adversaries and never against themselves.”
Mr. Hilton asked Ms. Figaro about the left vociferously objecting to the comparison of socialism as the basis for what’s happening in Venezuela. Citing his family’s escape to the UK from Hungary when he was 8, Mr. Hilton wonders, “When you’re trying to do something for everyone, does it always end up moving in that direction of government control?” He saw it happen in the UK and believes that if Americans don’t wake up to the left’s agenda, the future for our country is indeed Orwellian.
Ms. Figaro explained that she joined the Sanders campaign to support someone other than the anointed Hillary Clinton, to promote independent thought. “Now the same people are saying it’s his way or the highway.”
Ms. Figaro, an African American, believes that it’s African Americans who are going to suffer most if the Democrats win in 2020. “Justice means that we take into account both sides, that we actually look at things from an objective standpoint. This hang ?em, spread ?em wide ideology, based on one thing that someone said, like in the #Metoo movement, is going to come back to bite them.”
Mr. Hilton put up on the screen the four ministries that Orwell used to weave his prophetic tale of intolerance and indoctrination in a society where 2 percent (the elites) rule the rest (the proletariat): the Ministry of Peace (to control war and defense), the Ministry of Plenty (to control the economy and ration food), the Ministry of Love (to control law and order ) and the Ministry of Truth (controlling entertainment and education).
It was powerful when Mr. Hilton quoted a paragraph from “1984”:
“For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings, who were normally stupefied by poverty, would become literate and learn to think for themselves. And once when they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance.”
So thank you, Steve Hilton, for once again jiggling my mind. I didn’t want to re-read “1984,” and you’ve given me enough on which to engage my young grandchildren ? if they are told to read Orwell’s classic for the wrong reasons.