Last week, we published an editorial discussing reasons why a hypothetical dystopian fate of the U.S. was more similar to a Huxleyan dystopia (massive inputs of meaningless information that detract from important news; control by desire and pleasure) instead of the typical Orwellian one (censored media; control by fear). This week, we’re going to re- evaluate that claim and amend it slightly.
This re-evaluation of our claim comes from a recent press conference by President-elect Donald Trump. You’ve probably seen the tweets and articles about it already, but if you haven’t, the brief version is that Trump slammed BuzzFeed and CNN for publishing reports about documents regarding Russian operatives allegedly having compromising information on Trump. CNN published a synopsis of the documents and BuzzFeed released all of them, telling the American people that they could make up their minds. Trump attacked both organizations and refused to answer a CNN reporter’s questions, calling him “Fake news.”
Now, we’re not going to analyze these documents or claim their validity. We’re not going to discuss whether BuzzFeed was in the right or in the wrong for releasing unveried documents and whether Trump is right to claim the media is biased and sensationalizing a movement against him. Right now, we’re focusing on the comparison we previously made and how this turn of events plays into it.
Let’s look at the Orwellian side to this: Our president-elect is making claims that some forms of news are more valid than others. He is trying to tell us which news to pay attention to (hint: It’s the ones that validate his actions). One of the big themes of “1984” is government control of the media, and yes, Trump dismissing outlets as a “failing pile of garbage” and “fake news” isn’t exactly outlawing news headlines. But that blurry little line of a government figure controlling the news is getting a little blurrier with each bombastic statement and with more people believing his claims every time.
But let’s get back to the Huxleyan view — that true news is covered up by a mass input of meaningless information. One could make the argument that this whole news story is a wad of meaningless information. The right is defending their political candidate, crying out at the liberal media for making these unprecedented claims. The left is passionately advocating for freedom of the press, pointing out that control of the press is one of the first signs of fascism. But the fact is, most people don’t care to look into the fact that neither media outlet claimed these allegations were true: CNN just reported their existence, while BuzzFeed uploaded them (specifying at least three times in their article that the claims were “unverified”). And most people aren’t actually taking the time to read through all of the documents anyway. They latch onto the sensationalized view of this story, depending on whichever side they agree with: “The Liberal Media is Screwing Us All” vs. “Trump Will Turn Us Into a Fascist State.”
What is the true takeaway of these documents? Well, in all honesty, we don’t know. We’d rather they were in the open and known about than hidden away, but sensationalizing claims that aren’t verified isn’t exactly the way to go about it.
So perhaps the fate of the U.S., should it end up going down the path to dystopia, doesn’t solely prescribe to the doctrines of “1984” or “Brave New World”— but instead, as is the American way, goes down its own path of blazing self-destruction, a fiery melting pot of both dystopian worlds.