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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

When we first started comparing the future of America to a dystopian nation, it stemmed mostly from curiosity — from a desire to expose you, dear reader, to dystopian novels outside of the stereotypical “1984” — and to challenge you to think critically about the

fate of your country. At the time, it was purely hypothetical, the type of fun exercise one would do in an English class. But in the past week, one characterized by “alternative facts” and a media blackout on the Environmental Protection Agency, to list a few, George Orwell’s famed novel has begun to read more like a history book than a work of fiction. And, it seems, people have taken notice. In the days since Trump’s inauguration, sales of the book have spiked by nearly 10,000 percent, NPR reported Wednesday.

Just to recap: Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to President Donald Trump, announced on Sunday that falsehoods can be considered “alternative facts,” and a gag order was placed on several government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, in essence prohibiting employees from communicating to reporters or posting on social media.

First, Conway’s comment. Following the Jan. 20 inauguration, the Trump aide defended White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s false claims that Trump’s inauguration had the “largest audience” ever, saying he was merely presenting “alternative facts.” When we previously compared the two dystopian worlds presented in “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” we noted that the media system of “Brave New World” — which drowned out important stories in heaps of useless information — was more similar to our current system. But Conway and her refusal to admit Spicer was, in fact, outright lying about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd, present a very scary reality: The government very blatantly lying to us, even when we know better. And the scarier possibility that we might start believing them.

That’s not to say the government doesn’t already lie. But this is unprecedented. This is a scenario in which everyone had access to the truth, from the aerial photos comparing former President Barack Obama and President Trump’s inauguration crowds, to statistics from the Washington, D.C., public transport and Nielsen television ratings. But the government insisted otherwise. This is straight out of “1984,” in which terms such as new- speak and doublethink are used in an effort to eliminate personal thoughts and affirm people that yes, maybe Big Brother is telling you something different than what you thought you saw, but his words are true also.

But hopefully not all of the government will follow in this Orwellian trend, right? After all, it was the National Parks Service that tweeted the initial picture comparing the inauguration crowds. That’s where the scary reality of that social-media and press-release blackout comes in, in which certain government agencies — and it should be noted they are the more science-based agencies — are not allowed to release information to the public without being approved by a political team. Which basically means they need their scientific facts approved. Which means the government gets to decide what is fact.

What can we as citizens of this too-close-to-Orwellian-for-comfort nation do? We rebel. We listen to the media. Not all of it swings one way or another, despite what your party will have you believe. We read unbiased newspapers, we get the real story. We follow the lead of the Badlands National Park Twitter account, which has spurred other government agencies to keep tweeting facts until they are deleted. And we will make it hard to control what we know is true by spreading that truth everywhere.

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