“Nineteen Eighty-Four,” the year that #George Orwell imagined for his novel, foretold a dark future that seems to be materializing now in the #trump era. The tale of three totalitarian superpowers ruling the world is no fiction given the aggression of Russia, North Korea and Iran. With Kim Jong-un’s people under his constant surveillance, "1984" is rendered a non-fiction. And something closer to home is also going on: some 85 independent movie houses in 34 states have chosen to show the film version of the novel.
Screening the movie is a protest against Trump’s plans to zap the National Endowment for the Arts.
Big Brother is watching you
To honor Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith, the Indy theaters will run the movie on April 4, the same day that Smith started writing his secret diary questioning the dictatorial state that controlled its people with manufactured facts. A joint statement from the participating theaters speaks of promoting resistance against the undermining of basic human rights by the White House. Smith, you may recall, worked in the Ministry of Truth, where historical facts are turned into self-serving falsehoods. Sound familiar? Apparently more and more people are thinking about Smith. Sales of the novel leapfrogged to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list on Jan. 25 after Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to Trump, tried to explain away press secretary Sean Spicer’s baseless assertion that Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest in history.
Conway called the claim an “alternative fact,” which was reminiscent of the manipulation of truth in “1984.” Conway’s remark was vintage Orwellian speak.
“Nineteen Eighty-Four” is not only a book and a movie, but come this summer, it will also be a stage play on Broadway. In attempts to camouflage truth with circuitous language, Trump, by way of Conway and Spicer, is achieving celebrity he never intended - as the poster boy for doublethink. Orwell foretold this tactic of pushing contradictory ideas when he wrote, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” Clearly the dangers of denying reality was on the mind of artist Jenny Holzer before “1984” when in 1982 she created a poster series titled “Truisms” that said things like, “Fear is the most elegant weapon...Play insecurities like a piano.” But it may be fellow artist Frank Shiffreen’s painting that can move people to do more than read a novel, look at art and attend a play. His painting, made the same year of Orwell’s novel, is called “This painting will protect you in the event of a nuclear war.” All you see are paint smears with the words of the title stenciled over them. The painting suggests that art is not a remedy for society’s ills. What is? The uprisings in town halls around the country are a start.