How '1984' can decode Trump's first 100 days

Story highlights

  • Alexander J. Urbelis: "1984" is a novel that people should read, not just once, but over and over again
  • High sales figures are just the surface of how relevant Orwell's book is for today's audiences, he writes

Alexander J. Urbelis is a lawyer and self-described hacker with more than 20 years' experience with information security. He has worked as a graduate fellow in the Office of General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency, as a law clerk at the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and as an associate in the New York and Washington offices of Steptoe & Johnson. He was also information security counsel and chief compliance officer of one of the world's largest luxury conglomerates. He is currently a partner in the Blackstone Law Group and CEO of a separate information security consultancy. Follow him on Twitter @aurbelis. The views expressed here are his own.

(CNN)Watching me read "1984," arguably the greatest dystopian novel ever written, in high school, my mother told me that it was a book that everyone should read not just once, but again, every 10 years. It certainly deserves a reread right now.

Alexander J. Urbelis
Indeed, dozens of news stories this week have alerted us to surging sales of George Orwell's "1984" since the inauguration and even more so in the wake of Kellyanne Conway's now-infamous "alternative facts" gambit. Most media outlets have reported glibly on the figures, with some going so far as to compare the Amazon best-seller list (where purchases of "1984" have gone up nearly 10,000%) to a "political barometer" before making the obvious parallel between the Orwellian concepts of newspeak and doublethink and the words of Conway and actions of White House communications director Sean Spicer.
    Yet surprisingly, very few have neither unpacked the full measure of the parallels between Orwell's dystopia and the Trump administration, nor the import of the Trump administration's practices (so far) if left unchecked. As the protagonist of "1984," Winston Smith, was warned:
      "Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever."
      If the sales figures tell us anything, it's that we are right to want a fuller account of the comparisons between literature's most infamous cautionary dystopia and a new American presidential administration.
      I believe we are treading into territories more treacherous than even Orwell himself contemplated. We now have a President and an administration in power that expects its own versions of reality and events to be created for it, à la carte, after the fact.
      This is not the first time in recent memory that sales of "1984" have spiked. In June 2013, Edward Snowden let the world know the machinations of the US surveillance apparatus were turned not only outward but inward on a massive scale. But this new surge in popularity has a far more pernicious cause: the linguistic assault on, and blatant disregard for, the truth and rational thought by senior Trump administration officials and the President himself.
      We are now fighting a battle over who controls the very notion of what is real and fake, true and false. We cannot afford to mince words: President Trump and his staff have used and will use lies and deceit to create a false perception of reality that suits their political agenda.
      They have espoused as truth unsupportable and untenable falsehoods on a daily basis, and it has become the near-full time responsibility of the media to call out the fictions of the administration. If we do not continue the struggle for basic honesty, we are warned by Orwell that uncorrected lies will be "passed into history and [become] truth."

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