Trump Makes Dystopian 1984 Bestselling Book

First edition – Secker & Warburg, London, 1949.

Trump Makes Dystopian 1984 Bestselling Book

Richard M. Hutchings | January 25, 2017

Slate reports Donald Trump’s first days in office has made George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four (aka 1984, published 1949) the bestselling book on Amazon, and Salon says the books publisher has already ordered a new printing. According to the Associated Press,

With “alternate facts” the latest catchphrase, George Orwell’s “1984” is No. 1 on and the publisher has ordered an additional 75,000 copies.

Other than being “dystopian” (undesirable), a theme that long-preceded Trump (see also here), what does this mean?

I take a visual approach to answering that question, examining book jacket covers through time. My survey, which utilizes Emily Temple’s 2011 George Orwell’s 1984: A Visual History, reveals three key aspects of Orwell’s future (today’s present):

  1. Anxiety and Fear (dystopia)
  2. Control
  3. Modernity

Scroll down to see the examples I have selected of each theme on book covers dating from 1954 to present.

Controlling heritage is a vital function of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, where the slogan is “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

It is this aspect that I think most people are connecting with Trump. From Wikipedia:

The Ministry of Truth is the propaganda ministry. As with the other ministries in the novel, the name Ministry of Truth is a misnomer because in reality it serves the opposite: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events.

As well as administering truth, the ministry spreads a new language amongst the populace called Newspeak, in which, for example, “truth” is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants. In keeping with the concept of doublethink, the ministry is thus aptly named in that it creates/manufactures “truth” in the Newspeak sense of the word. The book describes the doctoring of historical records to show a government-approved version of events.

However, as with dystopia, Donald Trump did not invent Newspeak; recall, for example, George W. Bush’s persistent problems with “truthiness.” This, I suggest, is more evidence that Trump is being scapegoated by a nation already in crisis. Nevertheless, Trump is, I believe, triggering anomie on a national scale.

1. Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety and fear (and love and betrayal!) – Signet edition, 1954. Note the use of slogans (“Freedom is Slavery, “Ignorance is Strength, “Big Brother is Watching You”) and ethnicity (white slaves, “ethnic” Big Brother and guard). Note also the “heritage” landscape.
Anxiety and fear – Signet edition, 1959. Note also the heritage landscape.

2.1 Surveillance as Control

Surveillance and anxiety – Argentinian edition, 1954.
Surveillance and anxiety – French edition, 1980.
Surveillance – Penguin edition, no date.
Surveillance – Swedish edition, no date.

2.2 State Control

Police state – Penguin, 1978.
Bureaucratic state control – Penguin, no date.
Corporate state control – Indonesian edition, no date.

3. Modernity

Modernity – Swedish edition, 1959.
Modernity – Penguin UK edition, 1989.

For more on Trump and Orwell, see: