When it comes to presidential inaugurations, size matters, particularly to the Trump administration. Obama’s was bigger than Trump’s, at least in the number of attendees who were physically present on Capitol Hill for the festivities.
The firestorm of controversy began between the administration’s press secretary Sean Spicer and members of the mainstream media as they clashed over published reports indicating Trump’s inauguration was poorly attended. But it’s how Trump’s advisor and former campaign chair Kellyanne Conway reacted to the controversy that has the news and social media abuzz today with references to George Orwell’s famous work entitled “1984.”
In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday, Conway was asked to comment on one of Spicer’s fallacious claims, the most controversial of which was the following;
“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe.” Spicer (Jan. 21st, 2014)
Todd asked Conway why Spicer, under orders from the president, would address the press and utter such a falsehood. Conway responded, “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts…” Conway’s use of the term “alternative facts” seemed to perplex Todd, who immediately reacted by stating, “Alternative facts! Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods!”
"Alternative facts" is a phrase that could have come directly out of Orwell's 1984. https://t.co/WVNm7xUdWk
— Byrne Harrison (@StageBuzz) January 22, 2017
The exchange was immediately noticed by fans of Orwell’s bestselling book “1984.” Although most readers of the Free Thought Project most likely already know, the novel, first published in 1949, but set in the dystopian future of ‘1984,’ is about a society in which the government lies to its citizens through ‘Newspeak,’ which was designed to limit freedom of thought of the people, and conducted surveillance on its dissenters, as RT points out.
We’ve often made the claim that government ignores the warning made in 1984 and instead uses the book as an instruction manual. And, it appears that Spicer’s false comments about the how the crowd was “the largest audience ever” to be labeled by Conway as ‘alternative facts’ are just that — 1984 newspeak.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) January 22, 2017
Conway used the confrontation with Todd to refocus attention to Trump’s other planned policy initiatives, but the “alternative facts” statement has caused quite a stir on social media, now ablaze with references and connections to Orwell’s book.
While the opposition to Trump is certainly holding no punches, even going so far as to create false news about him, this statement has made some serious waves.
When Conway uttered the combination of words “alternative facts” the self-inflicted damage was done, further delegitimizing the president’s administration. To have one of your senior advisor’s statements be compared to a phrase from a book, which has been used by conspiracy theorists for decades as a sort of litmus test against government control, is very damaging.
The exchange wouldn’t have taken place, arguably, if Spicer hadn’t come out so strongly against the mainstream media’s attempt to downplay the number of attendees to Trump’s inauguration. But an interesting phenomenon has occurred as a result of the heated exchange between Todd and Conway whereby Conway uttered the words “alternative facts”. According to Fortune, Orwell’s book “1984” is now on Amazon’s bestseller list — nearly seven decades later.
“Readers have been buying up George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel in recent days, driving it to number two on Amazon’s best selling books list as of Tuesday night,” reported Fortune, who also claimed, “The spike in popularity seemed to come in the wake of Kellyanne Conway defending Sean Spicer’s falsehoods about Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd size as ‘alternative facts.’ Many on social media compared the phrase to the ‘NewSpeak’ employed in 1984.”