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24 hours in Trump’s terrifying, totalitarian America

Lies, censorship and alternative facts: why life in the Republican’s U.S is turning out to be so much worse than we ever imagined

By now, most of us are probably familiar with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Despite being released seven decades ago, the novel has become a kind of blueprint for dystopian fiction: offering readers a nightmarish look at the dangers of totalitarianism, censorship and state control. 

It follows the story of former journalist Winston Smith, who lives out a bleak existence as a copywriter at the state-run Ministry of Truth. Under the command of the all-powerful dictator, ‘Big Brother’, he is forced to spend his life rewriting old news articles – ensuring that all historical records reflect state policy. Facts are revised and rewritten, leading to the birth of a new language known as “newspeak”. 

Looking back on that, it’s probably not surprising to hear that this book shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller list today. Something is happening. Although using this novel to draw political parallels may be a bit of a cliché, Donald Trump’s first six days have somehow managed to warrant it. Things just feel so much worse than anyone could have predicted. Aside from the obvious nightmares – this week he’s used executive orders to build the Dakota pipeline and dealt a massive blow to women’s rights – there are also a number of more subtle, sinister changes underway.

“Scientists are prohibited from sharing any information with congress or the press, with an official block being placed on ‘any public facing documents’ until further notice” 

These changes have become clearer over the last 24 hours. In an effort to have complete control over what the public knows, Trump has this week put most of the government on lockdown. For now, federal workers and scientists are prohibited from sharing any information with congress or the press, with an official block being placed on “any public facing documents” until further notice. “This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” explained a memo sent by Agricultural Research Service chief Sharon Drumm

The insane pettiness of this clampdown hit home last night, when one U.S national park was forced to delete a series of tweets about the environment. The posts, sent by Badlands National Park in South Dakota, challenged Trump’s refusal to accept that climate change was real. “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years,” read one. The messages were widely shared but swiftly deleted (the park has since set up an ‘unofficial’ Twitter account). 

Similarly, new reports from Reuters today claim that Trump has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the ‘climate change’ page from its website. The order, which will reverse the advancements made under the Obama administration, has allegedly caused employees to scramble to save the information. “If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” one of the EPA staffers reportedly said. The Republican has also frozen all grants from the agency, leaving the Flint water crisis – a major environmental issue – unresolved.

So why is this happening? What is there to hide? Prohibiting scientists and researchers from informing the public about their own planet shouldn’t be a political issue – so why has it suddenly become one? Trump is now actively censoring facts that don’t fit in with his world view, and that presents us with some terrifying prospects for the next four years. 

It’s hard to understand where exactly this will take us, given how unfamiliar this all is. The world has basically been lumbered with a giant, egotistical baby. Trump wants total control, and he doesn’t want to be held accountable for anything he does. When a news story says anything that makes him come across badly, it’s dismissed as “fake news”. Reporters who challenge him are “among the most dishonest human beings on earth”. His dismal inauguration crowds, his poor TV ratings, and his mammoth loss of the popular vote are, to him, just not reality. After all, this is a man who holds a CIA meeting, forces the crowd to stand, then brags about having a “standing ovation” on his Twitter page.

Trump has essentially created his own universe, propped up by “alternative facts” and right-wing propaganda sites (apparently now known as “reality news”). His next move, to make it all more real, is to restrict both the power of the press and the public’s access to information. Now, more than ever, we need to do whatever we can to challenge it.