Independent movie theaters across America have decided to screen the film adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 to protest President Donald Trump’s quick descent into authoritarianism. The theaters say that, “[This] endeavor encourages theaters to take a stand for our most basic values: freedom of speech, respect for our fellow human beings, and the simple truth that there are no such things as ‘alternative facts.'”
On April 4, at least 90 theaters will show the film because April 4 is the day that Winston Smith, the main character, begins a diary.
Winston works for the Records Department in the Ministry of Truth, a government body tasked with altering the historical record to suit the Party’s current agenda. There is no sense of truth or falsity; the ‘facts’ shift daily. The Party uses its total control of society’s narrative to manipulate the citizens it rules over.
A key theme from the story is that control over information is a key enabler of authoritarian government. Trump is attempting to hijack the political narrative in America in order to delegitimize his detractors and consolidate power in the White House. Trump uses Twitter to take his voice straight to the masses. This is not a bad thing per se, but Trump uses Twitter to disseminate lies that would be fact checked by media outlets.
When the media attempts to fact check Trump’s lies – many of which are obviously false – he uses Twitter to vilify the media and call their credibility into question. Trump is slowly tightening his grip over the ‘facts’ that his supporters believe and throwing everyone else into a cycle of doubt and confusion as the truth becomes increasingly obscured. He seems intent on becoming the only entity that can be ‘trusted’ as a source of information in the political sphere.
Trump’s surrogates push his lies through official channels. Kellyanne Conway has become infamous for responding to criticism that she relentlessly repeated Trump’s easily falsifiable lies by saying that she was offering “alternative facts.” The phrase reeks of Orwell’s dystopian vision. There is only one set of facts, and a government that tries to break down that concept is determined to keep the public from the truth and create a self-serving narrative.
The White House press secretary Sean Spicer has also defiantly repeated Trump’s lies to reporters even when they can prove that Trump was lying. Spicer’s obedience to the Trump Administration allows Trump to control which truths the press has access to through the White House’s own institution.
The parallels between Trump’s activities in the White House and the Ministry of Truth are uncanny. The group of theaters says that, “these screenings [of “1984”] are intended to galvanize people at the crossroads of cinema and community, and bring us together to foster communication and resistance against current efforts to undermine the most basic tenets of our society.” Resistance at this stage is vital, before a demagogue manages to consolidate power and subdue the American people.
A full list of theaters screening “1984” on April 4 can be found here.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.