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Dystopian literature surges in the age of Trump, but it more accurately portrays the modern Left

You may have seen reports in the last week or so that sales of George Orwell’s classic 1984 have skyrocketed since the inauguration of Donald Trump.

That is because, you see, our new president … is a FASCIST!!!

*Ahem* … sorry about that.

A few days ago Education Week had a story about the “higher than normal” sales uptick of the dystopian literature genre for the new school semester.

Claire P. Curtis of the College of Charleston says the surge is “due in part to how people would talk about Trump’s speeches as both a candidate and a president.”

“He would use phrases and ways of capturing what the United States was like that are not dissimilar from how these novels would describe a dystopian present.”

He did?

Seventh grade teacher Carolyn Geraci adds “We just elected a president that is making sweeping changes. Most of these changes are making people angry. People see the protests, hear the angry words, and wonder what will happen next.”

“Most”? Really?

Aside from the argument of whether such is really due to Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and (now) actions, as opposed to the ridiculously hysterical reactions to them, Reason’s Brendan O’Neill points out that novels like 1984 actually describe the authoritarian Left, not the Right:

Consider the Junior Anti-Sex League, the prudish youths in Orwell’s story who think the “sex impulse” is dangerous and devote themselves to spying on interactions between the sexes. “Eroticism was the enemy,” they believed. “Desire was thoughtcrime.” If this prissiness finds its echo in anyone today, it isn’t in the creepily oversexed, pussy-grabbing Trump—it’s in the stiff buzz-killers of the campus feminist movement.

These radical wallflowers demonize drunk sex, bossily insisting all sexual interactions must be “sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual and honest.” (Even the Junior Anti-Sex League didn’t come up with such a thorough list of what counts as acceptable sex.) They drag male students to campus kangaroo courts for allegedly doing sex the wrong way. Student officials in Britain have banned the making of “animal noises” in the student bar lest they arouse sexual bravado in men, and sexual dread in women.

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Fortunately, it is curable. Some universities make freshmen undergo diversity training, inculcating them with the correct mindset on all matters racial, religious, and social. The University of Delaware, going full O’Brien, referred to its diversity training as “treatment” for incorrect attitudes. The New York Times reported last year that more and more students think diversity training “smacks of some sort of Communist re-education program.” The modern campus, as devoted to treating moral infection as to imparting knowledge, could adopt O’Brien’s cry as its slogan: “Shall I tell you why we have brought you here? To cure you!”

While Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway’s now-infamous “alternative facts” made progressives (and others, certainly) crazy and was blared incessantly throughout the media, what about, O’Neill asks, “patently overblown rape-on-campus stats“? The “darkly Orwellian euphemisms for censorship” known as “safe spaces”? So-called “rights” like “the right to be comfortable”?

It is the Left which demands campus statues be toppled and buildings renamed, that people use others’ “preferred pronouns” else face consequences, and mandate “multicultural” courses and workshops.

Aside from the classics 1984 and Brave New World, Education Week notes the more recent The Handmaid’s Tale is currently a top seller on Amazon. This 1980s Margaret Atwood story details American life under a Christian theocratic society; however, does this description of the tale invoke thoughts of the modern Right … or Left?

Not to mention, is it not more socially … “palatable” to impugn Christianity than, say, (radical) Islam? Perhaps a good science fiction/religious (not to mention more plausible) alternative to Atwood’s speculation would be Tom Kratman’s Caliphate. (Need I bring up our previous president’s Orwellian refusal to call terrorist acts committed by radical Muslims just that?) 

Here’s a few other dystopias worthy of consideration:

Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn details what would happen if radical Greens devoted to the religion of global warming came into power. Household thermostats cannot be set higher than 55 degrees, and people believe folks cannot perish in the snow because ice is a crystal and crystals … have “healing power.”

Meanwhile, the Greens’ policies have ironically caused a new ice age to come about. Go figure.

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is more of an alternate history tale in which Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh becomes president in 1940, scuttling FDR’s re-election. One of the more unsettling policies of the new administration is the forced resettlement of Jewish families to the midwest in order to “Americanize” them.

While the book is a statement on the antisemitism in the US of the era, currently on American campuses such hatred is often rationalized as “support” for Palestinians and a Palestinian state, and criticism of Israeli policies and Zionism. Guess which side of the aisle is doing this rationalizing … ?

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. Mentioned as a favorite by the aforementioned Ms. Geraci, it takes place in the late 21st century where amendments to the Constitution(!) have stipulated that everyone must be equal — in intelligence, looks, and strength — and a “Handicapper General’s” enforcers work to maintain that equality. How? By “handicapping” smarter, prettier, and stronger people!

And who is it today, precisely, that wants to abolish gifted/honors classes in schools because it’s “unfair”? Who is it that wants to do away with the concept of athletic (and otherwise) competitions?

Reason’s O’Neill concludes:

“Trump will be authoritarian, that’s for sure. But his is likely to be a clumsy authoritarianism, oafish rather than Orwellian. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, leftists and millennials won’t find a dystopian, fictionalized version of Trumpism—they’ll find themselves.

“They will find a stinging rebuke from history of their own embrace of the sexless, joyless, ban-happy urge to control almost every area of individual thought and life. I hope they heed to this rebuke, and change.”

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.