Across the United States, 200 independent cinemas will begin screening the film adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel "1984" on Tuesday in a National Screening Day they say is a protest against the Trump administration's distortions of truth and scapegoating of “foreign” enemies such as Muslims and immigrants.
The novel, published in 1949, depicts Orwell's vision of a future totalitarian world where the world is carved into repressive mega-states and repressive single-party systems dominate the thoughts of their subjects through intrusive surveillance.
While widely seen as a criticism of fascist and Soviet systems, the book has also been seen as a prescient criticism of trends in liberal societies that have been corrosive to civil liberties and democratic freedoms, such as the use of “doublethink” or acceptance of contradictory versions of truth by political partisans, the use of technology to eavesdrop of subjects, and the propagation of narratives that scapegoat political actors and populations for the purpose of serving the state.
Organizers of the screenings say that the screenings are timely due to the Trump administration's depiction of news media outlets and journalists as the “opposition party” and “enemies of the people,” as well as the president's propagation of untruths infamously defended by White House official Kellyanne Conway as “alternative facts.”
“We have seen the spread of frightening new systems of social control and repression that have brought us into the panoptical surveillance society and the age of thought control ... This real-life Orwellian world is in a sense more perturbing than that described by George Orwell in his iconic novel 1984,” wrote Professor William I. Robinson in an interview with teleSUR in January. Continuing, he notes, “In that fictional world, people were compelled to give their obedience to the state, 'Big Brother,' in exchange for a quiet existence with guarantees of employment, housing and other social necessities. Now, however, the corporate and political powers that be force obedience even as the means of survival are denied to the vast majority.”
Commenting on the relevance of Orwell's vision almost 70 years later, Dylan Skolnick — an organizer of the event and co-director of the Cinema Arts Centre in New York's Long Island — noted that the methods employed by the Trump administration such as “undermining of the concept of facts and the demonization of foreign enemies,” underscore the resonance of 1984.
The book became a runaway hit in January following its republication.
Organizers of the National Screening Day — which begins on April 4, when Winston Smith, the novel's protagonist, begins resisting the all-seeing “Big Brother” — plan to donate a portion of ticket sale revenue to civil liberties organizations and groups advocating for communities facing threats from the right-wing nationalist Trump administration.