There have been a few essays lately that argue that we were all blinded by the Cold War-infused popularity of 1984 that we missed the real threat, which more resembled the soporific entertainments of Brave New World, because it was the mindless, meaningless, fact-free Huxleyian discourse of Fox News, et al, that led to Trump. Because it’s all just spectacle (hints of Bataille, eh?), the results can be argued to be effectively meaningless, but what matter is something, anything different to shake things up and make things less boring (also a contrarian response to measured stoicism of ‘No Drama Obama?’).
But now that he’s president, let’s take a moment to raise our glasses to Orwell.
No, I don’t think he’s going to lead America to an authoritarian dystopia driven by an ideology-free ideology (which means, if he does, I’ll be one of those excoriated in future histories for not having recognized the danger posed by an authoritarian, racist, anti-semitic, delusional, narcissist rising to the presidency… which does sound pretty bad, when you say it out loud).
But when you read how large numbers of Trump supporters think he’s accomplished a great many actual things in this, the first 90-odd days of his presidency, when so far, his only tangible accomplishment was nominating Neal Gorsuch for the Supreme Court (his confirmation was solely down to the hard work of Mitch McConnell and his selection was done by those most uber-establishment of establishment folks at the Heritage Foundation). Call ’em alternative facts, call ’em lies, call ’em spin, call ’em what you will, but it all comes down to ‘it just ain’t so.’
And I don’t think that many of those supporters are unaware that he hasn’t actually accomplished, in any real sense, well, anything. We are all guilty, I suspect, of some kinds of antinomial thinking, but this is more of the willful ignorance than Kant’s antimonies. And Winston always wondered if most people actually believed or just accepted because it was easier to go along with those who did truly believe (which, again, bodes poorly for how people like me will be characterized in future histories).
But no, I’m still not predicting the end of American democracy. Neoliberal twit that he can be, I still hope that Fukayama’s predictions of an enduring liberal order are correct, in broad strokes. Maybe, on an intellectual level, I’m just hedging my bets here.