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HomeOpinionTrump's 2019 and George Orwell's '1984' have too much in common

Trump’s 2019 and George Orwell’s ‘1984’ have too much in common

In '1984', Orwell describes 'Two Minutes Hate' — a political tactic of focusing on enemies, outsiders and foreigners. Or what Trump's world looks like.

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George Orwell’s “1984” is the greatest fictional account of authoritarian leadership — the most astute, the most precise, the most attuned to human psychology.

One of its defining chapters explores the Two Minutes Hate, which helps establish and maintain Big Brother’s regime.

As Orwell describes it, the Hate begins with a flash of a face on a large screen. It is Emmanuel Goldstein, “the Enemy of the People.” His is “a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable,” and also unmistakably foreign. It produces fear and disgust.

Goldstein defines disloyalty to the nation and (what is the same thing) the regime: “He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity.” Goldstein is responsible for heresies and treacheries of all kinds. He does not love his country.

In the first 30 seconds of the Hate, Goldstein’s voice is heard as he denounces the party and calls for freedom of multiple kinds. “He was abusing Big Brother,” and “he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought.”

The result is to produce rage and fear in the audience, and to do so immediately. Goldstein is a serious threat. Wherever he is, he commands a kind of shadow army, a network of conspirators. He is the author of a terrible book, including all the heresies.

In the second minute of the Hate, people become frenzied. They leap and shout, trying to drown out Goldstein’s maddening voice. Children join in the shouting.

Orwell’s hero, Winston, finds himself unable to resist. He, too, begins to shout, and also to kick violently. On his part, this was no mere show. “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part,” Orwell writes, “but that it was impossible to avoid joining in.”

No pretense was necessary: “A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.”

Despite loathing Big Brother, Winston felt his feelings “changed into adoration, and Big Brother seemed to tower up, an invincible, fearless protector, standing like a rock” against threats. And as his hatred mounts, it turns sexual. Winston fantasizes about raping and murdering the girl behind him.

At that point, the Hate rises to its climax. Goldstein’s voice becomes that of an actual bleating sheep, and for a moment, his face is transformed into that of a sheep. Big Brother’s face then fills the screen, powerful, comforting, and mysteriously calm.

Big Brother’s actual words are not heard, but they are felt, as a kind of reassurance. At that point the Party’s three slogans appear on the screen:




A member of the audience seems to pray to Big Brother. For 30 seconds the audience chants in his honor, in “an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise.” Winston chants with the rest, for “it was impossible to do otherwise.”

The Two Minutes Hate is a distillation of a common tactic of certain leaders, mostly in authoritarian nations, but in democracies as well. They focus attention on enemies, outsiders, foreigners and heretics — on those who seek to destroy society’s fabric.

What makes the Two Minutes Hate so insidious is that even for those who oppose it, and see it for what it is, it tends to get under the skin. The sheer repetition of an accusation — against Emmanuel Goldstein, Hillary Clinton, Ilhan Omar, Muslims, immigrants or the press — can make it difficult not to feel, in some part of one’s mind, that the accusation is correct.

Actually it’s even worse.

As Orwell depicts it, the Hate liberates something in the human soul. It is not as if the relevant emotions — “fear and vindictiveness” — are unrecognizable, even to those who thought they had no animus against Goldstein. By unleashing “a hideous ecstasy,” embodied in chants of various kinds, authoritarian leaders aim to obliterate one thing above all: what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” – Bloomberg

Also read: Global Pulse: The ‘blurred’ lines between yes & no, free speech & hate speech, & Trump’s separate realities


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  1. Cass Sunstein you need to seriously look in the mirror. This is your two minutes of hate. In 1984, Goldstein=Trump.

  2. Orwell’s depiction of the two minute hate left me cold for years. I read it and re-read it and read it again, yet I struggled to find any relevance, any connection to what I knew of humanity. Finally, in recent years I have seen it. I saw it first in the seething hatred for Dick Cheney and again now for Donald Trump – in that telltale vindictiveness, the loss of reason, the capitulation to hatred so raw, so vicious and so wanton that it obliterates one’s faculties – it is a streak of madness in the body politic.

  3. I suppose you are unable to see clearly who is promoting the two minute hate and who the actual targets are. You are the party. It’s not a surprise that you could glibly gloss over all the many many transgressions your party is guilty of – you’re in far too deep.

  4. Are you kidding me?; It’s so ironic that you can lay out and explain what 2 minutes hate is by orwell, then try to tie it to Trump somehow, without seeing that you are in effect joining the other media outlets on the big screen for the very thing Orwell was warning us about. You’re too daft to realize you are not part of any resistance, but in fact part of the oppressors. You’re article was just another droplet in thr sea of 4 years of hate that you people pushed on the rest of the world. Its hard to blame you personally though.. you don’t even know why you’re doing it. You article about it, and can’t see that you are on the side of the oppressor class. Ever heard the term “Useful idiot”?

  5. On the contrary, the lunatic leftists, running around screaming, “I hope both Trump and Melania die”, are the quintessential examples of the “Two Minute Hate”. They display their insanity, for all to see.

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