Has America decided that it’s finally time to literally become the country described in George Orwell’s “1984”? Sure seems like it. In Rep. Adam Schiff’s new book, “Midnight in Washington,” he describes a meeting he had with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They talked about what happened during the Jan. 6 insurrection. When the meeting was over, Leader McCarthy immediately went to the press to tell them about the meeting that just happened. Amazingly, McCarthy completely and thoroughly misrepresented what was said in this meeting. Rep. Schiff confronted McCarthy on the House floor about his lying about what they talked about. McCarthy responded by saying (and I’m paraphrasing) “You know how the game is played.”
During the past few years the level of lying and dishonesty has evolved (or perhaps the right word is devolved) to historical lows. People frequently say that all politicians lie and there is some truth to that. But never before have we witnessed well-funded disinformation campaigns like those we’ve seen recently.
First, we have The Big Lie saying that the 2020 election was fraudulent (it wasn’t), that it was rigged (it wasn’t) and/or that it was stolen (it wasn’t). The fact that all of these claims have been disproven over and over again has not stopped one of the two major political parties from continuing to promote these lies. The coup de gras may have been last weekend when the former, twice impeached president held yet another rally in Iowa. Joining him on stage was 89-year-old Sen. Chuck Grassley — a man who has served in the U.S. Senate for 50 years. He is a man who would be considered old school and definitely knows better.
What was Grassley’s response to the lies that were spewing from the mouth of the former president? He said, “I was born at night, but not last night. It would be foolish for me not to accept the endorsement of a former president who has 90% support of the Republican Party in Iowa.” It may be politically foolish, but one has to wonder if Sen. Grassley cares one whit about his legacy. The senator has made the calculation that his chances of getting re-elected would be better as long as he sold his soul. Maintaining his power has become more important than doing what’s right for our country.
On Sunday, on the way home from my next to last performance, my wife Alison and I listened to a fascinating program on Vermont Public Radio. The name of the program was “Hidden Brain.” There were two real-life examples on how once people get dug in with their beliefs, it’s very hard to change their minds. The first example was of a UFO cult that was convinced aliens were going to come and save them. Many times they would stand out in a designated field and wait. Obviously, the aliens never came, but the cult adamantly refused to admit they were wrong.
The second example was of a lady in her late 60s who was divorced and looking for a companion. She made the mistake of going on line and immediately got hooked up with a scammer who said his name was Sergio (it wasn’t) and that he was from Italy (he wasn’t). After he had convinced her that he was Sergio from Italy there came a time when he asked her for money for his son who was in a car accident. There was no son and no accident. The relationship went on and on and the lady sent him more and more money. Her friends even showed her information totally pointing out that this guy was fake, but she refused to believe her friends. Instead, she preferred to believe the lies.
This is where we are today in America, my friends. Tens of millions of people would rather believe in lies told by a man they see as charismatic. They would rather believe in propaganda than in the truth. Yes, today it is difficult to sort out truth from fiction, but it’s imperative that each and every one of us work as hard as we can to determine the truth and promote it.
In 1948, George Orwell wrote a novel called “1984.” For years we have all thought that this was nothing more than a good piece of fiction and that there is no way that it could ever come to be true. We need to ask ourselves what would Orwell think today when he sees a disgraced former president promoting lies day in and day out to throngs of people who lap it up like a dog lapping up his own vomit.
If you don’t believe that our democracy is hanging in the balance and that the America we’ve known and grown up in is in jeopardy then maybe you should read “1984” again.
Bob Stannard lives in Manchester Center.