In George Orwell’s frighteningly prescient novel 1984, The Ministry of Truth is equipped with a type of pneumatic tube network called the Memory Hole, which leads to a glowing incinerator somewhere in the bowels of the building. It’s used to dispose of all written records that suggest Big Brother is somehow less than infallible.
The character Winston, who works as a party propagandist, spends his days sticking old texts and paper records into the Memory Hole, then rewriting history along party lines. It’s how Big Brother becomes the one and only source of truth in a society that has lost its ability to think or remember.
In Winston’s words:
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. I know, of course, that the past is falsified, but it would never be possible for me to prove it, even when I did the falsification myself.”
The mutability of history is the key to Big Brother’s power. It means the past has no objective existence; it’s whatever Big Brother chooses to make it. Everything else is—to put in a modern political term— FAKE NEWS.
Enter Anthony Scaramucci, Donald Trump’s new Minister of Truth. Less than 24 hours on the job, Scaramucci has opened up the Memory Hole and started shoveling his past tweets into the incinerator.
Like the party operatives working for Big Brother, Scaramucci apparently understands that mindless sycophancy is the only convertible currency in Trump’s White House. And judging by the obsequiousness of his first public statements, Scaramucci’s mouth will most likely remain in a permanent pucker during his tour of duty. (He knows Big Tweeter is watching.)
Full loyalty means erasing the past. For Scaramucci, that means eliminating any record of anything he’s ever uttered that could be construed as criticism of Trump, like when he called him a hack.
Tweet Deleted. Scrubbed from history. Never happened.
Scaramucci is the broken version of Winston at the end of 1984—the one who ultimately professes his love for Big Brother and believes that 2+2=5 because the party says so.
But let’s not forget that Winston starts out the novel as a rebel who was determined to cling to truth, hold onto his past, and defy the totalitarian rule of the Party. Winston isn’t broken until the end of the novel, and only after being tortured by his worst fears. Scaramucci, however, is entering office as a broken man. He literally professed his love for Trump on Day One. So there’s no reason to read the rest of this novel.
The Mooch is only the latest example of reality imitating fiction under Donald Trump. It’s why people are suddenly rereading classic works of dystopian literature: 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, It Can’t Happen Here, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Iron Heel, among others. We’re all seeking some sort of literary wisdom in a new age of anti-intellectual idiocy.
After all, the scariest dystopian fiction is the stuff that’s only a few degrees removed from reality. And these days, it seems like any level of horror is possible.