When George Orwell’s novel 1984 was published in 1949, it was seen as a fictional cautionary tale about a dystopian future. Among other things, 1984 is about authoritarianism and the manipulation of facts and truth to completely control everyone. If you haven’t yet read it, you should. Or you could watch the movie.

The main character is a man called Winston Smith, who works at the Ministry of Truth, where it’s his job to rewrite history to conform to the Party’s current version of it. Big Brother is the mysterious cult leader of the Party, and anyone who does not absolutely conform disappears and all evidence of them ever existing is destroyed. In addition to cameras and hidden microphones, people are constantly monitored through telescreens (two-way televisions) which both pump out constant propaganda and spy on every citizen. 

Is it possible this fiction is close to becoming fact? With continual surveillance, effective propaganda, a compliant populace, and a cult leader, perhaps.

All of our smart devices with a microphone already know everything we say. Amazon Echo and Google Next await our verbal command. As do our phones and TVs and Google Nest and the vehicles we drive. The security cameras we have to keep us safe record everyone coming and going from our homes. And thanks to Google’s algorithms, if you just think about buying a new grill, 20 ads for one pop up on your phone.

We are bombarded with propaganda. Carlson’s recent visit to Russia where he praised their subway and supermarkets and his fawning Putin interview were to prepare us for how lovely living under a dictatorship would be.

Reality is suspended and history is rewritten. Rioters who defecated and urinated in the Capitol were just your normal, peaceful tourists. Slavery was good because it taught people some useful skills. 

In Trump, there is the cult leader who demands absolute loyalty from his followers or they are cast out of the fold. Trump said Haley donors will be permanently banned from MAGA. Blatant lies are accepted truth. Trump and his associates lost more than 60 lawsuits that claimed the election was stolen, and yet three years after the election, he’s still going on about how the election was rigged and his followers believe him. 

An admirer of dictators, Trump said he’d be one. Dictators can do as they wish and permanently silence their critics or those who displease them. Angered by General Mark Milley’s calls to China to assure them of our stability, Trump said it was “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH.” 

I’m not proposing a new conspiracy theory or trying to make you paranoid about your smart devices, but given the advances in artificial intelligence and the fact that the guy who wants to be president says he’ll be a dictator and seems to be using the novel as his playbook, there just might be cause for concern.