One of the fundamental tenets of data analysis is that correlation does not necessarily indicate causation, but nonetheless, the news that Amazon sales for George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 have skyrocketed in the days immediately following the recent media debacle involving the Trump administration—during which White House press secretary Sean Spicer provided blatantly false information about the number of people who attended Trump’s inauguration, and the President’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway proceeded to defend Spicer by characterizing his false claims as “alternative facts”—is very interesting indeed.
The report, which comes courtesy of CNN, points out that sales for Orwell’s book also spiked in 2013 after Edward Snowden went public about the scale of the NSA’s surveillance program, and, as CNN observes, the surges in the novel’s popularity may have to do with the present-day resonances of the work’s iconic themes. In the Snowden instance, NSA’s extensive surveillance capabilities were a clear, real-life parallel to Big Brother’s omnipresent gaze, whereas the recent conduct of the Trump administration all but confirms the chilling relevance of Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian regime in which every aspect of daily life is regulated by an oppressive state. Indeed, Trump’s ethos evokes for many that of fascist rulers past, Spicer’s deliberate misinformation exposes a blatant attempt to control the media, and Conway’s “alternative facts” brings to mind the way in which Orwell’s (barely) fictional Ministry of Truth deals in lies.
CNN aptly points out that, whatever effect the most recent furor over the Trump administration may have had on the sales of 1984, part of the novel’s popularity likely has to do with the fact that the book remains required reading in most schools. Additionally, since the Amazon bestseller list is updated hourly, Orwell’s novel may not stay at the top for long. The Trump administration, on the other hand, is likely to remain there for the next four years.