Senator Josh Hawley, after objecting to the November 3rd election results and showing solidarity with the mob who stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday, was told that Simon & Schuster would no longer be publishing his upcoming book, The Tyranny of Big Tech. Hawley responded that the decision “could not be more Orwellian.” In responding to his father’s permanent removal from Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. said, “We are living in Orwell’s 1984.” But actor Michael Sheen has taken to writing quotes from 1984 on his Twitter, proving that the book is more resonant than ever, but not for the reasons Hawley and Trump Jr. believe.
As Twitter user @mariealaynaa said, “The fact that #1984IsHere is trending really shows that no one in America has read the f*cking book.” Another tweet from @JeetoCheesus put two quotes side-by-side, placing George Orwell’s 1984 quote saying, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears” next to a quote from Donald Trump stating, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” While many on the right tend to see the de-platforming of several conservatives as proof that we are in the middle of an Orwellian future, many on the left are seeing hypocrisy and proof of Orwell’s true intentions come to life. To bring more evidence to this side is Michael Sheen.
In the first of Michael Sheen’s tweets from Saturday, January 9, says “..a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans..” Sheen continued with two other quotes from 1984, pointing out the consequences of one’s actions.
In fact, Orwell’s 1984 has been banned many times over the years, with a county in Florida trying to ban the book in 1981 for being pro-communism. It’s social and political themes and sexual content have made it a controversial book for many, but has also led to this type of duality in the context of political thinking. Michael Sheen’s post shows how both sides can believe that such a text can be used in their support.
Michael Sheen has stayed quite busy over the last year. In 2020, The Queen and Good Omens actor has appeared in such films as How to Build a Girl and Dolittle, while also taking the role of one of the leads in the miniseries Quiz, about a group who cheated on the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Currently, Sheen is starring as himself on the BBC One series Staged alongside David Tennant, and will be returning to the second season of the FOX series Prodigal Son, which returns on January 12th.
While George Orwell’s 1984 can be seen as a rallying text for people as different as Donald Trump Jr. and Michael Sheen, at the very least, the newfound focus on 1984 also just proves that more people need to be reading. As the #1984IsHere Twitter hashtag keeps trending for several days, it becomes clear that more and more people are invoking the book without ever having read it, or knowing the overarching purpose of the story. If you’re going to quote a book, please read said book before taking it to heart.