In her most recent outrage against common sense and the First Amendment, Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted this week: “We stand by our decision to revoke [Jim Acosta’s] hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.” The video Sanders alludes to, as it happens, was doctored, unconvincingly, to create the illusion that CNN’s Jim Acosta assaulted a White House staffer as she was attempting to grab his microphone away from him during Wednesday’s press conference.
Actual unretouched footage from various angles contradicts Sanders’ video, giving the lie to the entire squalid rationale. While the provenance of Sanders’ spurious video is still under dispute (at one point it passed through the hands of InfoWars), its nefarious and quite possibly unlawful intent is not: to pervert Acosta’s constitutionally sanctioned right to ask the “president” a legitimate question.
Enter JK Rowling, of whom it may be said few invoke George Orwell better, who in a retweet of Sanders’ “video” responded with this literary quote:
‘And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.” — George Orwell, 1984
Those who have read the book will recall that this reflection was summoned by the protagonist, Winston Smith, while achingly performing his mandatory morning exercises. He is led by an unsmiling, unsympathetic matron sadistically exhorting him from his telescreen. (Central Casting would need look no further than the White House Press Office to fulfil that role.)
It was in the paragraph quoted by Rowling in which we are introduced to the concept of “doublethink,” a word introduced into common coin by the book itself. To again quote 1984: “All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.”
The whole sordid, solipsistic, White House spin on the Jim Acosta “assault” affair positively reeks of Orwellian doublethink. We are once again called upon to disbelieve the evidence of our eyes and our ears and, through a “series of victories over our own memories,” believe in their place the word of this gaslighting and disingenuous and corrupt administration.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.