"As we confront a rise in nationalism, he reminds us nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism," CNN correspondent John Avlon said.
June 4, 2019

In John Avlon's Reality Check segment, he talked about why George Orwell is more relevant than ever.

"For a guy who has been dead for nearly 70 years, George Orwell has never been hotter. The sales of his dystopian novel 1984 surged to the after President Trump's inauguration. With alternative facts and fake news, Orwell raises his head again. 'The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final most essential command.' Sound familiar?

What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

"Yes. Orwell seems to be a man for all seasons right now. As we confront a rise in nationalism, he reminds us nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Pointing to the overlap between extremes, Orwell observed a communist and a fascist are somewhat nearer to one another than either is to a democrat. A journalist's insistence on a fact-based debate is entirely consistent with Orwell's admonition that freedom is the freedom to say two plus two make four, even when leaders insist the opposite. On all the war on facts and dissent that we see right now, we should recognize that our concerns are comparatively quaint.

"Because today is June 4th, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. When hundreds, maybe thousands of students were murdered in a pro-democracy rally by the Chinese government. CNN cameras and reporters were there, sending an important message about the power of the press to stop countries from murdering their citizens with impunity.

"This footage, the person known only to history as Tank Man became an instant international symbol of the power of the powerless. The picture hangs here in the halls of CNN, and in my office as well. But in the intervening 30 years, the Chinese government has disappeared Tank Man and any mention of this incident. Mentioning it on social media is deemed subversive. When a BBC crew went to China and showed them video, 80% of folks said they'd never seen it. There's no better example of Orwell's warning that 'Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.'

"And this is happening in our time, often excused by companies who see profit in the promise of wealth without liberty. Now, there are brave activists who try to keep the memory of their murdered sons and daughters alive, particularly the 127 Tiananmen mothers, speaking out at great personal risk. Or consider the social credit scores that use surveillance technology to monitor every aspect of Chinese lives. And with the eyes of history upon us, we should not ignore what one Pentagon official has described as concentration camps, full of as many as two million Muslim minority Uighurs, which New York Times columnist Nick Kristof called part of China's Orwellian war on religion.

"Orwell's greatest enemy was totalitarianism, and its handmaidens of ignorance and intolerance, illustrated by the three slogans of its fictitious Ministry of Truth: 'War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.' It's up to all of us who count ourselves as free to keep George Orwell fiction in the 21st century. And that's your reality check."

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