In this new era of fake news and alternative facts, writers are desperate for any sort of poignant phrase or literary reference to sum up the helplessness they feel looking at the world around them. One of the most common books inside people’s in-case-of-dystopia-break-glass emergency reference box is often George Orwell’s 1984, partly because it paints a grim picture of a world in which truth is meaningless and partly because it’s written at a ninth-grade reading level. However, if you’re going to run around quoting a book that’s about the dangers of pointed misinformation, you’d better make sure it’s a real quote and not somebody’s hilarious bit on Twitter.
This is precisely what happened in an article published by The Guardian on Wednesday that ended with the following supposed excerpt from Orwell’s novel in which the book’s protagonist, Winston, is given a harsh lesson on the subjectivity of truth and the size of trains:
Big brother smirked, “Facts are whatever I say they are. For example, trains are small. Really small. You could fit a train in the palm of your hand.”
“That’s not true,” spluttered Winston. “I was on a train yesterday. It’s the biggest damn thing I’d ever seen.”
“No!” boomed Big Brother. “It was small! Welcome to Tiny Train World, Winston. Enjoy not being able to catch a train on account of their being too small, you idiot!”
If you only have a passing knowledge of 1984—or books in general—you may think Tiny Train World is a completely plausible phrase to appear in a world-famous piece of literature. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. This passage comes directly from the mind of cartoonist and Twitter phenom @PixelatedBoat, who was more than delighted to see these ridiculous words in print.
But, in a world where posting wholly made-up quotes and statistics on Twitter can eventually get you elected to the highest office in the land, who’s to say a fake quote from 1984 isn’t as poignant as the real deal? Welcome to Tiny Train World, indeed.