Margaret Atwood knows about political tumult. Over 30 years ago, she wrote a classic book about a society’s quick slide into a woman-oppressing dystopia. The title remains relevant; The Handmaid’s Tale is getting adapted for a TV series next year, starring Elisabeth Moss (of “Mad Men” fame).
As an activist and writer of wayward worlds, Atwood is uniquely qualified to comment on political developments. And what she has to say about America’s recent state of affairs is pretty grim.
In a brief letter in support of and distributed by PEN America, Atwood wrote:
When dictators of any kind, in any country, achieve power, they clamp down on writers and journalists first, because writers and journalists are alternative and frequently dissenting voices.
The Canadian author continued, “America has always prided itself on being a country where the freedom to write is valued. Please support and preserve that value.” She also referenced a line from The Handmaid’s Tale, connecting it with today’s environment of fake news and “cyberbullying from the corridors of our power.”
While Atwood doesn’t name names in her plea, her implication is clear: Donald Trump’s many attempts to discredit the media are more than bad omens. They’re deliberate steps toward limiting freedom of thought.
Atwood isn’t the first to make this claim. In a post headlined “Trump Won. The Media Lost. What Next?” NPR writes that the president-elect “avidly campaigned against” journalists. And his win hasn’t halted his media-shaming tweets.
The plot of The Handmaid’s Tale is set in 2005, after the spread of false information ― a staged terrorist attack ― leads to the speedy renunciation of the Constitution, and revocation of women’s rights. In her letter, Atwood makes it clear that she doesn’t view her story as a playful “what if” scenario, but a warning against a possible future.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article claimed that Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale 20 years ago. However, Atwood wrote the book in 1985 ― making it over 30 years old.