Last year I would say, “It can’t get any worse than this,” only to be proven wrong; again and again. Finally, the year 2020 came to an end and I said “It’s finally over. It can’t get any worse,” only to have the travesty unfold before our eyes last week.
When actions of Biblical proportions take place there are always counteractions that are executed in response to the bad events. At the beginning of World War II America sent thousands of Japanese families to internment camps to ensure American safety. A total overreaction just as blacklisting actors in the 1950s during the McCarthy era was overreaction to the threat of Communism. Unfortunately, the question of free speech and the question of free trade and the trashing of civil liberties has suddenly been sprung on the citizens of our great nation.
In 2013 I wrote an article pertaining to Big Brother. I would have thought that eight years later this threat would have been negated. It hasn’t, and today it is even more prevalent than in 2013. This article follows.
In 1949 George Orwell, an English writer, completed his final novel while dying of tuberculosis in Scotland. Little did he realize that terms he used in this novel would become ingrained in the American vernacular and used in normal conversation when discussing freedom and liberty. One such term is “Big Brother is Watching You”.
A few months before Orwell’s death, “1984” was published. Based on a future view of the world when there was continual war and military actions, the fictitious country of Oceana was dictated by a central government controlled by a privileged inner circle. Big Brother is the leader of the political party and enjoys a cult personality from the country. He is idolized much as a movie star would be. Independent thinking and individualism is viewed by the ruling party as worthless. The central government would provide for the population and the citizens need not think for themselves. To do so could lead to prosecution from the government for performing thought crimes.
The government had surveillance devices everywhere and thus led to the term “Big Brother is watching you.” This has led to the use of the term when people think that the government is infringing on the rights of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as provided by our Constitution. My first introduction to 1984 was an early black and white movie launched in the 1950s. As I watched this film on the Channel 8 after school movie, Showboat, I can still remember the uneasiness I felt as I watched how the citizens were continually being watched and monitored.
And now we are witnessing this behavior in our country as well as other countries around the world. The recent revelation that the Federal Government has captured millions of telco and broadband records is sending shivers up the spines of many as calls of Big Brother is watching you is being communicated throughout our country. But then it has to be asked, at what price do we have to pay to maintain our freedom. What trade off do we have to accept to fight the ongoing war against terror and those that wish to do us harm. The government is claiming that the threat from Al Quida is over. This is not correct and even if it were there are other subversive groups waiting to take its’ place.
There was a time that the use of video surveillance in public locations was viewed as Big Brother. After a while the concerns evaporated and recently public cameras were instrumental in capturing the Boston Bombers. While this has been an accepted method to keeping us safe the impingement on our freedom has been viewed as a necessary evil. The recent disclosure of personal communication records is different. The cameras that capture our public movements are in the public domain. Unlike “1984” the invasion of privacy inside the home has not been acceptable within the American borders. Now we have to ask ourselves the question, “Is it acceptable for government to indiscriminately capture personal communication records in an effort to thwart terrorism?” This is going to be a highly debated issue over the next few months. The primary question that has to be raised is the potential to use the records for activities other than originally intended. Then our basic rights to freedom have been usurped. Another thing that we must guard against is future generations becoming comfortable in a society that accepts that it is OK for Big Brother to watch them. This is a delicate balancing act and it will be interesting to see how our government and our citizens play this out.
Today, in 2021, the threat is even more sinister. It is not only government that is watching us but also enormous social media platforms. Not only has the President of the United States been excluded from various social media sites but Google has gone so far as to make inroads to eliminate a conservative social media site that allows free and unrestricted access to free speech. The one main knee jerk reaction to the debacle of last week is the insertion of the social media companies on how Americans live their everyday lives in a free and unencumbered existence.
Tuffy Fields may be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.