NYPD Seeking to Implement New Video Surveillance System
New Documents Regarding Domestic Spying

Big Brother is Watching

On an almost daily basis, I come across articles similar to those in my two prior posts which bring to mind George Orwell's novel 1984.   I was reminded of this today when I stumbled upon an article written in 2002 entitled Learning to Channel Big Brother-George W. Bush Channels George Orwell.

There are a number of disturbing parallels set forth in this article that I found to be extremely relevant in 2006 including:    


In "1984," the state remained perpetually at war against a vague and ever- changing enemy. The war took place largely in the abstract, but it served as a convenient vehicle to fuel hatred, nurture fear and justify the regime's autocratic practices.    

Bush's war against terrorism has become almost as amorphous. Although we are told the president's resolve is steady and the mission clear, we seem to know less and less about the enemy we are fighting. What began as a war against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda quickly morphed into a war against Afghanistan, followed by dire warnings about an "Axis of Evil," the targeting of terrorists in some 50 to 60 countries, and now the beginnings of a major campaign against Iraq. Exactly what will constitute success in this war remains unclear, but the one thing the Bush administration has made certain is that the war will continue "indefinitely."    


Serving as the propaganda arm of the ruling party in "1984," the Ministry of Truth not only spread lies to suit its strategic goals, but constantly rewrote and falsified history.

It is a practice that has become increasingly commonplace in the Bush White House, where presidential transcripts are routinely sanitized to remove the president's gaffes, accounts of intelligence warnings prior to Sept. 11 get spottier with each retelling, and the facts surrounding Bush's past financial dealings are subject to continual revision.    


The ever-watchful eye of Big Brother kept constant tabs on the citizens of Orwell's totalitarian state, using two-way telescreens to monitor people's every move while simultaneously broadcasting party propaganda.    

While that technology may not have arrived yet, public video surveillance has become all the rage in law enforcement, with cameras being deployed everywhere from sporting events to public beaches.    

And thanks to the hastily passed USA Patriot Act, the Justice Department has sweeping new powers to monitor phone conversations, Internet usage, business transactions and library reading records. Best of all, law enforcement need not be burdened any longer with such inconveniences as probable cause.    


Charged with eradicating dissent and ferreting out resistance, the ever- present Thought Police described in "1984" carefully monitored all unorthodox or potentially subversive thoughts.

The Bush administration is not prosecuting thought crime yet, but members have been quick to question the patriotism of anyone who dares criticize their handling of the war on terrorism or homeland defense. Take, for example, the way Attorney General John Ashcroft answered critics of his anti-terrorism measures, saying that opponents of the administration "only aid terrorists" and "give ammunition to America's enemies. "    

Even more ominous was the stern warning White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer sent to Americans after Bill Maher, host of the now defunct "Politically Incorrect," called past U.S. military actions "cowardly." Said Fleischer, "There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."    

Because we are a nation at war -- as we are constantly reminded -- most Americans say they are willing to sacrifice many of our freedoms in return for the promise of greater security. We have been asked to put our blind faith in government and most of us have done so with patriotic fervor. But when the government abuses that trust and begins to stamp out the freedom of dissent that is the hallmark of a democratic society, can there be any turning back?

I find it so disheartening that this article, which was written in 2002, foreshadowed much of what has been reported in recent months, including domestic spying.   Every time I read an article detailing yet another instance of our liberties being washed away in our endless quest for safety from the "terrorists", I feel an ominous sense of foreboding.   Our country has reached a crossroads, and I'm not sure that I like the direction that it seems to have chosen.   


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Two very significant distinctions (i realize the post is, to some extent hyperbole): no thought police and real enemy. Criticising the speech of others is not the thought police and american public discourse on the computers, on the streets, in the papers, on campuses and on and on show this is not a real concern of anybody.

Nicole Black

Yet. But, it's the slippery slope in action.


In Orwell’s “1984” there was no Internet, no 500 plus cable channels (remember when there were only three networks?), no opposition party, no Bill of Rights or hundreds of watchdog groups, no meaningful elections (I believe the people in office are indeed the ones we elected), no gun ownership (I don’t own guns myself, but trust me, you wouldn’t want to be a tyrant in western Pennsylvania. Folks around here are not into being "subdued") … I take it you’re liberal, and so I guess I can understand why you feel the way you do … that is, don’t you think we all tend to see things more negatively when our side isn’t doing well politically?

Nicole Black

Arguably, a number of those items (watchdog groups, opposition parties, meaningful elections, right to own guns) weren't around because of the government in place in the novel. The same could be said for the Bill of Rights.

The point of 1984 was that the government obliterated all individual human rights in its endless quest for power. That doesn't happen overnight. It's a gradual process and is occurring in our country as we speak at what many view to be a fairly alarming rate.

I don't think that perception of this trend is necessarily grounded in a "liberal" perspective. One can be politically conservative and yet have a less conservative view of constitutional interpretation, or vice versa. The two are not mutually exclusive.

The comments to this entry are closed.