"DERIVED FROM THE BOOK BIG BROTHER BY GEORGE ORWELL"
The novel Big Brother Is Watching You by George Orwell tells of a tale whereby society’s individual freedom is tramped in favour of the government. This novel highlights how dystopian society characterized by oppression and misery tries to explain how the citizens are well taken care of by the government. The most terrifying thought in Orwell’s novel is how the US is becoming more homogenous to the dystopian nightmare he depicts in. He further explores how high ranking party members can install surveillance for every citizen. Even though the surveillance is purposed for heightened security, every action is monitored and any citizens who resist the surveillance are potential subject to disciplinary action (Ashcroft 8). Have the fictional surveillance systems in America now become a reality? This essay will explore citizen surveillance and privacy and whether the George Orwellian dream came true.
It is commonplace that the society we live in is a surveillance state whereby CCTV, speed cameras and police body cams constitute technology meant to mitigate crime. The cameras record each and every detail so as to reduce the occurrences of accidents through speeding and cutting terrorist networks. Cameras reduce the occurrences of bad behaviour but what is often overlooked is the extent to which the government as well as the governed individuals are observed by the latest surveillance systems. Orwell’s prediction was right in that the government can read mail content, can monitor social media and most of all amass metadata on phone calls and text messages. Orwell, in one of his comments after the publishing of 1984 justified his book by claiming that he did not believe that what he described would occur but he believed something resembling what he described would finally occur.
The US is not autocratic but the perceptions of Big Brother is Watching you depict the draconian and invasive happenings in the country. Under Big Brother is watching you, telescreens are the sleepless eyes that survey each and every move of an individual in a bid to detect and mitigate criminal occurrences. The National Security Agency keeps tabs on the browsing history and communication patterns in order to gain data on personal lives. In NSAs defence, the technology empowers the oppressed for instance exposed extrajudicial killings by the police. It exposes abuses by oppressors. The behaviour of politicians has drastically improved as the recordings expose political intimidation and corruption and produces expert secret witnesses who would have never testified due to the lack of open journalism and investigation. The tiny cameras exposes brutal regimes and the atrocities committed by the military and militia groups by secretly gathering visual evidence necessary for prosecution.
The Orwellian vision of the state of surveillance confirms that there is no place to hide. The present day US government is similar to the one depicted in the novel 1984 as both of them are highly dependent on technological systems that are capable of monitoring the actions of each and every citizen. People rarely talk about how surveillance has taken hold of and enveloped their lives. For Orwell, he claimed that the government was capable of creating perceptual war in order to instil perpetual fear. The fear makes people to willingly impose the adoption and implementation of a surveillance state. The paranoia instilled by the perpetual enemy leads to the sacrifice of individual freedom for collective freedom. America perceives freedom as a licence to get what is wanted as the government has the ability to give it.
In comparison to George Orwell’s book, I cannot recall a single time when the US is not sending troops to another country. Winston too could not remember a time when the country was at peace; it was always at war. Oceania is currently at war with Eastasia in collaboration with Eurasia while four years earlier, the country had been at war with Eurasia in collaboration with Eastasia (Bloom Np). The threat of war is intended to make the society surrender completely to the control of the state. The idea of being at war makes an individual hand over all power in a bid to survive. Perpetual war makes the governing state to deploy tactical methods to stay ahead of the enemy. The best tactical method naturally assumed would be the adoption of surveillance to spy on individuals so as to detect suspicious activity.
The US believes that any enemy to the state is to be the most dreaded. This belief compares with that of Orwell as his works describe the procedure of the consequences imminent war. The steps include instilling fear in the minds of the citizens, making them submissive and finally imposing a pervasive surveillance state on them. The president in September 14, 2001 was authorized to wage permanent war using military force to nations, organizations and individuals believed to have masterminded the 911 attack. The last 14 years has seen two presidents use military force in numerous countries that are ongoing till date. The war waged is meant to fight radical Islam commonly referred to as international terrorism. The similarity of the war with that of Oceania is that they willing accept the government’s use of raw power to eradicate the imminent threat. Every world power is striving to create an upgraded weapon courtesy of the looming imminent threat of eradication of mankind using nuclear weapons. The US has reported many casualties courtesy of drone strikes killing an unknown number of civilians comprising of children. The same applies for Oceania where an unknown number of casualties were civilians. In 2013, Edward Snowden, the modern day version of Winston Smith leaked government surveillance of all US citizens under the pretext of the Patriotic Act. The government never denied the presence of surveillance on its citizens.
Individuals believe that the government is constantly deploying new surveillance tools to be used by the FBI to electronically search for phone’s signals. The surveillance tools include radar devices that can penetrate through houses via radio waves to detect movements. In this modern era, the threat of terrorism is real because the terrorists do not target imaginary people but real people. True freedom is the capacity to believe in the human good of an individual and his/her true intentions. The political realities of the current world reflect those in the era depicted by George Orwell. For instance, the police patrol snoops in on people’s windows to watch the actions of each and every individual. The difference is that the mode of surveillance bypasses by far what George Orwell had predicted. According to Edward Snowden, the intelligence contractor who leaked the information, surveillance in the NSA ingests everyone’s communication by default.
In my opinion, I believe that the surveillance intends to create a system devoid of insecurity. A country without surveillance puts the country in a state of emotional turmoil, political chaos and confusion. Much as 1984 perceives surveillance as a tool of oppression, it is can be used to empower the subjugated individual. Currently, teachers and students can be filmed in classrooms, police violence is recorded and even politicians on how they run governments. The cameras have empowered human rights groups to gather enough evidence to seek justice for the oppressed. The logic that our privacy is violated is a faulty argument as one cannot validate the extent as to which the surveillance contravenes the privacy of an individual.
The appeal to fear fallacy depicted by George Orwell shows that he knows the direction in which thoughts must be altered. Through his book, he instils fear to the people that there is imminent war being waged against the country. The pattern of logical reasoning that the US is ended in the direction in which George Orwell is depicted is fallacious. The reasoning is that since other countries are constantly waging war, then the country should deploy surveillance systems to detect terrorist activities. The fallacy is that if proper surveillance is not adopted and war waged, then the US is most likely to be subjected to mankind eradication (Rodden 150). The appeal to authority is also fallacious as individuals are led to believe that the government abuses their right of power to coerce its citizens to do anything under their power.
On the flip side, I acknowledge the argument brought forth that the government contravenes our privacy as accesses each and every aspect of our lives by checking our browsing history, credit history and our general tastes and preferences. The internet is threatening the confidentiality of an individual (Goold 3). This is because the internet governs the future as it uses a machine learning algorithm to detect the browsing patterns of an individual. It is true that the novel depicts America’s reality with security and surveillance. However, with the emergence of radical insurgencies, the country has to take necessary precaution to reduce terror attacks. The terrorists of this era kill people and destroy property so as to achieve their cause. I believed that there are better ways to handle complaints and not by maiming people and property.
In order for the country to achieve its cause in terms of security, it has to ensure that it uses its capability to instil sanity. In as much as no one wants to be over watched, the government has no other alternative other than to use surveillance to achieve a more secure country devoid of terrorism (Miller 597). Necessary precaution however has to be taken so as to ensure that its citizens do not feel like their privacy rights are infringed upon. The claim that surveillance is not good is not credible as both appeals to fear and authority are fallacious. The Predictions brought forth by George Orwell are right about the future of telescreens but the explanation about privacy infringement does not serve the purpose as to why surveillance is necessary.
Ashcroft, Bill. "The ambiguous necessity of utopia: Post-colonial literatures and the persistence of hope." Social Alternatives 28.3 (2009): 8.
Bloom, Harold, ed. George Orwell's 1984. Infobase Publishing, 2009.
Goold, Benjamin J. "Surveillance and the political value of privacy." Amsterdam LF 1 (2008): 3.
Miller, Clark A., and Ira Bennett. "Thinking longer term about technology: is there value in science fiction-inspired approaches to constructing futures?." Science and Public Policy 35.8 (2008): 597.
Rodden, John. "How do stories convince us? Notes towards a rhetoric of narrative." College Literature 35.1 (2008): 148-173.