by John W. Whitehead
- did live, from habit that became instinct -
in the assumption that
every sound you made was overheard,
and, except in darkness,
every movement scrutinized."
It's been 70 years since Orwell - dying, beset by fever and bloody coughing fits, and driven to warn against the rise of a society in which rampant abuse of power and mass manipulation are the norm - depicted the ominous rise of ubiquitous technology, fascism and totalitarianism in 1984.
Who could have predicted that 70 years after Orwell typed the final words to his dystopian novel, "He loved Big Brother," we would fail to heed his warning and come to love Big Brother...
1984 portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state.
We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by not only Orwell but also such fiction writers as,
"If liberty means anything at all,
it means the right to tell people
what they do not want to hear."
Much like Orwell's Big Brother in 1984, the government and its corporate spies now watch our every move.
Much like Huxley's A Brave New World, we are churning out a society of watchers who,
Much like Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the populace is now taught to,
And in keeping with Philip K. Dick's darkly prophetic vision of a dystopian police state - which became the basis for Steven Spielberg's futuristic thriller Minority Report - we are now trapped in a world in which the government is,
...and if you dare to step out of line, dark-clad police SWAT teams and pre-crime units will crack a few skulls to bring the populace under control...
What once seemed futuristic no longer occupies the realm of 'science fiction'...
Incredibly, as the various nascent technologies employed and shared by the government and corporations alike,
...and so on, are incorporated into a complex, interwoven cyber network aimed at tracking our movements, predicting our thoughts and controlling our behavior, the 'dystopian visions' of past writers is fast becoming our present reality.
Our world is characterized by,
...aimed at capturing would-be criminals before they can do any damage.
"People sleep peaceably
in their beds at night
only because rough men stand ready
to do violence on their behalf."
The courts have shredded the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
In fact, SWAT teams battering down doors without search warrants and FBI agents acting as a secret police that investigate dissenting citizens are common occurrences in contemporary America.
And bodily privacy and integrity have been utterly eviscerated by a prevailing view that Americans have no rights over what happens to their bodies during an encounter with government officials, who are allowed to,
...any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.
"The creatures outside looked from pig to man,
and from man to pig, and from pig to man again;
but already it was impossible
to say which was which."
We are increasingly ruled by multi-corporations wedded to the police state.
What many fail to realize is that the government is not operating alone. It cannot. The government requires an accomplice.
Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of the massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental overreach.
For example, USA Today reports that five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the homeland security business was booming to such an extent that it eclipsed mature enterprises like movie-making and the music industry in annual revenue.
This security spending to private corporations such as,
...and others is forecast to exceed $1 trillion in the near future.
The government now has at its disposal technological arsenals so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void.
Spearheaded by the NSA, which has shown itself to care little to nothing for constitutional limits or privacy, the "security/industrial complex" - a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance - has come to dominate the government and our lives.
At three times the size of the CIA, constituting one third of the intelligence budget and with its own global spy network to boot, the NSA has a long history of spying on Americans, whether or not it has always had the authorization to do so.
Money, power, control. There is no shortage of motives fueling the convergence of mega-corporations and government.
But who is paying the price?
Orwell understood what many Americans, caught up in their partisan flag-waving, are still struggling to come to terms with:
Even the best intentions among those in government inevitably give way to the desire to maintain power and control over the citizenry at all costs.
As Orwell explains:
"The further a society drifts from truth
the more it will hate those who speak it."
How do you change the way people think? You start by changing the words they use.
In totalitarian regimes - a.k.a. police states - where conformity and compliance are enforced at the end of a loaded gun, the government dictates what words can and cannot be used.
In countries where the police state hides behind a benevolent mask and disguises itself as tolerance, the citizens censor themselves, policing their words and thoughts to conform to the dictates of the mass mind.
Dystopian literature shows what happens when the populace is transformed into mindless automatons.
In this dystopian vision of the future,
The mottos of Oceania:
All three - Bradbury, Huxley and Orwell - had an uncanny knack for realizing the future, yet it is Orwell who best understood the power of language to manipulate the masses.
Orwell's Big Brother relied on Newspeak to eliminate undesirable words, strip such words as remained of unorthodox meanings and make independent, non-government-approved thought altogether unnecessary.
To give a single example, as psychologist Erich Fromm illustrates in his afterword to 1984:
Where we stand now is at the juncture of OldSpeak (where words have meanings, and ideas can be dangerous) and Newspeak (where only that which is "safe" and "accepted" by the majority is permitted).
The power elite has made their intentions clear:
This is the final link in the police state chain.
"Until they became conscious
they will never rebel,
and until after they have rebelled
they cannot become conscious."
Americans have been conditioned to accept routine incursions on their privacy rights.
In fact, the addiction to screen devices - especially cell phones - has created a hive effect where the populace not only watched but is controlled by AI bots.
However, at one time, the idea of a total surveillance state tracking one's every move would have been abhorrent to most Americans. That all changed with the 9/11 attacks.
As professor Jeffrey Rosen observes,
Having been reduced to a cowering citizenry - mute in the face of elected officials who refuse to represent us, helpless in the face of police brutality, powerless in the face of militarized tactics and technology that treat us like enemy combatants on a battlefield, and naked in the face of government surveillance that sees and hears all - we have nowhere left to go.
We have, so to speak, gone from being a nation where privacy is king to one where nothing is safe from the prying eyes of government.
In search of so-called terrorists and extremists hiding amongst us - the proverbial "needle in a haystack," as one official termed it - the Corporate State has taken to monitoring all aspects of our lives, from cell phone calls and emails to Internet activity and credit card transactions.
Much of this data is being fed through fusion centers across the country, which work with the Department of Homeland Security to make threat assessments on every citizen, including school children.
These are state and regional intelligence centers that collect data on you.
is Watching You."
Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are now being watched, especially if you leave behind an electronic footprint.
When you use your cell phone, you leave a record of when the call was placed, who you called, how long it lasted and even where you were at the time. When you use your ATM card, you leave a record of where and when you used the card.
There is even a video camera at most locations equipped with facial recognition software.
When you use a cell phone or drive a car enabled with GPS, you can be tracked by satellite. Such information is shared with government agents, including local police.
And all of this once-private information about your consumer habits, your whereabouts and your activities is now being fed to the U.S. government.
Federal and state governments, again working with private corporations, monitor your Internet content. Users are profiled and tracked in order to identify, target and even prosecute them.
In such a climate, everyone is a suspect. And you're guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.
To underscore this shift in how the government now views its citizens, the FBI uses its wide-ranging authority to investigate individuals or groups, regardless of whether they are suspected of criminal activity.
"Nothing was your own
except the few cubic centimeters
inside your skull."
Here's what a lot of people fail to understand, however:
We've already seen this play out on the state and federal level with hate crime legislation that cracks down on so-called "hateful" thoughts and expression, encourages self-censoring and reduces free debate on various subject matter.
Say hello to the new Thought Police...
Total Internet surveillance by the Corporate State, as omnipresent as God, is used by the government to predict and, more importantly, control the populace, and it's not as far-fetched as you might think.
For example, the NSA is now designing an artificial intelligence system that is designed to anticipate your every move. In a nutshell, the NSA will feed vast amounts of the information it collects to a computer system known as Aquaint (the acronym stands for Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence), which the computer can then use to detect patterns and predict behavior.
No information is sacred or spared.
Everything from cell phone recordings and logs, to emails, to text messages, to personal information posted on social networking sites, to credit card statements, to library circulation records, to credit card histories, etc., is collected by the NSA and shared freely with its agents in crime:
One NSA researcher actually quit the Aquaint program,
Thus, what we are witnessing, in the so-called name of security and efficiency, is the creation of a new class system comprised of,
Clearly, the age of privacy in (North) America is at an end...
"If you want a picture of the future,
imagine a boot stamping
on a human face - for ever."
So where does that leave us?
We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.
This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.
It won't be long before we find ourselves looking back on the past with longing, back to an age where we could,
To be an individual today, to not conform, to have even a shred of privacy, and to live beyond the reach of the government's roaming eyes and technological spies, one must not only be a rebel but rebel.
So how do you survive in the North American surveillance state?
We're running out of options.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America - The War on the American People, we'll soon have to choose between,
Yet as Aldous Huxley acknowledged in Brave New World Revisited: