Today’s government in the United States has more power than many may think
Today’s government in the United States has more power than many may think, and surveillance cameras being constantly added to today’s may also be a threatening contribution to this power. George Orwell’s novel 1984 was published on June 8, 1949. After many years of misery through the depression and World War 2 postwar prosperity in 1949 started to get underway with companies now able to supply the cars, televisions and the other goods demanded in a consumer society. The cars got bigger, the tv’s got bigger, with some 6.2 million new cars sold in the US and nearly 10 million televisions in American homes. China became a communist country and Russia had the Nuclear Bomb which increased the tension between East and West.
In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith goes against the oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful Big Brother. Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia. Winston and Julia end up falling in love and began meeting in secret. Winston soon was drawn to the brotherhood which he sought out their leader, O’Brien. However, O’Brien turned out to be a member of the thought police. Winston and Julia end up being arrested and find out they were being watched. O’Brien tortures Winston in Room 101 with his deepest fears. In the End, Julia and Winston are turned back into members of the party and now ignore each other as if nothing happened. George Orwell’s novel 1984 gives an example of how an Oligarchy government would be for a country’s citizens, a kind of warning as to what would happen if a government did become far too powerful. Although the United States government may not be to the point of Big Brother’s ruling in Oceania, it is on the verge of coming very close to it if not controlled while it still can be. Technology has brought Surveillance and Big Brother for the country of Oceania and built a modern surveillance society. For the United States technology, today is taking us closer to the world of Big Brother.
In Oceania, the fictional country in the novel 1984, Big Brother and his government have ultimate power over all of their citizens. A specific example of this power is their type of surveillance camera which they call a telescreen. These telescreens are placed in every room of every citizens’ home in Oceania where their every move is being monitored throughout the day. However, each citizen is allowed to turn their telescreen off for thirty minutes at a time. These monitoring systems are able to hear every word being said and every move that a person makes. Essentially, these telescreens take away all privacy for the citizens of Oceania. Winston experienced this within this quote: “The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was a course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate, they can plug into your wire whenever they wanted to.”
In the modern 21st century society, advancements in technology have revolutionized the way we as a society communicate and function. The twentieth century gave rise to the internet, dozens of satellites, radio communications, GPS technology and many other countless ways of capturing, documenting and recording our lives. All these technologies are often are on run, regulated, by the government. They’re in possession of vast networks, always knowing what you know, seeing what you see, hearing what you hear, and never leaving you completely alone. Is comforting it? I think not. Surveillance cameras in the United States today have many differences compared to those of Oceania’s society. Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell claims that surveillance cameras being used by his department are “not running a camera-monitoring center, but it will allow them to see what happened or is occurring on a street or intersection”. He also claims “it won’t be a case of ‘big brother is watching’ because a central control center will enlist the private cameras only when police know an incident is unfolding in a certain area”. The cameras used in the U.S. are said to be used only for the purpose of safety for its citizens. This may be true, but with the resources that these surveillance cameras provide to the government and its officials, the power could easily be abused. These cameras may help the safety of those living in America, but they also take away some of the freedoms that people have. For instance, surveillance cameras put up on the public, residential streets may be able to view citizens on their private property, which in turn takes away their right to privacy. These cameras may be for use of safety within those neighborhoods, but they may, however, compromise the rights of everyday citizens in order to do so.
There is also the issue of surveillance cameras located within smartphones. Because the majority of United States Citizens carry these devices within them on an everyday basis, they are the biggest threat to their privacy and rights. As said in an article by Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan titled “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker”, “Cellular systems constantly check and record the location of all phones on their networks – and this data is particularly treasured by police departments and online advertisers”. This shows how the government is able to obtain private information on its general public, something that compromises their rights to privacy very blatantly. In order for the United States government to become one that resembles that of Oceania’s, the power they have must be abused fully, not in just a few aspects of control such as surveillance cameras. “Every year, private companies spend millions of dollars developing new services that track, store and share the words, movements and even thoughts of their customers” states Paul Ohm in the article titled “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker”.
The telescreens used in Ocean in George Orwell’s novel 1984 are used for full control over all of its citizens, whereas those used in today’s U.S. society are said to be used only for the safety of Americans. This may be true, the U.S. most likely is not abusing the power of having surveillance cameras for “safety uses” but if they did begin to, this type of power could be coming very close to the type of government present in 1984’s Oceania. Another reason why the current world is on its way to becoming one like Big Brother’s is the internet. In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the internet was yet to exist at the time which brings the thought that America will reach the world of Big Brother and may even surpass it.
All information accessed through the internet is stored on countless hard drives in large information center distributed via broadband, satellite and cellular connections. The first we use was to exchange data between researchers. Anything done on the internet can never be permanently deleted. Internet activity is stored as cookie information on your computer. Your cookies are also merged with a profile associated with your computers IP and MAC address, meaning your computer has an online identity with all the information you save whether it be an address, password, website or name it’s stored within. Government agencies, as well as websites and corporations, are legally allowed to access this activity and analyze it to seek out key information. The government searches for terrorism, crime, and other potential threats. Websites and corporations search to “optimize your browsing experience” and to improve their products using trends in the information they find. Every time you accept these “terms and conditions”, you are allowing that source to any of the information specified. It only requires a gender or age combined with an IP and MAC address to acquire your name and then all the information about you that you have ever saved on the internet. You’re branded a code, just as in 1984.
The internet is a Surveillance State as is and it’s contaminating the world into one like big brother’s. All these large corporations like Google, Facebook, and Apple are tracking everything people do. According to Bruce Schneier in the article “The internet is a slave state”, “One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his internet use during one 36 hour period.” This gives insight to what the Surveillance within the internet is Capable of. “Paula Broadwell, who had an affair with CIA director David Petraeus, similarly took extensive precautions to hide her identity. She never logged in to her anonymous e-mail service from her home network. Instead, she used hotel and other public networks when she emailed him. The FBI correlated hotel registration data from several different hotels and hers was the common name.” These are given shreds of evidence of what to an extent the internet Surveillance can bring to the table. People are being watched all the time and that data is being stored forever. A Surveillance in which is beyond George Orwell’s wildest dreams.
It could be an overreaction that we see the United States alike Oceania and an argument can be made that the technology today is not bringing us closer to the world of Big Brother. One could say that 1984 was just a political statement and was made due to trauma from the Cold War which was occurring at the same time the book was published. Edmond Van Den Bossche argued in his article “The message for today in Orwell’s 1984″,”1984 was a political statement. It contains no prophetic declaration, only a simple warning to mankind. Big Brother did not succeed in destroying individual thought. However, in a large part of our world, he did succeed, through the management of the news and the censorship of the written and spoken word, in severely impairing man’s ability to think freely. Even in the free world, many maintain, inroads have been made: commercial interests try to doctor the news and sometimes succeed, elected officials are tempted to misrepresent the truth, Government agencies attempt to and sometimes do invade the privacy of the individuals, and military leaders feel compelled to hide some of their activities.” The argument stands that technology isn’t the factor that will bring us to the world of Big Brother, however, the government and media will.
The similarities of citizens in the United States compared to the proles of Oceania in George Orwell’s “1984”. Our country is so oblivious to the government’s ways of manipulating the truth as well as keeping the social classes from clashing with one another. Just like the proles, the United State’s lower and middle class make the upper class look like a spec of sand population wise. However, the lower classes are oblivious to the power they truly have due to distractions like Sunday night football and the Kardashian’s latest and greatest upset. Most of the country is still very unaware of the government’s ways of distorting the regulations that citizen’s abide by. But, the increase of the purchase of the novel “1984” after election Donald Trump as president shows that people are starting to realize that maybe Orwell knew what he was talking about back in 1949. However, are people beginning to realize the power they could have over the government’s manipulative games so the real question is, will the people revolt against the corrupt acts and laws being made by the government or will they continue to sit on the couch and binge watch the new season of their favorite show? Our country’s future and a system are in our hands. We are the people, we are the proles.
In conclusion, George Orwell was a futurist thinker who wrote about issues ahead of his own lifetime. 1984 presents thought-provoking concepts concerning the use of technology and how it could influence the relationship between a country and its government. Although some people may think that his predictions for our future were too far-fetched, we have not yet discovered how far technology can go, or how it will affect us as a whole. If a powerful government was able to access devices like presented in 1984, there is a definite possibility that they could be used for dominance over us. it is important that we always consider all the possible outcomes and moral issues when developing new technology, and are always aware of how powerful it really is.