Big Brother is Watching: Get Over It!
In George Orwell’s book, 1984, the very existence of every person is scrutinized by their form of government called the Party. The main character, Winston Smith, is constantly monitored throughout his daily life by the telescreen, “an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror” (1), placed strategically so that it can see and hear everything that is going on around him. In America society today we are seeing a movement that can be classified as “Orwellian” as it relates to this very subject of surveillance, the Internet. The similarities between the telescreen and the free access of the Internet cannot be ignored and as our country is dealing with terrorism, we must be willing to endure some lose of independence that we have gained through the World Wide Web.
One similarity easily noted between the telescreen and the Internet is that they both can not be turned off. The telescreen “could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely” (2). On the other hand, you may think that you are turning off the Internet when you shut down your computer, but in fact it stays on twenty-four hours a day. They are both viewed through a monitor, whereas the telescreen is forcibly two-way where you can be seen and heard, the computer gives you a choice. Some people invite others into their homes via the internet with the use of webcams, cameras that are attached to your computer and allow others to see you in your home. This may all seem like fun now, but it sounds like if taken several steps further it could turn into the constant monitoring that Winston is subjected to.
Although the telescreen may be a figment of someone’s imagination, the Internet is all too real and may be the largest intrusion of privacy on earth. The orthodox world in which Winston lives is starting to become a reality as the Internet grows larger and your privacy grows smaller. This invasion of privacy into Winston’s life is aptly noted during one of his daily morning physical jerks as a strident voice screams at him through the telescreen, “6079 Smith W! Yes, you! Bend lower, please!” (32), which snaps him back to attention. Although you are not being watched on the Internet, you are given a number that allows a web site to identify you each time you visit under the pretense of being able to send you advertisements that appeal to your tastes. The next time you visit Google, it might know that “user No. 8954 reads the Bible, has an interest in sailing and checks the stock price of IBM each day” (Masci). This is not the only type of invasion of privacy that Americans are exposed to on a daily basis.
According to an article written by William Safire, Age of Consent, “your privacy – a free American’s right to be let alone – has been stripped away.” This is where the similarities between the telescreen and the Internet become all too real. In the same manner as with the telescreen being controlled by the Party, the Internet is the breeding ground for the United States government control. For example, recently, the “U.S. House of Representatives approved a Homeland Security Act that will give federal agencies significant new powers to track what Americans are reading, writing and buying on-line” (Getz). If passed through the senate, this bill will enable law-enforcement agencies to receive from Internet Service Providers all client records which will reveal everything about them from their favorite Web sites to their personal e-mail messages legally. “Perhaps, in browsing the Net, you stumbled into a pedophile chat room or some other site being monitored by the F.B.I.” (Safire), this bill will allow them to enter your home and search the premises for incriminating evidence that could lead to arrest. Sounds scary? It should. So where do Americans draw the line? At what point to we say that it’s OK to take away part of our freedom in order to have a safer place to live?
The whole terrifying concept of 1984 is feasible enough to take a closer look at these similarities between the telescreen and the Internet. Although Winston doesn’t have a choice about whether he wants the telescreen or not, we fortunately do have the option to use the Internet. The U.S. government may not have any choice but to take away our freedom little by little especially with the terrorist threats that we face in America today. I believe in our Bill of Rights which allows us our right to privacy but I also feel that we may have to give up some of our freedom in order to feel safe. If you have not done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. I agree with Scott McNealy, C.E.O. of Sun Microsystems when he said, “You have zero privacy – get over it” (Safire).
Getz, Arlene. “Big Brother Goes to Washington.” The CQ Researcher. 15 June 2001. Vol 11,
No. 19. Online. Available at http://rcclamp.rccd.cc.ca.us/
Masci, David. “Internet Privacy” The CQ Researcher. 06 November 1998. Vol 8, No. 41 Online.
Available at http:// rcclamp.rccd.cc.ca.us/
Orwell, George. 1984. New York: Plume, 1983.
Safire, William. “Age of Consent.” New York Times 12 March 2001