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Orwell’s 1984: Privacy Issues and Public Manipulation

04 Dec

The links related to privacy issues taught me all of the negative things that come along with modern technology and social websites. In Tom Head’s Big Brother is Watching, he says that “as technology improves, privacy as we know it will inevitably evaporate; the best we can hope for is the power to watch the watchers.” By this he means that with the advancement of technology comes the decline of individual privacy. This holds true in my opinion, because I believe that the use of modern technology is linked to the decline is personal relations, and the decline of personal relationships is linked to the weakening value associated with privacy.

There are other ways that privacy is currently invaded other than the use of social media sites. For starters, the CIFA has previously “exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations,” (The Other Big Brother). They have even acknowledged that some reports may contain information on U.S. citizens and groups that “never should have been obtained.” Also, this same source states that the National Security Agency to monitor telephone conversations in the U.S. It has been proven, according to this source, that CIFA’s database has contained information that “may have violated regulations,” because the department isn’t allowed to retain information about citizens for more than 90 days unless there is a reasonable belief that the person is linked to terrorism or foreign intelligence. This regulation has been violated. Also in use are video surveillance, face recognition software, GPS tracking, all of which go beyond the human eye and the evidence these technologies hold leaves an unsettling feeling to potential “victims,” (Tana Ganeva, Massive New Biometric Database).

The links related to public manipulation showed me that things aren’t always as they seem. There was one link that confirmed that the portrait of Abraham Lincoln was actually Lincoln’s head painted atop of John Calhoun’s body. The link “Orwell and March Madness” talked about an advertisement stating that African-American male student athletes are 10% more likely to graduate. A comparison of college basketball players with other full-time student proves otherwise—that the athletes were 20% less likely to graduate than non-athletes.

This link, (Orwell and March Madness) directly reminded me of the scene in 1984 where Winston overhears the telescreen state that the chocolate rations had been raised to 20g when he knew for a fact that the rations had just been dropped to 20g from 30g. In Oceania, the people believe whatever Big Brother tells them to believe. If the telescreen says rations of goods have been raised, then they have been raised. If the telescreen says that conditions today are better than the conditions of the past, it is truth. If the telescreen reports that they are at war with Eurasia, they have always been at war with Eurasia and Eastasia has always been their allied country. The people of Oceania are constantly manipulated by their government to believe that Big Brother is their provider, protector, and savior. Either they mask their realization and pretend to believe in the Party, they really don’t realize that they’re being manipulated, or they are punished and tortured in the Ministry of Love like Winston is in the very end of the novel.

The telescreens can always see and hear whatever is going on, both in public and private settings. There are no secrets and there is no privacy.  They have eyes and ears everywhere, in technological forms and in the form of undercover spies, like Mr. Charrington. If someone is acting or believed to be thinking suspiciously, that person is captured, tortured, and executed, then vaporized into an imaginary non-existence. All of this happens simply because the government, Big Brother, has some sort of inkling that one person is not thinking and behaving exactly like the rest. It could potentially be caused by nothing more than mere suspicion, suspicion that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the governmental spies—the Thought Police and the telescreens. The technology of Oceania’s society is the core of its societal and moral destruction. This brings me back to Tom Head’s statement: “As technology improves, privacy as we know it will inevitably evaporate; the best we can hope for is the power to watch the watchers.” In Oceania, their technology was so advanced that the people were continuously watched, leaving them no privacy. The best the people there could hope for was the existence of The Brotherhood—an organization conspiring to overthrow the unjust Big Brother—or a revolt against Big Brother himself. The could only hope to free themselves by watching Big Brother watch them, see what he sees in order to do what he is incapable of seeing.

While George Orwell’s ideas about governmental surveillance were far-fetched at the time, and still seem over-the-top today, his underlying interpretation of the future government holds true. We are watched and our activities are monitored by our government, though not to the severity assumed by Orwell in 1984. Researching the privacy issues and the ways our government manipulates the public opinion by use of advertisements makes me feel like I ought to be more cautious, especially when on the internet.  I have also learned that in order to know the truth behind certain ads, I ought to research that ad, not just trust it for what it is. Some may say the current state of government surveillance is minimal and doesn’t make much difference, and perhaps that is true, however, what level may it reach in the near future?

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Beyond 1984

 

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