1984 has arrived Big Brother is watching!
Remember when we all read George Orwell's book "1984"? We thought it was so distant and so impossible for the government to be so intrusive in private lives. Big Brother is watching!
The year 1984 has come and gone and the book is probably catching dust on bookshelves or relegated to history, but another George has taken up the task of making Big Brother a reality.
First it was the provisions of the Patriot Act, endorsed by President George W. Bush, that allowed Big Brother to check library patrons' book reading. Librarians quickly took up the challenge and destroyed old records, keeping only the record of current books checked out. Also many refused to give information to the government. Big Brother is watching!
Then George decided to intercept e-mails without legal authorization.
He could easily have obtained such authority by going to a special court, but he chose not to take this route, claiming presidential authority granted under the Constitution.
He assured us that only international e-mails were being checked for patterns of communication. Even though some expressed outrage, this seemed to mollify the critics. Big Brother is watching!
Next came the request for and receipt of millions of telephone calls. This started soon after 9/11. AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South complied with the government's request. The U.S. telecommunications industry can connect hundreds of billions of telephone calls each year. Intelligence analysts are seeking to mine their records to expose hidden connections and details of social networks, hoping to find signs of terrorist plots in the vast sea of innocent contacts. Nearly 2 trillion have been collected since late 2001; only the phone numbers have been collected, not names or messages. The National Security Agency is using a program to find patterns of phone calls and find those made to known terrorists. (Washington Post 06May12)
The president assures us that ordinary citizens have nothing to fear. Are we led to believe that there are millions of terrorists running around this country making phone calls? Big Brother is watching!
The Bush administration asked for and received data on the searches made by private citizens on the Internet. Yahoo complied with the request, but Google refused. Big Brother is watching!
When the Terri Schiavo case was being debated in Florida, President Bush stepped in. Big Brother is watching!
A family of five bought a house in Black Jack, Mo., but they discovered a city ordinance required an occupancy permit. The town is trying to prevent overcrowding, it said. Their permit was denied because the man and woman were not married, even though they have been living together for 13 years and two of three children are theirs. They are not considered a family by the city. The city is reviewing the ordinance. Big Brother is watching at the local level, too!
It is this same Big Brother who wants to regulate marriage through a Constitutional amendment. Big Brother is watching!
According to the Washington Post (7/23/06), the Commission on the Future of Higher Education released its proposal in late June to set up a national database that would track college student courses taken and their successes and failures throughout their college careers. Data would be linked to individual Social Security numbers. The article asked how soon will it be before such studies trickle down to high school and elementary school students. Big Brother is watching!
Back when 1984 first came out, it was generally believed that the liberals of this country would be the ones to take the path of making government into Big Brother. After all, the widely held view was and is that it's the liberals who continue to make government bigger and bigger! They are the ones who try to regulate everything, so the thinking goes.
"Surprise, surprise!" as Gomer Pyle used to say. The conservatives are the ones reaching into our private lives, breaking the Fourth Amendment rights of protection from capricious searches.
On the other side, the gun control people, including me, want to ban the ownership and use of firearms, but I begrudgingly admit that this, too, is a case of government intrusion. Big Brother is watching!
When is it proper and good to restrict individual rights under the banner of security? A good question to ponder, especially in this election year.
Norbert Bufka is a Midland resident and occasional contributor to the Midland Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. You can visit his website at www.thisonly.org.
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