We’ve all heard the catch phrase from George Orwell’s 1984: “Big Brother is watching you.” The gray and depressing scenario of Orwell’s future, now become our past (1984 was published in 1948), is often imagined as our present reality, what with NSA spying, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and any number of commercial enterprises busily collecting information about our Internet browsing habits, for to sell to eager advertisers lurking in cyberspace.,
Even a past member of the Supreme Court foresaw the results of technology yet to be developed:
“Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order and the like.” ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice
It’s true that the Internet is a giant colander of personal information available to the highest bidder, information that is used to craft exceedingly clever and diabolical advertisements to reach into our minds and coerce us into buying all manner of material goods to fill our garages and force out cars out into the freezing cold of the driveway.
Or is it?
Sensitive information stored in our personal electronic devices would not be there if we did not willingly put it there. To judge from Facebook, protestations of personal privacy seem to be put on hold when one enters the threshold of FaceSpace. Every instant of Facebookers lives is on display for all to see and titillate over, millions of people whom we’ve never met and never will, suddenly aware of our personal habits, foibles, fears and failures, laid out in scintillating pixels.
One wonders if what some want is anonymity among the Facebook billions rather than assurances of personal privacy.
And who cares about advertising on the Internet? Ad Blockers of various stripes are the most downloaded application of all time. One need never be exposed to an ad on a computer screen, unless one is purposefully searching for electronic retail therapy. And finding it in gigabytes.
No, I don’t think Big Brother is Watching You. It’s much more insidious than that. Big Brother is messing with your mind, filling your head with meaningless distractions, occupying your every waking moment with noise, ungrammatical prattle and impenetrable syntax. The constant chatter prevents introspection and thought, fills the void with a gray goo of empty imagery, friendless conviviality and mind-numbing, unrelenting busy-ness.
Big Brother is no longer watching you. Big Brother doesn’t care.
Big Brother is Programming You.