Outrage, Outing and Orwell

The weekend of August 11, 12 and 13, 2017, will be remembered as a dark time in American history. Charlottesville Virginia. White supremacists held two hate rallies, one on Friday, and one on Saturday. Anti-racist counter demonstrators protested. Violence occurred on Saturday resulting in injuries and the death of a counter protester. It has been reported that the alleged killer has neo-Nazi leanings. Two police officers died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the situation. The President issued a lukewarm statement holding “many” accountable, no specifics. He had to be badgered into half-heartedly reading a statement condemning the terrorist/hate groups involved, days after the incident, and has now, even backtracked on that.

This may be looked upon later as one of the turning points in history for exposing how far we “haven’t actually come” in our struggle to bring true equality up to speed with what our founding documents called for when they were written. I am outraged, saddened and sickened to have a more accurate picture of the extent to which racism had gone underground. This racism, which is still being taught to new generations, and has been encouraged by the current administration, especially the President of the United States, is now coming out of the bottom of the garbage heap to spew hatred and cause death. This may also be a turning point in our history in favor of a more Orwellian future.

It seems like so many of us are — if not happy, at least okay — with the “outing” of the white supremacist marchers via video and social media. My gut reaction was “Yes! Expose those a**h***s!” The photos went viral. Some marchers were identified, and are now dealing with the consequences of their despicable behavior.

We’re satisfied that our vigilante style actions are bringing those people to justice on some sort of a street level in the court of public opinion. Just like social media boycotts of companies that justifiably displease or offend us in some way, we are exercising our freedom with groundswell movements to set things straight. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We have the power, we can get things done. On the dark side of it, because of today’s technology, and because of the rate at which technology is advancing, we may be happily placing a noose around our necks for Big Brother, while paying for the privilege of doing so.

We are the consumers of this technology. It’s affordable, and we are connected. Computers. The internet. Smartphones. Tiny video cameras. Dashcams. At any time any of us can record or be recorded. Right now, it’s a good thing. We can record auto wrecks, bad behavior, (including cops behaving badly) and report these things to the authorities. Let me repeat that: report these things to the authorities.

Because of technology, we are capable of turning each other in on a scale much greater than before. This is way beyond calling the police if you see a crime being committed, hear screams from your neighbor’s house, or are a victim of a crime. If you are outraged by something, you can instantly share it with hundreds which can turn into thousands which can turn into millions. Worldwide. We are doing this as good citizens. That’s what good citizens do, right? We are normalizing this.

We do this on the information highway. We purchase bandwidth on the internet and cell phone networks. Search engines such as Google are where we go to find things, buy them, watch them, read them. At the same time, the internet is also reading us. Unless you clear your cookies, you will see adds for what you have looked at immediately after you’ve looked. If you’re connected to your local supermarket via a phone app, you might get a notification from your store when you are in it. This happened to my wife recently. “You are in Safeway” the pop-up said. Right now, this is a good thing. You can scan coupons at the store and save money, but it points out that we are being watched by our favorite and not so favorite merchants, connected to the world wide web.

Search engines, because of decency and good values, make certain subjects harder to find, such as gruesome videos posted by terrorist groups. This is a good thing too, no doubt. But, where can this all lead?

We now depend on this web for our information. The governments of some countries choke off internet information. Google itself chokes off or makes it hard to find certain information. Not only do we buy the internet service and the merchandise on it, some of us own stock in Google and other connected stocks. Google is a massive company. Massive companies eventually buy governments. Governments, especially when run by legislators owned by massive companies, and headed by “leaders” who perhaps want to be our CEOs rather than our chief public servants, want to control us. Sound familiar?

Societies evolve, affected by conditions presented to them, as do governments. Our technology might be pushing us into a trap that we can’t see well at the moment, and one that will be difficult to escape. It’s not hard to imagine a future where we have become used to our power to expose each other, happily, as consumers and good citizens.

Orwell’s 1984, a little later than predicted could be here soon, not forced upon us by an evil government, but handed to that government by us, and we will have funded the takeover.

I’ll paraphrase this old chestnut, and apologize for not knowing to whom I should give credit:

Am I paranoid? Yes. Am I paranoid enough? I’m not sure. Food for thought.

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