Orwell Is Fashionably Late This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
– from 1984 by George Orwell

“Big Brother is watching you.” And he’s not the only one. In today’s society, we’ve acclimated to surveillance cameras observing our every move in department stores, gas stations, and ATMs. They are there to scan for criminal acti­vity, to protect the innocent. Surveillance couldn’t possibly be abused and used to intrude on Americans’ right to privacy, could it?

George Orwell imagined a totalitarian dystopia in the novel 1984, where the government monitors everything and the minutest ­details of citizens’ lives are kept in check. Government controls what people say, do, even think. It sounds scary, but it’s purely fiction, so no need to be concerned … yet. Surveillance today precariously tiptoes on the fine line between enough information and too much information. The Bush administration has not yet mastered the art of mind reading, but new security measures enforced by the Patriot Act have ­recently tightened their hold on Americans’ right to privacy.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guess work,” Orwell wrote. We don’t live in this Orwellian society, and 1984’s forecast did not arrive on time, but nearly 25 years later, we’re swiftly moving toward that dystopia.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act gives the FBI access to personal records without needing probable cause. In addition, President Bush signed a not-so-secret order in 2002 to allow the National Security Agency to tap into phone calls and view e-mails of people inside the U.S. without a search warrant. It’s disconcerting to know that a stranger may be listening in.

Of course, this is not what the Patriot Act was intended to do. As White House strategist Karl Rove told the Republican National Committee in 2006, “President Bush believes if al-Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they’re calling and why.” This is certainly a valid argument. However, these measures have not led to the arrest of any ­actual terrorists and have only succeeded in giving America a serious, and not altogether unjustified, case of paranoia. The new security was supposedly meant to help, yet so far it has only managed to trample Americans’ private lives.

Phone tapping is just the beginning. Under Section 213, the government can conduct searches of an individual’s home or office. They can take pictures, seize property, and even collect DNA samples – all without informing the person. These procedures are drastic, yet it’s considered unpatriotic to be less than enthusiastic about the government completely eradicating your civil rights in the name of national security. If you’re not involved in terrorism, you should have nothing to hide, but that doesn’t mean you want complete strangers to know about your embarrassing skin condition or that you still sleep with a nightlight.

Even what you read may be considered “civil disobedience,” which according to a news report is ­“expressing an opinion contrary to the president’s.” Section 215 allows the FBI to access libraries’ circulation records and forbids their personnel to tell cardholders that any information has been seized. And if it’s all based on having an opinion contrary to the president’s, we should do away with the popular children’s series Harry Potter, because the president doesn’t ­approve of wizardry. If the president says two plus two equals five, then there go all the math textbooks. It wouldn’t be long before we’re all clutching copies of The Foreign Policy of George W. Bush or God and George W. Bush.

Big Brother is watching you. But don’t worry; his omnipotent eye is there to nurture, to protect. Big Brother loves you, his country. His constant screening of your every action, every word at any given moment isn’t scary … is it? When Big Brother’s warm embrace morphs into strangulation, a death grip seizing your civil rights, that will be truly terrifying. But it doesn’t have to become a reality.

It’s not too late; 1984 is hardly a choose-your-own-adventure book, and if we heed Orwell’s cautions, we can still rewrite the ending. All it takes is an informed America, an America not living in the dark. After all, even if you choose not to watch Big Brother, Big Brother is still watching you.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 15 comments. Post your own now!

diamoner said...
Nov. 11, 2015 at 9:14 am
The essay delighted me it is based upon a fiction book and the brilliant ideas of George Orwell predicted how society is moving toward that dystopia of the government controlling life. The information and research was a good tie to the essay. I really enjoy this essay and I myself have been informed on information I never knew.
Kindle said...
Jul. 25, 2013 at 10:20 pm
I think you're use of sarcastic comments are an excellent use of rhetoric, and tying your points together using Orwell was brilliant :)
ConstanceContraire said...
Jan. 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm
Its kinda creepy how Orwell predicted this but sometimes i wonder if people didnt get the message from 1984 and thought that was a great idea! Thats why I dont write books like that :P  
bookthief This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm
An enjoyable, well-written, and intelligent commentary on a piece of legislation that ought never have been passed -- I really enjoyed this piece, as not only do I have an extreme distaste for the Patriot Act (which is actually an incredibly long acronym) but I love 1984, which does seem to grow more relevant to our world by the day.
1337Writer said...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm
Atlas shrugged is also right. Coparations trying to impose rescrictions that don't aplly to them and therefore destroy small businesses and the middle class, sounds familar. IMO Republicans=1984 Democrats=Atlas Shrugged
Sunnie said...
Jun. 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm
I loved your article. 1984 is my favorite book and I have read it multiple times. I really like how you made it relevant to us, i.e we the people of right now by comparing it to government surveillance under the patriot act - too many who read 1984 miss the point and take it as some science fiction fantasy- when really it's a terrifying satire of what is, was, and can be.
Melloves92 said...
Oct. 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm
Orwell's future is so eerily similar to ours at the moment.  With the introduction of the patriot act, it seems as though we don't have any privacy.  The government uses the excuse of it being in favor of our security, but it's getting kind of creepy.
jonsmith replied...
May 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm
Orwell converted to anarcho-syndicalism from trotskiest communism after his expierences in spain
MarinaOreo said...
Jun. 6, 2010 at 3:41 pm
Crazy stuff. (I still have to read the book.) What has this world come to...let's hope we don't end up in a totalitarian society..
Niki R. said...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 10:05 pm
just read this book the other day...one of my favorites.  interesting, insightful, and this essay captures the reality of just how close Orwell was to the future...very disconcerting, our lack of true freedom.
Crystal D. said...
Sept. 15, 2009 at 10:00 am
Thank you all! I have to say I find it very ironic that TeenInk has actually edited some of this, being that it's 1984. There're whole lines missing.
Polo Star said...
Jan. 29, 2009 at 5:40 pm
This is a great artical on the patriot act
bandgeek said...
Jan. 29, 2009 at 4:22 am
I agree. 1984 is an intense book for so many reasons. If we stay aware of life and society, we need not end up like Orwell's dire prediction.
ShaiHulud said...
Dec. 10, 2008 at 2:35 am
hehe, I loved the last line.
Crystal D. replied...
Sept. 15, 2009 at 10:01 am
Thank you!
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback