No fan of Big Brother, I am forever grateful to George Orwell on two counts: one, he gave us the term “Big Brother”; and two, he gifted our language with the eponymous wonder word “Orwellian.”
Alas, the world is all too Orwellian these days, but is Big Brother always the bad guy? Is it black and white, in all cases? I find myself wondering, especially given the inexhaustible circumstances and caveats such situations come with.
Last night, for instance, at the Democratic Debate purposely scheduled in the doldrums of Saturday night by the DNC powers-that-be (read: Clinton campaign operatives), the question of encryption came up. The moderator couched it terms of terrorists, who now enjoy the fruits of new encryption that even law enforcement, the FBI, and the misnomered Homeland Security cannot (or have not yet, is more like it) cracked. Is that good use of privacy, of sticking it to the Man (BB again)?
Draw. I feel ambivalence. And I’m a big privacy advocate, sick to death of corporate America (starting with Google) being given carte blanche to our online lives and email. That said, is the FBI “corporate America”? And if it means saving innocent lives, is the loss of privacy to people chasing down terrorists a true loss?
The candidates seemed to trip over the answer here. Each spoke to the status quo, the importance of privacy (pleasing to hear) while also speaking to the need for law to be given all the tools necessary to protect us (also pleasing to hear… but wait a minute!). You got it. Orwellian doublespeak in all its “What did s/he just say?” glory.
Lose. I am sick to death of online shopping companies’ demands of our phone numbers (“In case we need it for the order, but really so we can sell it to others who want to robo-call you.”). Also of online companies’ “privacy policies,” which are longer to read and more obtuse than the Geneva Convention (worth about as much of the ink they’re written with, too).
And in the brick and mortar ritual, in line ahead of me, how I hear one passive shopper after another give up their TN to cashiers who tap it into their data base as if this is a normal and acceptable request. It is none of Big Brother’s business. And don’t even get me going about Social Security numbers, which businesses now seem to feel are their right and not something between you and the government that gave it to you. It isn’t their right. And you don’t need to give it, so stop before someone in Florida goes on a buying spree as your unscrupulous doppelgänger.
Win. I’m giving the nod to Big Brother on this rather odd and bizarre front. I read of a town in Massachusetts where some constituents were in an uproar over the town’s required registry of every dog’s DNA. Why? As a means of stopping the habit of people walking their dogs so said pooches could poop on other people’s properties.
I’m sorry, but I’m shaking BB’s hand on this one. Nothing incenses me more than watching self-important people talk on their cellphones and act oblivious while Fido drops bad tidings in places where we and our kids might step. Yes, that includes sidewalks, where I often come across these foul remnants of such rudeness. Seems the DNA idea, with fines of $200 in said town, has worked! So money talks, even on dog walks.
A small skirmish, I admit, but one where Big Brother is called in with good reason. The Little Guy isn’t always right, after all. Sometimes he’s just another jerk in a world plagued with its share.