Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Manning and Snowden; Huxley and Orwell

The Bradley Manning decision got me thinking about the late Neil Postman's conclusion at the end of his introduction to the insightful "Amusing Ourselves to Death."

He argued that Aldous Huxley's entertainment-anesthetized "Brave New World" better describes our plight than does George Orwell's totalitarian "1984."

Until recently, I would have largely agreed. Through our addictions to television, Twitter, Facebook, on-line games, broadcast sports and the internet generally, we have been "amusing ourselves to death." We are willingly living in a fabricated media environment manipulated by corporate interests. We define ourselves through purchases.

We have turned our backs on a world we might otherwise be able to influence.

Its problems are infamously daunting: inequality, poverty, war, global warming, fanaticism, sexual slavery, overpopulation, starvation, ignorance etc.

Now, the revelations of Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and others prove that Orwell's Big Brother is tracking each and everyone of us as we play in our technological sandboxes.

Moreover, our ersatz democracy is performing crimes against humanity — all in the name of freedom and "The American Way."

Understandably Big Bro (collectively the Obama administration, the military and the "intelligence" community) desperately wants to keep secret both its atrocities and its surveillance.

So Manning and Snowden are vilified. They are tried both in the corporate press and in fact. Manning faces spending the rest of his life in prison; Snowden is being pursued like a traitor on the run.

So there's a meld of Orwell and Huxley in all of this. Informed of our government's Orwellian atrocities, will we simply behave as Huxley predicts — by flipping the channel or clicking to another web site?

Will we be too distracted to care?

Will the government be monitoring our complacency and apathy? If we alter our compliant behavior and become engaged, will Big Brother's computer detect it and take note? (Are the computers reading these words? Has your own readership been noted?)

Will we find ourselves on a "Watch List"? What next?

For a graphic, literally and figuratively, portrayal of the Postman comparisons go HERE. The cartoon strip is by Stuart McMillen. Two panels are shown above.

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