Dear Dirty America


1984 Is Here, Except We Like It & Call It Google

April 03
22:34 2012
Los Angeles

Google admits it harbors within its databases everything you’ve ever done online. They call it efficiency and sensibility, and bringing relevancy to your information seeking. Every search word, every visited web page, and even what’s playing on your TV in the background, might be gathered by Google. It’s about pertinent ads delivered to you.

This changes the relationship you have or had with your laptop. It not only produces information (articles, music, pictures, news, etc) for you to consume, it’s receiving and keeping your every input, even if you’re not aware of it. Your conversations, the music playing in your apartment. Everything, through your computer microphone. And if that can be done with the microphone, think about the installed webcam.

The fact that “google” has become a noun and a verb is alarming. Google this, google that. It’s no longer, “look up this or that online.” That we’ve incorporated Google’s terminology into our every day language suggests how deeply ingrained the web search giant is in our national, and global mind.

Unfortunately Google is like an invasive species threatening our society as we know might think we know it. Google is very much alive, and it has godlike eardrums and eyes, and a memory to file, store, and instantly reclaim all it hears and sees. Google is beginning to embody what we might have imagined as the collective, universal mind.

I was rereading pieces of Orwell’s still much talked about dystopian work, 1984. In chapter 1, Winston enters his apartment and is greeted by “a fruity voice” that I can only link to the types of voices I hear on NPR. “The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror,” which Winston could turn lower, and “the instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.”

We learn two paragraphs later that any sound above a whisper can be picked up by the telescreen. The device was always receiving and transmitting. “…as long as he remained in the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.”

Connections between the telescreen and Google’s manipulation of your laptop are easily made, except that Winston was suspicious of his telescreen. We aren’t leery about ours. He turns his back to the dull mirror and thinks he’s safer, yet he admits even a back can be revealing to the Thought Police.

In our society, in 2012, our spy grid has been put in place and championed by our society. We are addicted to our lives online. They’ve taken a new priority. We are different people online, I would argue. Most of us have developed our own personal brand through carefully selected pictures and information we willfully and carelessly submit into our multiple Internet profiles. Facebook, Twitter, all of Google’s applications and programs, our blogs, forums, and on.

Our telescreens aren’t perceived as intrusive. They are a must for any American. The Internet is a beautiful, evolving tool, but it’s like fire, in the way that fire was necessary for humankind to develop further, but also in the way that fire is horrifically and swiftly destructive.

So what are we to do? At least we still have the freedom to smash our personal telescreens, which we carefully selected at the store, paid good money for, and now constantly use in the perceived privacy of our homes.

Being Luddites about it won’t help, because you can stop using Google, and stop using all of their online services, but their tentacles are intertwined throughout.

Our corporate world has very intelligently hooked us into their matrix without ringing the warning bells. They sold us products we imagined we needed, and in doing so we’ve sold the last vestiges of our privacy. We could shun the system, and turn our backs on it, but that might also be more revealing than playing along.

When people say everything is online, they’re right. Nearly every governmental agency or private company does their business online. You have to create accounts with employers to apply for jobs. You have to register online to go to school, or get financial aid, or apply for food stamps. Everything is easier online. Banking, paying bills, ordering a pizza.

The system is set up so well, and so efficiently that we’d be foolish not to use it. That’s where the trouble lies. Nobody wants a dulled mirror telescreen spouting prices and product details in our flat, but we are perfectly happy to have that information pop up on our computer screens every time we get online, and we are happy soaking up product placement on television, and during commercials.

And so what if Google collects every piece of useless information about us to better place ads in front of our faces? We’ve created a totalitarian consumerist material society, where no person can escape the mania. The corporate elite direct our conversation and collective societal mind with their agenda at snatching higher profits and more control over the masses.

After all, it’s very convenient. But when does this information get used against us? Where do we run into trouble? And can this system ever be dismantled, while still preserving some of the accommodation?

Google’s aim is not just about handily selling us products we want, and at the right times. Google is not just about efficiency and making our modern lives more interesting and better. They have worked closely with our government’s most nefarious, overstepping (BIG BROTHER, while we’re at it) agencies — the NSA and the CIA.

The infrastructure is in place to know what every American is saying and thinking, and you’d better be sure it’s accessible if and when it’s wanted by those government agencies. FOIA has disclosed contracts between social media sites and the US government. Frequently, the government subpoenas Twitter users and demands all of their information.

I don’t know what the answers are, or if we should be seriously worried about a humanity that has collectively lost its privacy. We might have to stop laughing at everybody else’s dirty underwear when its hung out in public by the mainstream media, because technically the same could be done to us, if there were any purpose in it.

I am uneasy with this country’s escalated paranoia (much like my own, perhaps) over terrorism and bad guys living in shabby villages overseas. I am uneasy with our president’s killing of three American citizens, and his role in keeping a Yemeni journalist in jail, because he exposed a deadly airstrike carried out by the US military in Yemen that killed dozens of women and children.

I fear for our right to privacy, even if we don’t have it, we should still be able to claim it. I fear for our freedoms as journalists and activists and concerned members of society to call out the miscreant behavior of our government. With the spy grid in place, our criminal government could use anything we say or do against us in a court of law (that is, if we’re allowed due process, because under wide sweeping ant-terror laws, most rights are stripped away from the average citizen).

Ultimately, be conscientious when you’re sitting in front of your telescreen. And know you’re being watched. And listened to.

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