…introduction by Jonas E. Alexis, VT Editor
JEA: What if you are living in a world where freedom of speech or even expressing an opinion based on a wealth of information is simply forbidden? What if you are threatened by the thought police which constantly states that there are certain topics that you cannot discussed? Wouldn’t that be a classic example of the world that George Orwell describes in 1984?
If you still haven’t read Orwell’s 1984, it is still not too late to pick up a copy and start doing some homework before the summer ends.
“Is it your opinion,” O’Brien asks his protagonist Winston Smith, “that the past has real existence?” O’Brien, the main antagonist in 1984, condemns Winston for not being a “metaphysician” because Winston takes too long to answer a serious question. “You are no metaphysician, Winston,” O’Brien said. “Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence.”
Obviously O’Brien, who turns out to be part of Big Brother, posits a perennial issue here, one that seems to resonate with much of our present age. In other words, if a person fails to understand the past, then the person’s life is going to be philosophically, intellectually, and politically sterile. As noted writer George Santayana put it at the dawn of the twentieth century, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
“I will put it more precisely,” O’Brien continues. “Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?” Winston’s quick answer was, “No.”
O’Brien moves on to trap his victim with this loaded question: “Then where does the past exist, if at all?” Winston’s answer is that the past exists “in records. It is written down.” O’Brien eventually replies, “We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?”
O’Brien’s logic is that if reality is not independent of the human mind, and if the Party controls the human mind, then it inevitably follows that the Party controls reality. This is a logically valid argument, but it can only be true if the premise that reality is not independent of the human mind is true.
So the fundamental question here is this: Is the premise true? Is there an objective reality of the past? Can the past be rigorously and thoroughly investigated? Is there such a thing called “thought-police,” that is, groups or organizations that are interested in punishing people for asking metaphysical questions about what happened?
Recently, we have seen how a specific narrative can drive people to madness. We also have to ask the same question about any narrative: what evidence that is being produced? Is the evidence skewed to fit a certain paradigm? Are people from outside the paradigm free to expression their views without being threatened?
You see, we are living in a world where nonsense rules supreme, and it is high time that people use their mental resources to expose nonsense. But how can you expose nonsense when you’re being spied on?
John W. Whitehead
We’re being spied on by a domestic army of government snitches, spies and techno-warriors.
This government of Peeping Toms is watching everything we do, reading everything we write, listening to everything we say, and monitoring everything we spend.
Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it is all being recorded, stored, and catalogued, and will be used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing.
This far-reaching surveillance has paved the way for an omnipresent, militarized fourth branch of government—the Surveillance State—that came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum.
Indeed, long before the National Security Agency (NSA) became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration were carrying out their own secret mass surveillance on an unsuspecting populace.
Even agencies not traditionally associated with the intelligence community are part of the government’s growing network of snitches and spies.
Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. For instance, the U.S. Postal Service, which has been photographing the exterior of every piece of paper mail for the past 20 years, is also spying on Americans’ texts, emails and social media posts. Headed up by the Postal Service’s law enforcement division, the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) is reportedly using facial recognition technology, combined with fake online identities, to ferret out potential troublemakers with “inflammatory” posts. The agency claims the online surveillance, which falls outside its conventional job scope of processing and delivering paper mail, is necessary to help postal workers avoid “potentially volatile situations.”
Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine.
It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.
We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.
In this way, we are now the unwitting victims of an interconnected, tightly woven, technologically evolving web of real-time, warrantless, wall-to-wall mass surveillance that makes the spy programs spawned by the USA Patriot Act look like child’s play.
Fusion centers. See Something, Say Something. Red flag laws. Behavioral threat assessments. Terror watch lists. Facial recognition. Snitch tip lines. Biometric scanners. Pre-crime. DNA databases. Data mining. Precognitive technology. Contact tracing apps.
These are all part and parcel of the widening surveillance dragnet that the government has used and abused in order to extend its reach and its power.
The COVID-19 pandemic has succeeded in acclimating us even further to being monitored, tracked and reported for so-called deviant or undesirable behavior.
Consequently, we now live in a society in which a person can be accused of any number of crimes without knowing what exactly he has done. He might be apprehended in the middle of the night by a roving band of SWAT police. He might find himself on a no-fly list, unable to travel for reasons undisclosed. He might have his phones or internet tapped based upon a secret order handed down by a secret court, with no recourse to discover why he was targeted.
This Kafkaesque nightmare has become America’s reality.
Despite the fact that its data snooping has been shown to be ineffective at detecting, let alone stopping, any actual terror attacks, the government continues to operate its domestic spying programs largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like.
Yet the surveillance sector is merely one small part of a shadowy permanent government comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under close watch and, thus, under control. For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for the CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.
Most recently, the Biden Administration indicated it may be open to working with non-governmental firms in order to warrantlessly monitor citizens online.
This would be nothing new, however. Vast quantities of the government’s digital surveillance is already being outsourced to private companies, who are far less restrained in how they harvest and share our personal data.
In this way, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its militarized domestic surveillance efforts.
The snitch culture has further empowered the Surveillance State.
As Ezra Marcus writes for the New York Times, “Throughout the past year, American society responded to political upheaval and biological peril by turning to an age-old tactic for keeping rule breakers in check: tattling.”
This new era of snitch surveillance is the lovechild of the government’s post-9/11 “See Something, Say Something” programs combined with the self-righteousness of a politically correct, technologically-wired age.
“Technology, and our abiding love of it, is crucial to our current moment of social surveillance. Snitching isn’t just a byproduct of nosiness or fear; it’s a technological feature built into the digital architecture of the pandemic era …. the world’s most powerful technology companies, whose products you are likely using to read this story, already use a business model of mass surveillance, collecting and selling user information to advertisers at an unfathomable scale. Our cellphones track us everywhere, and our locations are bought and sold by data brokers at incredible, intimate detail. Facial recognition software used by law enforcement trawls Instagram selfies. Facebook harvests the biometric data of its users. The whole ecosystem, more or less, runs on snitching.”
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, what we are dealing with today is not just a beast that has outgrown its chains but a beast that will not be restrained.
ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at [email protected]. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute.
 George Santayana, The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 1 (London: Archibald Constable, 1906), 284.
 George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Penguin, 1949), 248-249.