Will 2014 be Nineteen Eighty Four?

Moderated by Steve Ranger | December 16, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: In light of the NSA Snowden revelations, we asked our debaters: Is Orwell's vision coming into focus at last?

David Gewirtz

David Gewirtz




Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow

Best Argument: No


Audience Favored: Yes (72%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

We're getting there.

David Gewirtz: In George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, a man named Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth. His job is to rewrite history according to instructions from the state.

He finds himself disturbed by the actions of the state and Big Brother and plots to expose and overthrow the state.

Up to this point, you can certainly see the loose parallels to the Edward Snowden debacle. Orwell's Smith is captured, tortured, and eventually the Thought Police reprogram him to love Big Brother.

Orwell's 1949 masterpiece envisions a world that goes far beyond the NSA revelations we've been enduring these last months. Orwell envisions a world of comprehensive surveillance, of public mind control, of privileged inner circles, of cults of personality, and where individual thinking can be punished as a "thought crime."

Yeah. We're getting there. I'm not sure I should say any more. Big Brother is watching, you know.

See also:

The government just isn't that into you

Jason Perlow: Look, folks. The NSA is and always has been in the wiretapping business, and because of 9/11, business has been a boomin'. The charter of the NSA since its inception has never changed, and certainly what it does with PRISM and other programs revealed from the Snowden leaks are no different than what it has done with ECHELON and any other systems that preceded it and have come since.

NSA started with radio transmissions and analog telephone signals, and as the world went digital, it wiretapped the Internet. Programs such as PRISM extend that wiretapping to not just the traffic moving across the "pipes," but now directly into the databases of the providers hosting the most widely-used applications and services in the Cloud. And the NSA has the legal means via FISC to retrieve what it does not do or cannot do electronically.

But should you be worried as a private citizen, or even as an enterprise about such things? Has our government gone all Stasi on us? Should we watch where we step, and beware of unintended thoughtcrime, so to speak?

I hate to break it to you guys, but the government just isn't that into you.

The only people who should be concerned about surveillance are those that become "blips on the radar" through activities that legitimately threaten our national security. While there's no question there are NSA supercomputers churning through your private emails and social media activities, the bottom line is that the vast majority of us are simply just chaff in the harvest in terms of intelligence value to our government.


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  • You meant to say,

    Will 2014 see the continuation of these Orwellian time in which we live.
    Reply 104 Votes I'm for Yes
  • Careful

    $80 hr? Wow, you need to be careful about where you post this sort of information unless you're keeping really careful tax return information. I'm guessing that you're a faceless spambot, which is a real shame since you're probably wasting your $80hr on cheap robot hookers and black market CPU's. Thanks for being part of the Internet and doing your bit to add further chaff to the NSA databases.
    Reply 87 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Great

      The spam I replied to has been removed. Now I look stupid (more so)
      Reply 99 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Lol

        But all the same, you got a lot of up-votes!
        Reply 7 Votes I'm Undecided
  • I'd say it's well within the realm of possibility.

    I'd say it's well within the realm of possibility. The NSA certainly has the capability of digging up dirt on anybody. It'll take only one crooked person to leverage that to turn things completely upside down.

    I can't say for sure that 2014 will be 1984 (no one really can, predicting the future isn't as certain as some seem to think), but I can say that we're likely to be one corrupt person away from a dictatorship.
    Reply 89 Votes I'm Undecided
    • A thought on something Jason said . . .

      "The bottom line is that we are all part of one huge Big Data application"

      To be honest - that's not really a future I want. I've always taken the stance that we should be in control of our technology, rather than our technology controlling us.

      I'm all for technology. Always have been, probably always will be.

      But technology isn't a linear path with only one choice. The way we use technology is important, and affects how it evolves. There are many possible ways the future could end up, and I'd like to make sure that the future we have is one where we are in control.
      Reply 74 Votes I'm Undecided
    • I'm going with tor

      I'm getting ready to use Tails on a USB Stick from the Tor Progect and the Tor Browser Bundle on my Windows Machine. I also will be setting up a Tor Relay on one of my spare PC's to help with the bandwidth for Tor users.
      Screw the NSA!!!!!!!!
      Denny Fry
      Reply 116 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Wanna screw the NSA?

        Stay off the damn internet! There is life outside of it, you know that right?
        Reply 84 Votes I'm Undecided
    • Or a few million misinformed voters away from a theocracy/plutocracy

      It is not the information flowing FROM us that is the biggest concern (although that is certainly one of the big ones), it is the information NOT flowing TO us without distortion by money-driven media. That is where the future dictators have their key to power. The power of "big business" combined with "big religion" (and in the US, the combined power of the big fundamentalist protestant churches is a bigger threat than the power of the foreign based Catholic church) to persuade the very citizens who NEED protection from big business and big religion that they should worry more about "big government" and "big labor" (which has been cut down almost to the power of a small town PTA, in reality), will eventually result in a permanent feudal underclass of 99 percent and a permanent "nobility" (even though Americans never use that WORD; but remember, the word "king" (REX) was an obscenity to the Romans, so when they GOT a line of kings, they called themselves "commander in chief of the army" (IMPERATOR, or Emperor) instead of kings).

      This has been addressed in a number of books, such as "The Problem with Kansas." And the states with the most people in NEED of Medicaid expansion to save their lives, in NEED of unemployment insurance because there are no more jobs, in NEED of temporary help to keep their children from starving, in NEED of good public schools that will educate their children, etc. have the most people WITH THOSE NEEDS voting for politicians that promise to STOP THE ASSISTANCE those voters need, convincing them that if "someone else" were not sharing the help with them, they would not need any help. The chickens are indeed voting for the fox to run the henhouse, because they believe whatever the FOX tells them.
      Reply 78 Votes I'm Undecided
      • Curiously enough...

        ...I here much the same story from Conservatives, to include some who post to ZDNet. What is usually not acknowledged, though, is that Democratic politicians long ago wrote off rural America and religious conservatives (who are often liberal on economic issues) because putting economic and environmental issues before social and cultural ones would alienate too much of the base.

        Back in the 1980s, there were a fairly large number of morally/culturally conservative, economically liberal Democrats in public office. Now there are almost none. It's part of why I stayed away from the Democratic Party for 22 years.
        John L. Ries
        Reply 34 Votes I'm Undecided