I always feel like, somebody’s watching me

watchers

For the vast majority of my adolescence, it would be safe to say that I didn’t care about the news. It’s hard to when you’re a kid—news is just a lot of grown-ups talking about things that seem boring, or complicated, or at the very least not nearly as exciting as Legos. If I’m being honest, it probably wasn’t until college that I really thought, “Huh. Things are going on in the world and I should probably know about them.”

As a result of my youthful Lego predilections—and longstanding struggle to remember things learned in history class—there are enormous gaps in my knowledge of What Hath Happened Before. And yet I, like everyone else, reacted to news of the NSA’s spying operations with a definitive lack of surprise. “Of course the government is spying on us,” I thought to myself while reading Edward Snowden profiles and snickering at the name Booz Allen. “I just assumed they always were.”

I wasn’t alone in this reaction—whether you think Snowden is a hero or villain, outrage over the actual content of his leaks has been relatively muted—and so I thought it might be interesting to fill in some of the missing details. How long have these programs been a thing? Who started them? Why? Should I really be all that worried?

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So are we living in a literary dystopia?

big-brother-is-watching-you-poster

To the chagrin of many (and the surprise of few) it turns out that the National Security Agency is keeping an eye on us. If you’ve been sending tongue-in-cheek missives to your UK friends about “blowing up all of the buses because ughhh,” now might be the time to stop.

With this week’s revelations—brought to you by patriot/traitor/poor man’s Alexander Skarsgard Edward Snowden—Americans are understandably displeased. And, it would seem, anxious: Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 have spiked on Amazon.

But are we really so close to the worlds envisioned by authors like Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Margaret Atwood? Let’s take a look.

Continue reading “So are we living in a literary dystopia?”