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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Government surveillance stranger than fiction.

Zachary Phillips

A world ravaged by nuclear war. A totalitarian government that monitors thoughts. TV screens that watch people as much as people watch the screens.

All of these make up the setting of George Orwell’s “1984,” the only novel students ever enjoy reading in High School English classes.

Despite having a stable stable democracy and managing to avoid nuclear annihilation, America is beginning to look more and more like Orwell’s dystopian society everyday.

Thanks to everyone’s favorite whistleblower and Russia’s proudly adopted son, Edward Snowden, much of the US and Uk’s surveillance techniques are being made public.

The latest of Snowden’s hair-raising revelations comes from The Guardian, which reported that Britain has the capability to spy on Yahoo users through their webcams.

According to The Guardian, British intelligence used their Optic Nerve program to monitor almost 2 million Yahoo webcam users in hopes of spying on terrorist activity.

What they saw, instead, were a bunch of strained long-distance relationships and nude sessions.

Despite the Uk’s relatively harmless invasion of privacy, such extreme methods of surveillance make me wonder how far-fetched dystopian novels really are.

A country where computers stare back at their owners and record their every move sounds a lot like Big Brother, Orwell’s totalitarian antagonist. And yet, it is no work of fiction. It’s the world in which Americans currently live.

Nuclear weapons that can destroy worlds. Lidless camera eyes watching from the shadows. Reality shows pitting people against one another for sport. It’s no wonder dystopian literature is back in style.

Since Snowden’s decision to air the National Security Agency’s dirty laundry and skip country, the US has agreed to scale back their extreme surveillance efforts.

He may not be the most liked man in the US, but I hope there are more antiheroes like Snowden in the world to stir up trouble every once and a while.

Otherwise, at the risk of sounding like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, a dystopian future might be closer than most want to admit.

Zachary Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or @ZachSPhillips on Twitter.

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