According to Amazon’s Mover and Shaker book-ranking list, the company is currently seeing a 139% spike in sales of George Orwell’s 1984, a likely result of the striking parallels between the book and the current scandal surrounding the NSA's surveillance programs.
Even after the book's 64th anniversary, which quite ironically was on June 6, 1984 still stands as a model text that highlights the dangers of a mega-powerful government when it decides to overstep its boundaries and invade its citizens’ privacy. PRISM has been compared to Orwell’s story by sources including the International Business Times which published an article enumerating the ways in which Orwell knew our country would head in the direction of hyper-surveillance.
I remember reading 1984 in high school and feeling deeply uncomfortable and upset with the events that occurred in the book. As I read, I imagined how paranoid someone would become by not only being subject to this ever-present surveillance, but also being mentally enslaved by a government that controlled their thoughts. I remember thinking how lucky it was that such a society did not actually exist.
As we reflect on the PRISM and how this past week has panned out, many of us may well be feeling uneasy about the idea that the NSA is breaching our privacy even though it is allegedly being done in the name of national security. A governing body that gains too much power is never one that we should hope to live under and we must ensure that this does not occur. However, how can we pull the breaks on this blatant infringement of our rights before it drives our government to make further moves that may or may not be well intended but nonetheless undermine our liberties?
Seeing the report on Amazon’s rise in 1984 sales was troubling in that people are undoubtedly making a connection between the book and the current state of the NSA. While I do see how this situation with PRISM is in some ways Orwellian, I believe that we must not dedicate too much of our time attempting to understand the NSA’s unlawful doings through means such as reading a book that is unarguably a fantastically written classic, but will not remedy the issue at hand.
Instead we must first commend the government for working hard to ensure our nation is secure. However, we must also not forget that as American citizens, we are guaranteed the right to privacy. Therefore it is key that we call on the NSA and U.S. government as a whole to not only protect us, but do so in a way that is transparent and lawful. Even if the NSA decided to continue and increase its snooping and were 100% legally supported in its doings, no one enjoys the feeling as though they are not only being wronged, but this wrong is being done in secret.