“1984” Has Come to China
You’re probably familiar with George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; (it’s often published as 1984). It was written in 1948; the title comes from reversing the last two digits in 1948.
The novel describes a world of three global empires, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, in a constant state of war.
Orwell created an original vocabulary for his book, much of which is in common, if sardonic, usage today. Terms such as Thought Police, Big Brother, doublethink, Newspeak and memory hole all come from Nineteen Eight-Four.
Orwell intended it as a warning about how certain countries might evolve in the aftermath of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. He was certainly concerned about Stalinism, but his warnings applied to Western democracies also.
When the calendar year 1984 came and went, many breathed a sigh of relief that Orwell’s prophesy had not come true. But that sigh of relief was premature. Orwell’s nightmare society is here today in the form of Communist China…
China has most of the apparatus of the totalitarian societies described in Orwell’s book. China uses facial recognition software and ubiquitous digital surveillance to keep track of its citizens. The internet is censored and monitored. Real-life thought police will arrest you for expressing opinions opposed to the government or its policies.
Millions of Chinese have been arrested and sent to “reeducation” camps for brainwashing (the lucky ones) or involuntary organ removal without anesthetic (the unlucky ones who die in excruciating pain and are swiftly cremated as a result).
While these atrocities are not going to happen in the U.S. or what passes for the West these days, the less extreme aspects of China’s surveillance state could well be. And while you might not be arrested for expressing unpopular opinions or challenging prevailing dogmas (at least not yet), you could face other sanctions. You could even lose your job and find it nearly impossible to find another.
You can certainly be banned from social media…
Anything seems to go on social media (primarily Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and a few other platforms) — unless you’re a conservative personality or politico. That’s where the censorship begins.
Many conservative social media participants have had their accounts closed or suspended, not for threats or vulgarity but for criticism of “progressive” views (albeit criticism with some sharp edges).
Meanwhile, those with progressive views can say almost anything on social media, including the implicit endorsement of violence. But nothing happens.
Other conservatives report being the targets of “shadow banning.” That’s where your account is open and seems to operate normally, but unbeknownst to you, much of the network is being blocked from seeing your posts and popular features such as “likes” and “retweets” are being truncated and not distributed.
It’s like being a pro athlete who finds out the stadium is empty and no tickets are being sold. That’s bad enough. But Twitter took the war on conservatives a step further.
Well, one of the most widely followed accounts on Twitter is none other than Donald J. Trump’s, with 68 million followers. President Trump uses Twitter to announce policy initiatives and personnel changes and to offer pointed criticism of political opponents. It’s a major platform for him.
Last month Trump issued a tweet that identified the so-called “whistleblower” of the Ukraine phone call that led to his impeachment. That’s not as big a deal as it sounds because everyone in Washington knew who the whistleblower was (you can look his name up on the web), and he wasn’t even a real whistleblower because he didn’t meet statutory requirements.
Still, Twitter blocked Trump’s tweet. Twitter blamed a temporary system “outage,” but that claim was highly suspicious. Later, Trump’s tweet was restored, but the original account that Trump linked to had been deleted. No one ever said that politics was fair.
But Twitter’s blatant interference in the election could have adverse consequences for the company in Trump’s second term.
And a few social media companies are now de facto censors, taking over the job from the government. Given their massive media footprint, they wield extraordinary influence over the American public.
They’re in essence becoming propaganda outfits.
It’s not just here of course. Canada, for example, is actively pursuing digital surveillance to track the activities of law-abiding citizens.
A report for the Bank of Canada says that financial information gathered from digital transaction records could be used for “sharing information with police and tax authorities.”
If all transactions are digital (including credit and debit cards), authorities can track your whereabouts, buying habits, restaurant choices and much more. They could also reveal your political orientation and personal associations.
It’s not difficult to imagine the police and tax authorities using that power to make life extremely difficult for those who criticize the government or sacred ideologies like “climate change.” If you think that sounds extreme, some have actually advocated jailing climate change “deniers.”
Do you think I’m making that up?
Well, the executive director of an outfit called Climate Hawks Vote said “Put officials who reject science in jail.”
The Nation also ran an article called, “Climate Denialism Is Literally Killing Us: The victims of Hurricane Harvey have a murderer — and it’s not the storm.”
“How long,” its author asked, “before we hold the ultimate authors of such climate catastrophes accountable for the miseries they inflict?”
And Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said the Koch brothers “should be in jail,” “with all the other war criminals.”
Well, David Koch has since died, so he’ll escape Kennedy’s justice.
But their “war crimes” consisted of funding organizations that question the climate change alarmism the media is constantly feeding us.
But guess what? There’s plenty of hard scientific evidence that refutes the alarmist view. This article isn’t the venue to get into it, but the scientific case against climate alarmism is much stronger than the case for it.
But if you dissent against the official view, today’s tech censors will silence or marginalize you, no matter how valid your point.
The problem is, the trend is moving very quickly in this direction and it’s difficult to stop. And sophisticated surveillance technology to monitor citizens is already in place…
For example, cameras with the latest surveillance technology can spot and match millions of faces in real time with an accuracy rate of over 99%. They’re touted as anti-terrorism and anti-crime tools, which they certainly are.
But as Stalin’s ruthless secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria said, “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” It’s easy to see that power being abused to target everyday citizens.
(By the way, Beria would ultimately prove his own point, as he was later arrested and executed for treason).
And actually, many people welcome intrusive surveillance technology on the grounds of convenience. As an example, look at microchipping, where people are injected with a small microchips beneath their skin. Microchipping has been associated with an Orwellian nightmare in which Big Brother constantly monitors your every move.
Well, over 4,000 Swedes have already happily volunteered to have it done.
In addition to account information that negates the need to carry cash or credit cards to pay for goods, these chips can contain personal information. It’s all happened fairly quickly. Just a few years ago, the very idea of it would have sent chills down the spines of most people.
But that’s how fast Big Brother can go from nightmare to reality, and appear benign or even beneficial.
Big Brother’s on full display in China right now, but he could be on his way here before too long.
for The Daily Reckoning