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Orwell, Snowden, and Privacy in Light of Ong's Cultural History

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) January 13, 2014: As everybody knows, George Orwell's 1948 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was a big success in the United States in the early years of the Cold War.


In the early years of the Cold War, both Republicans and Democrats were fervent anti-communists. In those years self-described communists were not in the ascendant in American culture, to say the least. Even though Orwell was a self-described socialist, his dystopian novel was a critique of Soviet communism -- and Big Brother was based on Stalin.


Now, today Tea Party Republicans like to denounce Big Government, with special reference to the federal government. Granted their expression "Big Government" sounds a wee bit less personal than the expression "Big Brother" sounds. But their expression "Big Government" sounds even more ominous because it sounds like an impersonal force that threatens us. (QUESTION: Shouldn't we expect the federal government to grow in size as the population of the country grows in size? The country is bigger now than it was in the early years of our Republic.)


Of course the recent revelations that Edward Snowden has made suggest that the National Security Agency is an Orwellian name for the National Surveillance Agency. As a result of his revelations about the NSA's surveillance, many progressives and liberals are concerned about this "big government" intrusion into the private lives of Americans. Ironically, many conservatives have defended this "big government" intrusion into the private lives of Americans.


So the typographic lesson I have drawn here is twofold:


(1) When conservatives denounce supposed intrusions of the federal government, they are denouncing "Big Government."


(2) When progressives and liberals denounce supposed intrusions of the federal government, they are denouncing "big government."


Got that?


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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