With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy… It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak — “child hero” was the phrase generally used — had overheard some compromising remark and had denounced his parents to the Thought Police.
— 1984, George Orwell
Big Brother — or more accurately in this case, Big Sister — is invading your local Wal-Mart, 9,000 Federal buildings, businesses, communities and sporting events with video message boards, or telescreens, right out of George Orwell’s 1984.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday announced the plan to expand the “If You See Something, Say Something” public awareness campaign to Wal-Mart stores nationwide. On Wednesday, DHS issued a press release announcing other partners taking part in the program were, “Mall of America, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the sports and general aviation industries, and state and local fusion centers across the country.” ("Fusion centers" refers to the 72 facilities that were created after the 9/11 attacks to allow for more pervasive and coordinated surveillance by governments.) And there are plans to expand the program in the coming months.
The message encourages people to watch for “suspicious” behavior and report it to the government. It’s right out of 1984, or Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany. It’s totalitarian, police-state tactics designed to foster suspicion and create unease under the guise of keeping us safe.
It’s creepy enough that messages from Big Sister will be bombarding people standing in the checkout lines at the local Wal-Mart. But go to the website peopleofwalmart.com and then ask yourself, “Do I want someone like that watching me for suspicious activity?”
And then ponder whom the government considers terrorists. It’s not al-Qaida the government is concerned with. According to the DHS report from 2009, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, possible terrorists include people opposed to President Barack Obama, those upset by the high unemployment rate, supporters of gun rights, those who believe in conspiracy theories involving a coming martial law declaration and the creation of detention camps, those who stockpile food, ammunition and weapons in anticipation of a collapse, military veterans and Christians. And a report from the Missouri Information Analysis Center called libertarians, supporters of Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin and militia group members possible terrorists.
History has shown that programs like this are not designed to keep people safe. They are designed to quash dissenting views, stifle free speech and generate fear and suspicion. Programs like this are ripe for abuse, with neighbors reporting neighbors in order to avenge some slight or end a disagreement.
It’s the mark of the end of a free society.