Big Brother Is Watching You

Big Brother Is Watching You

"Big Brother is watching you, [and he loves Newspeak** ]". After Donald J. Trump won the presidential election, George Orwell's "1984", first published in 1949, has become a bestseller again. Earlier today it was still on Amazon Bestsellers List at #27. The sales especially soared after Trump's campaign manager and counselor Kellyanne Conway framed Trump's unprovable statements about how many people attended his inauguration as "alternative facts".

A "fact", as broadly defined in science, "is an objective and verifiable observation distinct from opinion, falsehood, or a matter of taste". By that definition, a fact cannot have "alternatives". But it's not all that straightforward. If I have a headache and tell my doctor about it, is that a fact? When the doctor notes that "The patient presented with a headache...", that is in fact a fact, but is my headache a fact? You can't "observe" a headache, but my experience of a headache is not an opinion, nor a falsehood, nor a matter of taste. But then, I might be a hypochondriac...

The concept of a "fact" becomes even more problematic in historic, legal and journalistic contexts. Take for example a news report about the unemployment rate: "Unemployment rate rose to 4.8 percent in January 2017 from 4.7 percent in the previous month...". On multiple occasions Donald Trump has dismissed the unemployment rate and stated: "The unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction". Is the reported unemployment rate fact or fiction? It is a fact that the "official" unemployment rate was 4.8% in January 2017. On the other hand, a person who desires work but has not actively looked for work in the last 4 weeks is not counted; Nor is an unemployed person who happens to work one hour a week and earns $20 or more. In other words, "unemployment metrics in the U.S. do not accurately represent the reality of joblessness in America". In fact, if you do count workers who seek employment but are discouraged in the short-term and part-time workers who are indeed seeking full time employment, the real unemployment rate could be as high as 22.9% in January 2017. The official number at 4.8% and the estimated "real" number at 22.9%, make these "alternative facts" to each other. These two "facts" paint a totally different picture of unemployment in the United States. If in January 2017, 57% of Americans did not have enough cash to cover a $500 emergency expense then a 4.8% unemployment rate sounds like Newspeak.

2017-03-10 Update: Now that Donald Trump is in charge and the Feb. 2017 unemployment rate "dropped" back down to 4.7% after his first full month in office, the president reportedly remarked: "It may have been phony in the past, but it's ok now". More of the same.

2017-03-08 Update: The day after I posted this, Wikileaks released a trove of CIA documents detailing how the agency hacks smartphones, smart TV's, routers and all major computer operating systems, engineers potential false-flag cyberattacks, weaponizes malware and anti-virus software, and captures background conversations using internet connected devices. If you are connected, Big Brother has the capability to watch you, period. But are "intelligence" agencies actually collecting and storing everything they can on everyone? Possibly, probably, or it's a matter of time. The questions is, why do they do it? Why build backdoors and exploits on every "smart" device if there are only a handful of "bad guys" out there. And, don't these exploits and embedded tools make us all more vulnerable against the very "bad guys" they are claiming to defend against. The Wikileaks press release makes this point. It may well be that "we the people" were the actual intended target all along.

** In the world of "1984", Newspeak is a controlled language linguistically designed to limit freedom of thought, self expression and free will which all threaten the regime of Big Brother.
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