Is it 2013 or, well, 1984?


L5 A_British_sailor_signalling_by_hand_held_flash_lamp_aboard_the_Dutch_Torpedo_Boat_Z_5_as_it_serves_with_the_British_Fleet._His_dutch_shipmate_is_looking_out_for_the_reply_through_a_pair_of_binoculars,_1941._A3983

R5 Bismarck-spotted






I’m not paranoid. Really. I’m just very wary, chary, leery, and highly caffeinated. I take after my Big Brother that way. He feels compelled to spy on me all of the time because you just never know about those older teachers who live in the Midwest and teach English to foreigners. Foreigners who come from foreign countries and are foreign. And since you never know about those Midwesterners or other Americans or other people in the world, based on super-secret, too-critical-for-anyone-to-be-told-so-don’t-ask national security reasons, highly trained cryptologists need to monitor e-mails, phone calls, and Internet usage of all users, including LOL cats. (There’s a special clause that covers cats.)

L6 U.S._Army_Command_Sgt._Maj._Scott_Schroeder,_left,_with_the_International_Security_Assistance_Force_Joint_Command,_looks_through_binoculars_during_an_Afghan_National_Army_field_artillery_call_for_fire_training_130529-A-XM609-153

R1 US_Navy_050718-N-7647G-011_Seaman_Ryan_Henderson_looks_through_the_Big_Eyes_binoculars_while_searching_for_surface_and_air_contacts_during_an_aft_look_out_watch_aboard_the_nuclear-powered_aircraft_carrier_USS_Nimitz_(CVN_68)






Of course, text messages also can and must be intercepted. So specially trained agents spend hours reading texts from potentially dangerous teenagers who write indecipherable messages like: wuzup…your L8!!!! NGL im bord…this moveez a wot! WUWH1


By now the NSA (National Snooping Agency) knows more about you and me than our own mothers or even than we do about ourselves. Remember that story you told about your boss? Oh, you forgot already, well, not to worry, it’s all been recorded and soon to be stored away in Bluffdale, Utah. I am not bluffing. Real name, real story.

L2 US_Navy_030316-N-3783H-709_U.S._Navy_Ensign_Katharine_Poole_watches_through_binoculars_for_any_surface_contacts_from_the_bridge_aboard_the_guided_missile_cruiser_USS_Shiloh_(CG_67)

R2 US_Navy_100305-N-9094S-132_Chief_Quartermaster_Clint_Tergeson_looks_through_binoculars_from_the_bridge_of_the_U.S._7th_Fleet_command_ship_USS_Blue_Ridge_(LCC_19)_as_Lt._j.g._Kyle_Fitzpatrick_oversees_the_plotting_of_the_ship's_






Meanwhile cryptological experts sift through all our data looking for snarky references to Big Brother’s clubs like the NSA and the TSA (Touch, Scan, Annoy). Then they flag you. And the you I’m referring to is me. The me that reported a theft by TSA agents in New Orleans who kindly recycled my iPad because they knew it was time for me to get a new one. Now when I fly, I get body-scanned. Often.


Earlier this month on my trip to Texas, I was scanned three times: once in Wisconsin and twice in Texas. According to the TSA agent in Houston, I moved. Actually I think it was because I asked why I was selected to be scanned again. The whole procedure is something out of Star Trek: Stand still and don’t say a word or we will radiate you! And yes, I realize I could opt for groping instead, but that too is something out of Star Trek: To boldly go where no man has gone before….except my husband and not in public.

R3 US_Navy_070518-N-4420S-115_Operations_Specialist_Seaman_Caitlyn_Hagedorn_looks_through_a_pair_of_binoculars_while_standing_lookout_watch_aboard_nuclear-powered_aircraft_carrier_USS_Nimitz_(CVN_68) L3 US_Navy_041013-N-4649C-002_Ens._Alexandria_Myers_scans_the_horizon_for_contacts_using_the_ship's_big_eyes_binoculars_as_USS_Blue_Ridge_(LCC_19)_prepares_to_get_underway_for_the_first_time_after_a_six-month_dry_dock_period





Afterward I complained to the agent, fully expecting to be taken away, have all my body cavities searched, and be put on a no-fly list. It didn’t happen, but you’ll have to excuse me for a moment while I speak to a NSA representative.


Hi! How are you? I didn’t mean a thing by my comments to the TSA officer. Really. And I love my new iPad. Please pass my thanks to the officers in New Orleans. By the way, could you do me a favor? Last month, around the 4th or 5th I deleted an email with Aunt Edith’s secret fowl sauce. My goose is now cooked, and I need something to cover it ASAP. It was the only existing copy of the recipe. Sadly Aunt Edith died last week, but of course you already knew that from the email that Uncle Willard sent me. Thanks a bunch, and remember I’m nothing if not patriotic.


Now, where were we? Oh, yeah, once upon a long time ago, reasonable people drafted a reasonable document called the U.S. Constitution. Just to make things perfectly clear and reasonable, they included amendments. The Fourth Amendment mentions that U.S. citizens have certain rights:


…the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched.


Since the U.S. government can access all of my personal and professional information and everything I say or write electronically, what probable cause do its representatives have that warrant searching my person? Like the great majority of people, I present zero threat. I know it and the government knows it. In order to appear fair, TSA must consider all of us as potential terrorists: guilty until scanned.


Are you bugged by all of this? I am, and I bet you are, too. In fact, I know you are. All us of are bugged now, continually, and by our very own government.


This is a rant.

R4 US_Navy_040627-N-2972R-002_A_U.S._Marine_assigned_to_the_24th_Marine_Expeditionary_Unit_(24_MEU),_looks_through_binoculars L4 1280px-US_Navy_090710-N-2791J-139_Bruce_H._Lindsey,_commanding_officer_of_the_aircraft_carrier_USS_Carl_Vinson_(CVN_70),_uses_binoculars_on_the_navigation_bridge





1Translation: What’s up? You’re late. Not gonna lie, I’m bored. This movie is a waste of time. Wish you were here.

Want more wary, chary, scary, leery stuff? Read this New York Times opinion piece or  this story on AOL.



23 thoughts on “Is it 2013 or, well, 1984?

  1. “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” said Ben Franklin. We stopped listening. FEAR is a powerful motivator, and administrators of every stripe, wanting to know what hoi polloi are thinking, mobilize fear to create compliance with surveillance. J.Edgar Hoover certainly must have been secretly grateful to “the Reds”; and 9/11 accelerated the process exponentially. And here we are. I, too, really really like the Fourth Amendment. Unlike the Second, though, in the public mind, I guess, it seems to be subject to limitations! (Come to think of it, fear is being deployed pretty broadly to make the Second even more sweeping….). So, I guess FDR was right: we DO have nothing to fear but fear itself, because giving in to fear makes us vulnerable to all kinds of bad things we’ve forgotten to be afraid of.
    Considering the kinds of statements I make online (political: liberal!), I’m really lucky I actually have a fear of flying, because surely I’m on a Watch and Grope list that would get me if I entered an airport.

    • Thanks for your comments, RAB. In the short term, it so often looks like a good deal to exchange some liberty for security. Eventually though, we become so secure that it’s hard to tell our secure place from a prison.

    • Thanks for the link, Brian. In the name of national security, the NSA and TSA seemed to have assumed an attitude of being above the law and not many politicians seem to care.

  2. I dunno, call me cynical but I kind of assumed ‘they’ were already reading everything I ever wrote on the internet (including this) and could listen in on any phone conversation ‘they’ felt like…

    • For a long time now, I think we have known or at least suspected that the government was snooping on all of us. I hope more people will speak up and try to do something about it.

  3. Though I’m an outsider and probably can’t appreciate the full outrage you Americans are experiencing right now, I have to tell you that I felt it coming when they started making all those rules against smoking. After the airlines prohibited it, I decided to stop flying altogether. And now it’s moved to the next level. Very soon, when a citizen is writing on his blog, and wants to go to the bathroom, he’ll have to ask for permission.

  4. Yep, I’m in total agreement. I really really think we need to abolish the Patriot Act and shut down the Department of Homeland Security. Suddenly we would have all sorts of money available to pay for all the social programs that the Tea Partiers keep trying to eliminate. Our country has become so militarized and fascist, it is scary. And I don’t mean that as just an expression, I mean that it is really damn scary.

  5. While in a much younger day, I’d be a fan of groping. But Lake Wobegone (sp?) be damned, here we are. Now that I admit I read your rants on a regular basis, I’m sure that’s qualified me for some kind of upgrade to a new list. …Just wish I knew what old list I was on. Now I’m doing it too…I’m adding ramble to my rant. Well written. Always value the charge you put in my battery pack. Dan

  6. Margie

    Yes, I am bugged by all this too and I’m not even an American! What I am so incredibly tired of is this constant bombardment of fear. Is the world really so much more dangerous now? Or is our world of instant communication causing us to react in a fearful way to things that don’t really have much to do with life in our community. (I had to get police clearance to volunteer at my grandchildren’s school after the sad case of a school shooting in another country…)

    • Absolutely. Specific and ambient fear serve charlatan politicians so well that we are being kept in a constant state of fear. This is not freedom, it is not dignity, it is not peace, it is not humanity. How can we regain our courageous open hearts?

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