Edward Snowden manifests ambivalence — self-loathing whilst formerly slaving under his NSA contractor — bookended with selfless service to freedom and privacy for us all.
So, while news dailies across the country scream headlines reduxing George Orwell’s Big Brother tyranny, we actually are lulled to sleep by cybertech distractions a la Alduous Huxley’s “Brave New World” — though Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” character eerily named Snowden martyrs himself like our Edward, whose spilling his guts metaphorically on domestic spying in the United States alters completely surveillance in the war on terrorism.
Huxleyan ambience overcomes us gently at first — “we only want to protect you” — but soon becomes oppressive.
Distracted by our gadgets, we hardly notice until a Snowden materializes.
As writer Zach Hinden says, if we’re going to name-brand the post-9/11 immolation of the Fourth Amendment, it’s Aldous Huxley and not George Orwell who deserves the eponym. Semantically, the distinction is not a fine one, and the clarification would, after all, be appreciated by the man, Orwell, who gave us “The Politics of the English Language.”
If we’re taking “Orwellian” to mean something like Pyongyang “despotic,” frankly, the PRISM metadata collection program done by spectacled geeks isn’t it. No.
Orwell’s nightmare was total government oppression; Huxley’s was dopey, depoliticized citizens drooling over a soft parade of frivolous distractions. Neil Postman got it right in “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” a book he actually spent a good deal of 1984 writing: Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.