Sacrificing Liberty


The world today has learned little from the great tragedies of the past; the principles on which society is built, are often made up of naive and false fears. These fears have been created by a sense of insecurity. The result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, include society ignoring some of the greatest warnings regarding freedom, especially those of authors George Orwell and Cory Doctorow. George Orwell(Ryan), author of the novel 1984 (Brongo), speaks passionately about freedom, choice, and responsibility through his character Winston. Winston Smith, a citizen of Oceania, and a worker at the ministry of plenty has a simple job: rewrite history. Winston has never been special or extraordinary, however, he has the ability to ask the question, "Why?" He questions Big Brother, the leader of Oceania, and the government in place. Slowly, he begins to understand that everything he had previously believed was a lie; the government is everywhere, always watching its citizens. In time, Winston is abducted by O'Brien, a man he formerly trusted with his life. While hostage to O'Brien, Winston is tortured into betraying his friends, family, and his beliefs. In the novel individualism is prohibited by the government, and any opposition to Big Brother's rule is quickly crushed. Similarly, in the novel Little Brother (Pen), Cory Doctorow (Story) creates a controlling environment in which the Department of Homeland Security (a.k.a DHS) becomes abusive with power. After a terrorist attack in San Francisco, the main character, Marcus, is abducted by the Department of Homeland Security on charges of being a terrorist involved in the attack. He is held against his will for several days; his parents believe he is dead. After he is released, Marcus begins to question the authority and power held by the Department of Homeland Security. The rest of the novel is devoted to Marcus creating a revolution and rebellion aimed at destroying the DHS. Both authors issue distinct warnings about the dangers inherent in governments which repress individual freedom. Unfortunately, society has learned little from the warnings of Orwell and Doctorow because people continue to sacrifice personal liberty for a sense of security through blind trust, and more specifically, in government agencies; humanity's unviable fears allow these same errors to be made in the future.

In both 1984 and Little Brother, corrupt governments wield the power to completely control the people. Today, society has created and passed several laws in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. These laws give enormous amounts of power to those charged with enforcing them. People trust in laws to protect them; however, the boundaries put in place to protect humanity can easily be abused, or completely neglected. In the United States today, border patrol agents working for the department of homeland security are abusing power. In 2002, Terrance Bressi was stopped at a checkpoint in Arizona and detained by Border Patrol and DHS agents for several hours without reason (Bressi). Bressi later filed charges against the agencies for violation of civil rights associated with the unlawful roadblock and arrest; the agents were not held accountable for the unauthorized treatment of Bressi (Bressi, Terrance). Similarly, in the novel Little Brother, Marcus is unlawfully abducted by the DHS, not once, but twice. The first time, Marcus is held on suspicion of being involved in a terrorist bombing. He is pressured by agents to reveal several personal items including his phone password, USB passwords, and email passwords. The second time, Marcus is brutally kidnapped by Carrie Johnston, the same woman who previously held him. He is tortured because of the revolution he started, tortured in his own country, by fellow citizens who are "enforcers" of peace. In the final chapter of Little Brother, Marcus is rescued; however, readers discover that Carrie Johnston is not charged with any crimes, similar to Terrance Bressi’s ordeal. In 1984 a similar pattern exists. The government, which consists of Big Brother and The Party, promote themselves as caretakers of the nation. In reality they are far from promoters of peace. The Party appears to encourage individuality, while in reality, those who are not uniform are reported by their neighbors, friends, and even children; the government is everywhere, controlling everything. In the final scenes of the novel, George Orwell intricately describes Winston’s abduction and torture through the dialogue of O’Brien: “ 'Look at the condition you are in… grime all over your body…I can make my thumb and forefinger meet around your bicep… your hair is coming out in handfuls… nine, ten, eleven teeth left… you are rotting​ away' ” (Orwell, 282). Orwell includes this dialogue to describe Winston's torture, but also to warn what will happen if society allows government(s) and government regualtions to become too powerful. In the scene, Winston also represents the persecuted, and oppressed citizens of Oceania. In each example, society blindly trusts harmful laws and agencies. In Terrance Bressi’s experience, the DHS and Border Patrol agencies abused their powers. Bressi feels violated because laws that are instilled to protect society are continually resulting in its harm. In Little Brother, Cory Doctorow also highlights faults and corruption in regulations put in place to “protect” society. The character Marcus feels so unsafe that he encourages revolution and rebellion as a reaction against the abuse of power. George Orwell provides perhaps the most intimidating example of blind trust in 1984. The entire nation believes in everything The Party says is true. While torturing Winston, O’Brien gives several beautiful examples of blind trust: “ 'The Party says the Earth is flat… two and two make five' ” (Orwell, 288-289). In 1984, Orwell is warning readers not to trust without understanding; the underlying message in the novel is to be able to challenge a system. All corrupted agencies can maintain power only through society’s trust; both Orwell and Doctorow
warned not to place great power in one agency, but the message was not heard.

Unfortunately, trust can often be twisted by fear if a corrupt agency is given too much power. defines fear as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid ( In both 1984, and Little Brother, the governments rule through fear, as does the government today. The Party in 1984 creates a sense of paranoia through the use of telescreens. Telescreens are similar to television sets of today, but they cannot be turned off. Telescreens allow the party to watch every move the citizens of Oceania make. A telescreen sees and hears everything that occurs in its presence. A citizen may be abducted by The Party at any moment for crimes against the government; society is extremely cautious around the telescreens. The Party derives its power from the fear of its citizens; as long as society fears death (from The Party), those in power will demand obedience from its citizens. The Department of Homeland Security also becomes corrupted with power in Cory Doctorow’s novel. “The DHS got their budget requisition approved. The President went on TV with the Governor to tell us that no price was too high for security” (Doctorow, 2008). While this quote from Little Brother may not sound entirely harmful, the DHS greatly abuses its new power. After the terrorist attack, DHS Checkpoints are set up around the city; even Marcus’ father is stopped and interrogated.Using the money from the new budget, the Department of Homeland Security uses technology to track where every citizen of San Francisco has been, or is. The DHS is in possession of Marcus’ phone passwords, email passwords, and USB passwords; they have also tapped his home computer. As in 1984, this type of government can only be run through fear. Every citizen in San Francisco fears another terrorist attack, so blind trust is placed in the power hungry agents of the DHS because society wants to feel safe. Today, a similar situation has come up; The Patriot Act was passed by congress on October 25, 2001, in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11 of the same year. The Act is extremely controversial because it violates society’s liberties, freedoms, and rights. The Patriot Act allows officials to use a roving wire to tap several of a suspect’s belongings, search a suspects house without a warrant, detain a suspect for up to seven days without filing charges, and allow agencies to share information on suspects (ACLU, 2008). In Portland, Oregon, Brandon Mayfield was accused of involvement in the Madrid bombing. Under section 218 of The Patriot Act, Mayfield’s home was secretly searched without a warrant based on criminal probable cause (ACLU, 2008). Four of Mayfield’s computer drives were copied, ten DNA samples were taken, and approximately 335 digital photos were taken of his home (ACLU, 2008). The government uses society’s fear of previous and potential terrorist attacks to justify its actions; American citizens blindly accept the violation of liberty. In each situation, society is oppressed by fear, and pressured into the will of the government.


George Orwell and Cory Doctorow’s warnings have not been heard by society today; people continue to sacrifice liberty through fear and blind trust. Little Brother clearly mimicked some of the events that are occurring every day in America; Cory Doctorow’s novel is intended to open the eyes of a scared society. The parallels between Doctorow’s novel and reality are numerous, especially in regard to unjust laws. The characters in Little Brother are abused by agencies put in place to protect, and keep peace. Today, agencies identical to those in Little Brother can be seen disrupting peace, and taking the freedom of citizens; Terrance Bressi and Brandon Mayfield experienced this firsthand. Unlawful regulations such as the Patriot Act can only survive because of society’s fear in the unknown. On September 11, 2001, many Americans feared for the safety of the United States, and questioned the authority that had allowed such an attack to occur. In response to terrorism, the U.S.A. passed the Patriot Act. Although it violates citizens’ liberties, it is blindly followed and trusted by many Americans because of the fear for the unknown. George Orwell creates a frightening future in 1984; if society’s fear is not stemmed, blind trust in harmful agencies and regulations will skyrocket. As portrayed in Orwell’s novel, governmental power will increase until there is no room for the opinion and individuality of the common man. In both videos of the future, citizens place trust in potentially harmful agents: technology, and government. In each instance, freedom is disregarded by corrupted agencies. Fear is used to dismantle society's rights. The future is not concrete, and Cory Doctorow and George
Orwell's prudent warnings act as excellent guidelines for humanity today.