When the Guardian and the Washington Post revealed details about the National Security Agency collecting phone data from telecommunications companies and U.S. government programs pulling in emails and photographs from internet businesses, suddenly “George Orwell” was leading the news.
The British essayist predicted it all, commentators asserted, and the United States now seems straight out of 1984, Orwell’s novel about a dystopian future. “Big Brother” had arrived.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden might claim that America is under the Big Brother’s glare, but he does not understand what this really means. I grew up in the Soviet Union. I knew Big Brother. This is not even close.
In 1982, for example, when I was in high school in Moscow, I was on the phone with one of my closest friends, talking about how relieved we were that Leonid Brezhnev had finally died, after 18 years of stifling power. Suddenly, there was a metallic click on the line and we heard a dour man’s voice. A KGB functionary, no doubt. “Hang up the phone,” he demanded, “immediately.” We did.