This is What Government Sponsored Mass Surveillance is Doing to Your Mind

Hacker Surveillance Big BrotherAlex Pietrowski, Staff
Waking Times

Big Brother is watching you and he wants you to believe that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear.

This is a lie, of course, and as we move deeper into the era of state sponsored technological surveillance, we see more evidence that the loss of privacy and confidence in inter-personal communications is transforming the individual into a compliant, self-policing ward of the state.

In one of the first empirical scientific studies to provide concrete evidence of the ‘chilling effects’ that government surveillance has on internet users, Oxford University professor Jon Penney looked at Wikipedia search data and traffic patterns before and after the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden regarding widespread NSA surveillance of the internet. The results demonstrated an immediate trend towards self-censorship, as traffic and searches for terms like ‘Al Qaeda,’ ‘car bomb,’ and ‘Taliban’ showed nearly instant and mentionable decline.

The changes were statistically significant enough to indicate that many people automatically alter their own behavior upon realizing that a punitive authoritarian organization is monitoring them for legitimate or perceived wrongdoings.

“If people are spooked or deterred from learning about important policy matters like terrorism and national security, this is a real threat to proper democratic debate.” – Jon Penney

In 2013, the organization Pen America conducted a survey of writers in the United States showing that many were already self-censoring themselves in an increasingly oppressive atmosphere of government surveillance. The fear of being caught up in a dragnet of legal and financial problems was sufficient enough for many to change their tone and content, even though no direct physical threat existed.

“The results of this survey—the beginning of a broader investigation into the harms of surveillance—substantiate PEN’s concerns: writers are not only overwhelmingly worried about government surveillance, but are engaging in self-censorship as a result.” [Source]

Commenting on the effects of authoritarian governments which heavily surveil their citizens, Pen America also notes that, “historically, from writers and intellectuals in the Soviet Bloc, and contemporaneously from writers, thinkers, and artists in China, Iran, and elsewhere—aggressive surveillance regimes limit discourse and distort the flow of information and ideas.” This is without question the intended aim of such programs.

That study also included data which indicated how people curtail their online behavior and interactions with other people out of fear of being persecuted by the nanny state:

“Smaller percentages of those surveyed described already changing their day-to-day behavior: 28 percent said they had “curtailed or avoided activities on social media,” with another 12 percent saying they had seriously considered doing it; similar percentages said they had steered clear of certain topics in phone calls or email (24 percent had done so; 9 percent had seriously considered it).” [Source]

Furthermore, in a 2015 study by the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) examining how awareness of government surveillance affected people’s use of Google, the world’s most widely used internet search engine, researchers concluded that, “users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the US government.”

In general, people’s behavior also changes in ways more favorable to an authoritarian government when surveillance both online and in the real world is as ubiquitous as it already is in American society. The state draws power from a compliant, acquiescent, and self-policing public, and when mass surveillance is applied to the citizenry, with the predictable result of creating a more submissive and conformist citizenry.

This idea was effectively brought to life in George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, 1984, where the primary surveillance device of the individual was the telescreen, a digital device located in every home that could receive and transmit audio and video, giving individuals zero privacy in their own homes. The beauty of omnipotent surveillance such as this was that the government did not even have to actually be monitoring an individual, because the simple fact that they could be listening and watching was enough to frighten a person into voluntary compliance and self-censorship.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” – George Orwell, 1984

This principle is coming to fruition in our modern world in the form of the internet and social media. Couple this with the creation and publication of government watch lists of all flavors, where people can be arbitrarily restricted from travel, or worse, and we are marching headlong into a brave new world where freedom is tightly constricted not by law, but by a creeping ambiguous fear of what may happen to us if we step out of line. We are creating a society where people may have legally protected free speech, but they dare not use it.

There is a reason governments, corporations, and multiple other entities of authority crave surveillance. It’s precisely because the possibility of being monitored radically changes individual and collective behavior. Specifically, that possibility breeds fear and fosters collective conformity. That’s always been intuitively clear. Now, there is mounting empirical evidence proving it.” – Glen Greenwald

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and Offgrid Outpost, a provider ofstorable food and emergency kits. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.

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This article (This is What Government Sponsored Mass Surveillance is Doing to Your Mind) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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  • Badger Badgerism

    I DONT CARE WHAT THEY SEE ME DOING..
    I KNOW THAT THEY KNOW THAT I HATE THEIR GUTS
    AND WHEN the REVOLUTION BEGINS I KNOW, THEY KNOW WHAT SIDE I AM ON
    I KNOW THAT THEY KNOW THAT I KNOW THEY ARE the TRAITORS…NOT ME

  • J James

    Let us all be aware to the possibility and even probability that this website is also being monitored with data harvesting and content matrixes being algorithomed so the messages to the masses remains inline with the agendas of the establishments and dissenters are further watched wherever they go on the web.

    • Leslie James

      Unless they introduce the death penalty for committing years of adultery I have nothing to fear. Lol.

  • Joel W

    I never understood everybody’s surprise when Snowden (probable CIA psy-op) revealed the fact of mass surveilance to the world. I just always assumed its been going on for at least a decade, if not longer.

    • OldeSoul

      Wouldn’t it make more sense to assume that because Snowed-In is a CIA psy-op that he’s lying about mass surveillance so that people will tip-toe around instead of investigate clandestine topics, without having to actually go to all that trouble and expense? What did we learn when the FBI demanded that Apple give them the passcode to a phone? It’s all hooey. They want us to believe they are all-powerful, omnipresent, omnipotent, and so very clever, and we’re all supposed to be scared little hens and worry about what search terms we use. Big pile of BS. Big.

      • Joel W

        I see your point, but I truly believe the NSA is doing what they are alleged to be doing. The Apple/FBI thing was all BS. I would bet that Apple gladly gave the FBI a backdoor willingly years ago. Just a psy-op/PR stunt to draw customers from Android and Blackberry, both of which can be made actually secure (especially Blackberrys running Android – the PRIV). But regardless, yes it is all a steaming pile of BS all around.

        • OldeSoul

          And I see your point about it being a marketing gimmick and that’s very possible. I do not own a cellphone by choice; phones are a boring waste of time much like TV. That puts me in an extremely small minority of humans choosing not to hold a potent EMF generating device next to my head or my heart all day, and I’m fine with that. The paranoid droids at the NSA will have to find other ways to spy on me to make sure I’m not plotting a terrorist psyop that conflicts with one of their terrorist psyops. Droids, indeed.

          • Joel W

            Yea I don’t sweat them too much. If there is the so-called “Red List” I’m sure I’m on it somewhere and cell phone or not,they can find me. Whatever. F em all. Bunch of satanic freaks, the whole lot of em.

          • OldeSoul

            True that. It’s always nice to meet another fearless human. Cheers.

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