Orwell’s World Of 1949 Becomes Today’s Reality – Welcome To Prison

george-orwellAs a police officer in Colorado I watched as other cops went through some extremely uncomfortable and destructive internal affairs investigations.  Some involved allegations of use of excessive force, which is a career-ending accusation if it is sustained.  Others involved more personal issues, such as an argument with a neighbor over a barking dog, or an argument with one’s spouse.  There was a period of time in the 1980s when we had an inordinately high number of “Professional Standards” investigations in progress – many of which turned out to be frivolous and without factual basis.  But the stress and distress of being under the microscope is a morale-destroying experience.

The net effect of this atmosphere was repressive, to say the least.  I remember our upper level administrators assuring us that internal affairs investigations are entirely confidential and not available for public consumption.  Later on in my career I watched as that assurance turned out to be a lie.  Attorneys can and do obtain Court Orders to open an officer’s personnel file and bring it to light in a Court of law.  It’s all a matter of public record for a cop.  Everything.

British novelist George Orwell, whose birth name was Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950), painted a rather grim futuristic portrait in 1949 with his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.  He lived for only six months after its publication.  I read that book when I was in junior high school.  While Big Brother, the ever-present, all-seeing, all-knowing, thought-policing entity known as The State, is a major theme in the story, there are other levels of invasive, disturbing ideas to contemplate – especially in today’s world.  And they have all come true for us.

One such idea, which is really a fact of our lives, is that there is no privacy remaining for any of us – not in our trips to the bank or the grocery store, not in our vacation travels, and not in our communications.  We are under some sort of surveillance day and night, as surely as if we were locked up in a prison.

The United States Post Office now photographs every piece of mail which passes through that institution.  Every written or telephonic communication becomes a recorded piece of potential evidence for the NSA to call up and use for whatever purpose it may deem necessary.  Much has been made of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State.  Whatever you may or may not believe about the propriety of Mrs. Clinton’s alleged  email use, or whether you believe or disbelieve anything which has been reported about the issue, the truth is that somewhere out there in the ether-net there is a record of every communique she ever wrote and sent.  And there is no way to know exactly who has been reading her emails.

Likewise, none of us in private life can possibly know when our emails are being read – or by whom.  Hackers and snoopers, whether from within or without our households, can read what we’ve written and leave no trace of their visits.  There’s something to think about.

Here’s a News Flash: “Private messages” on Facebook are not really private messages.  I deactivated my account several years ago when the Facebook computer kept prodding me to provide more and more personal information.  And I got exasperated with watching people post their contentious personal issues for the entire world to see.  It’s pretty common knowledge that any attorney’s divorce investigation includes a capture and inspection of the opposing spouse’s Facebook postings.  And a Court Order to turn over records is a Court Order.  It must be obeyed by the social network providing the service.

So, welcome to George Orwell’s world.  Welcome to our veritable prison, where nothing we do, say or write is in any sense of the word private.

One thought is comforting.  (Yes, so far, one may still think his own thoughts in privacy.)  George Orwell doesn’t have to worry about any of this.


About John L. Work

John Lloyd Work has taken the detective thriller genre and woven an occasional political thread throughout his books, morphing what was once considered an arena reserved for pure fiction into believable, terrifying, futuristic, true-to-life “faction”. He traveled the uniformed patrolman’s path, answering brutal domestic violence calls, high speed chases, homicides, suicides, armed robberies, breaking up bar fights, and the accompanying sporadic unpredictable moments of terror - which eventually come to all police officers, sometimes when least expected. He gradually absorbed the hard fact that the greatest danger a cop faces comes in the form of day-to-day encounters with emotionally disturbed, highly intoxicated people. Those experiences can wear a cop down, grinding on his own emotions and psyche. Prolonged exposure to the worst of people and people at their worst can soon make him believe that the world is a sewer. That police officer’s reality is a common thread throughout Work’s crime fiction books. Following his graduation from high school, Work studied music and became a professional performer, conductor and teacher. Life made a sudden, unexpected turn when, one afternoon in 1976, his cousin, who eventually became the Chief of the Ontario, California, Police Department, talked him into riding along during a patrol shift. The musician was hooked into becoming a police officer. After working for two years as a reserve officer in Southern California and in Boulder, Colorado, he joined the Longmont, Colorado Police Department. Work served there for seven years, investigating crimes as a patrolman, detective and patrol sergeant. In 1989 he joined the Adams County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office, where he soon learned that locking a criminal up inside a jail or prison does not put him out of business. As a sheriff’s detective he investigated hundreds of crimes, including eleven contract murder conspiracies which originated “inside the walls”. While serving on the Adams County North Metro Gang Task Force and as a member of the Colorado Security Threat Intelligence Network Group (STING), Work designed a seminar on how a criminal’s mind formulates his victim selection strategy. Over a period of six years he taught that class in sheriff’s academies and colleges throughout Colorado. He saw the world of crime both inside the walls and out on the streets. His final experiences in the criminal law field were with the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office, where for nearly two years he investigated felonies from the defense side of the Courtroom. Twenty-two years of observing human nature at its worst, combined with watching some profound changes in America’s culture and political institutions, provided plenty of material for his first three books. A self-published author, he just finished writing his tenth thriller.
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